Redcon-1

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Redcon-1
"What make it worthy of attention are the direction and editing, which are orders of magnitude better than you'd expect for a film of this ilk."

Part of the south east of England has been taken over by zombies. The sector is in quarantine. A group of soldiers has been chosen to enter this dangerous territory and try to extract a scientist (Robert Goodale) believed to be connected to the initial outbreak. But something strange is happening to the living dead. They seem to be organising themselves. And they're not the only threat the soldiers have to face.

There are a handful of ideas thrown into Chee Keong Cheung's gritty British actioner and it becomes much more interesting when it's playing with them. A lot of the time it's just standard macho bullshit with badly organised squaddies shouting a lot and squandering ammunition. What make it worthy of attention are the direction and editing, which are orders of magnitude better than you'd expect for a film of this ilk and deserve serious notice.

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Redcon-1 grabs the attention from its initial credit sequence, a series of images associated with plague, war and social breakdown which, whilst not wholly original, is beautifully composed. It immediately instils a sense of urgency. Most of the acting can't live up to this so the film lurches between extremes in terms of quality, but where it's good it's very, very good. Former model Oris Erhuero is solid in the lead and newcomer Jasmine Mitchell does good work as the schoolgirl with a secret he meets along the way.

Cheung badly needs a fight coordinator. The film suffers from 300 syndrome, with too many scenes in which bad guys can be seen waiting for the good guys to finish their current fights before attacking. This aside, though, he handles action scenes superbly, and his insistence on real stunt work and real props (even real tanks) works well alongside this, making the setting believable. The idea of zombies developing intelligence has most famously been explored in George Romero's Day Of The Dead but is taken in a slightly different direction here, mingled with the idea of the retention of memories from life. As the soldiers try to take control of their situation, they are obliged to face off against a group of zombie soldiers with a different agenda. Naturally, as the zombies become more human, the humans become more zombie-like, but this extends into a blurring of identities with the potential to become much more subversive.

Some aspects of the film are just badly worked out. Scenes set in a tropical fish emporium leave one wondering if the zombies' memory retention has extended to feeding the fish and cleaning the aquaria day in and day out for months. How has our schoolgirl heroine managed to keep her uniform so crisp and clean? Why, knowing that the zombie infection is blood-borne, does one soldier choose to hack a zombie to bits with an axe whilst his mouth is wide open? But there is interesting work elsewhere, particularly around the process of transformation for bite victims.

Far too sentimental in places (the score doesn't help) and overly hasty in others, Redcon-1 is as messy as its undead protagonists, yet it still has bite, and Cheung is definitely one to watch.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2018
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A squad of eight Special Forces soldiers are assigned to rescue a scientist from a city ruled by the undead.

Director: Chee Keong Cheung

Writer: Chee Keong Cheung, Steve Horvath

Starring: Oris Erhuero, Carlos Gallardo, Mark Strange, Katarina Leigh Waters, Jasmine Mitchell, Joshua Dickinson, Euan Macnaughton

Year: 2018

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: UK

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