Great actors wasted in poorly made ‘Babylon A.D.’ (Hollywood Film Review - Rating: *)

October 11th, 2008 - 5:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Film: “Babylon A.D.”; Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling; Director: Mathieu Kassovitz; Rating: *Most bad movies can eke out some dignity by at least looking like ambitious failures. Then there are some movies like “Babylon A.D.” that are just too much of a mess and destined to be failures.

This movie did not have much hope from the get go, what with its director Mathieu Kassovitz publicly distancing and disowning the film, saying the studio interfered too much and made too many changes in the final cut.

It would not be foolhardy to expect at least a somewhat entertaining movie if it stars Vin Diesel. Add to that his co-stars the Asian actress Michelle Yeoh, French actor Gerard Depardieu and the veteran British actress Charlotte Rampling, the director actually has some very fine actors to work with. But they are all wasted here and almost nothing seems to be going right for this movie.

The script is weak and not clear in explaining the mystery of the all important young woman. The actors don’t have enough of a background story or a decent script or some characterisation to work with. The movie starts off strong but towards the conclusion just peters out into a muddle. The ending is one of the most disappointing of any action movie in recent memory and very clearly seems tacked on.

Diesel is Toorop, a mercenary who is hired by a Russian mobster Gorsky (Depardieu) to smuggle the young woman Aurura (Melanie Thierry) accompanied by her caretaker Sister Rebecca (Yeoh).

The trio is chased by some army guys who seem to be hired by the girl’s father. But her mother also wants her and has some people hunting for her too. The movie never clearly explains what makes the girl so special and a bit after the halfway point you don’t really care.

The role of Gorsky is one of the most wasted and humiliating for an actor of Depardieu’s stature. Rampling, who has starred in some classic movies like “The Verdict”, plays nothing more than just a caricature here. Yeoh, with her radiance, has the power to light up any drab role given, but here the weight of the inanity seems almost too bleak for even her to shine through.

The director, although having made his displeasure with the studios clear, doesn’t seem to give us anything to cheer for him in the parts where he might have been given control. This movie suffers from much more than studio interference. It does at places try to take on some grander themes like global warming or the downside of globalisation in the future. But it doesn’t dig deeper and uses them only as background detail.

The action sequences indicate quite a bit of money spent but they are too few and coupled with the lack of empathy we feel for the characters, they sadly fall short. The movie has supposedly been shortened considerably by the studio. So for those looking for a light, brisk action movie which doesn’t make too many demands on the brain, “Babylon A.D” just might be satisfactory.

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