Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D.


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"It's pure violence and stupidity. Parts of the movie are like a bad episode of 24."

So said Mathieu Kassovitz, director of this film, before it was even released in the UK - and with publicity like that it doesn't need enemies. Kassovitz claims that he didn't get to direct a single scene the way he wanted - but whether or not this was really a bad thing for the film is less certain. As an action film it's passable fun. As an attempt at science fiction it's atrocious. Kassovitz says that he wanted to make it less violent and more metaphysical but, whilst some of the violence is conceptually interesting, it's the idiotic plot and the characters' dim-witted philosophising that really let it down.

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We've all seen this kind of story before. As in The Transporter and Ultraviolet, a cynical mercenary is hired to deliver a package which turns out to be human. In this case it's a girl with mysterious knowledge and a plot-friendly mental illness, another genre staple. She's played by Mélanie Thierry, all wide eyes and blank expressions, and just to stop her getting too friendly with Vin Diesel she has a chaperone, the redoubtable Michelle Yeoh.

The presence of Diesel and Yeoh means that there's some great action to enjoy, though unfortunately it's badly lit and clumsily directed so that one can't always tell who's doing what to whom, and the script never contrives to have them fight each other, the scene all their fans must be longing for. Diesel sleepwalks through a familiar role but still has sufficient charisma to make his character sympathetic and watchable; Yeoh delivers a typically honed performance, doing her utmost with awful dialogue. Gérard Depardieu is underused as a gloriously tacky Russian gangster and Charlotte Rampling plays herself as badly as usual, ostensibly as another of the film's villains. There's a lot of shouting and running about and, well, not really much else.

If you've nothing else to do on a Saturday night, Babylon A.D. is a perfectly passable action romp, benefiting from some interesting futurescapes, but it never really delivers the goods like it should. A sub-Living Daylights chase through the snow and refugee scenes which ape Children Of Men without achieving anything near its credibility clearly mark this out as second rate, a halfhearted effort all round. And whilst there's some fun to be had along the way, the ending seems to have been attached at random, with characters dying or disappearing for no particular reason and a gaudily lit final scene lifting lines from The Terminator. It's a peculiar kettle of fish which never quite comes to the boil.

Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2008
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Babylon A.D. packshot
In a war-ravaged future world, a mercenary is hired to transport a mysterious girl between Russia and America.
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Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Writer: Eric Besnard, based on the book Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec.

Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Mélanie Thierry, Mark Strong, Gérard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling

Year: 2008

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, France


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If you like this, try:

Children Of Men
Pitch Black