Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Film Review: DOOMSDAY: Director Neil Marshall's DESCENT Into 80's Action Is A Cheeselover's Dream!

To call Doomsday the funniest film you'll see all year may sound like something of an insult, and indeed it sort of is. Brit director Neil Marshall, who helmed and wrote the stylish and frightening 2005 spelunking horror flick The Descent, returns here with what can only be described as a grotesque assemblage of scenes from far better movies. It's like Marshall couldn't select one or two movies to rip off, so he decided to do as many as possible in one gloriously disjointed explosion of carnage and absurdity. The results are campy, over-indulgent, and sometimes oddly brilliant.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Doomsday introduces us to a future where the "Reaper Virus" (A mix of Ebola and the 28 Days Later germ) has taken control of the United Kingdom. To combat the problem the government has quarantined the northern half of the continent for the last 30 years. However, in "2035.Now", as the title card slyly reads, the infection has escaped into populated London, while simultaneously survivors have been spotted by satellite living in the infected zone. A heavily armed Special Forces team, led by Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra - Pictured right), have just 48 hours to enter the zone and track down the elusive Dr. Kane (Malcolm McDowell) in hopes of finding a cure. The task is complicated immensely by the discovery of a cannibalistic army of nomads (Who like like Maori warriors crossed with the Sex Pistols), which leads to essentially ninety minutes of excessive brutality and ultra-splatter.

To call the plot of Doomsday unoriginal is somewhat of an understatement. Its less a film than a greatest hits package, with assorted bits taken from: The Lord of the Rings, Resident Evil, The Warriors, Escape From New York, Clockwork Orange, Gladiator, The Omega Man, The Mad Max trilogy, Ladyhawke, 28 Days Later, and the Gimp from Pulp Fiction thrown in for good measure. But homages can be a lot of fun when handled properly, and Marshall manages to pull off the majority, with exception to the fight scenes. Despite liberally pilfering elements from a number of better action films, similar scenes in Doomsday are shoddily edited and nearly incomprehensible. The hand-to-hand combat lacks geography and establishing shots, which takes away from the visceral thrills. The car chases fair much better, however, and are a fitting tribute to George Miller’s The Road Warrior.

The lack of truly spectacular action is not favourable when a movie has as bland a plot as Doomsday, and indeed the first quarter of the film is deadly dull. With that said however, all weariness is immediately gone the second cannibal-biker leader Sol, played by a possessed Craig Conway (Pictured right), takes the stage. What follows is a scene of pure, unbridled B-movie glory. As the bikers gather at a Thunderdome-like arena, Sol preens and prances across a stage, lip-synching “Good Thing” by the Fine Young Cannibals, while being backed by gyrating female pole dancers and kilted male Scottish dancers. It’s the best scene in the film, unforgettable in its ludicrousness, and it instantly erases our memories of the tortured earlier scenes.

Its unfortunate that the rest of the actors don’t appear the relish the material as much as Conway does. Star Mitra, while a perfectly capable physical performer, emotes like a Kate Beckinsale clone lacking facial mobility. Bob Hoskins, as Mitra's boss, seems embarrassed to even be here, while Malcolm McDowell gives another hammy performance on par with his appearances in Halloween and Tank Girl. Is it just me or has he not been good since... Um... Clockwork Orange...? Actually, I liked him in Gangster No. 1, but still. Come on Malcom, pull yourself up and do something that isn't sub-Street Fighter. And no, your cameo in In Good Company didn't count.

Despite its many obvious shortcomings, its is very hard to hate Doomsday. It has that goofy 80's John Carpenter spirit that emphasizes cheesy thrills over even a modicum of intelligence. And indeed, its difficult to really dislike any film that treats us to a close-up on an exploding rabbit... Or a decapitated head bouncing off the camera lens... Or a buff heroine outrunning knights on horseback in a 2008 Bentley... Or a... Well, you'll just have to see the rest for yourself. And if you do go, bring friends... And perhaps alcohol if you feel so inclined.

2.5 out of 5

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