The Mutant Chronicles

Chronic pacing stiffs this one.

Released in 2008, certified UK-18. Reviewed on 06 Dec 2008 by Scott Morris
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Well, this is awkward. Here's me having sat on my big tubby arse for the past few years saying that films aren't taking any risks and rehashing the same old nonsense, and here's something that does have some genuine scope, vision and sense of direction. And I'm going to say it's baws. Ah well.

The story runs thus: back in the days of yore a machine fell from the sky and fucked our shit up, transforming humans into ugly mutants with massive stabby pointy arms which they used to stabby the rest of the humans. They were driven back by some old warrior geezer, sealed under the earth and largely forgotten about apart from Brother Samuel (Ron Pearlman)'s order of warrior monks. Now in some bleak 1984 style dystopian futurescape where corporations run the earth and live in some 1914 style eternal war, a few stray shells crack open the seal and before you know it, the planet's full of Stabby Stabby Mutants again and Sean Pertwee's been dragged away into the dark heart of the machine.

Cue Brother Samuel getting all tooled up and assembling a pleasingly multi-cultural assault team to sneak into the heart of the machine and disable it in accordance with some vague instructions from the Bible of Mutant Killing, largely lead by Maj. 'Mitch' Hunter (Thomas Jane) along with a supporting cast that it's very clear from the outset aren't going to survive to the credits.

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As a setup for a Sci-Fi action hokum there's little not to love about that set up. Stabby mutants and hi-calibre weaponry? A match made in heaven. Plodding pacing and slightly iffy effects? Not so much. Well, lets look at that iffy effects statement first, as it's perhaps not entirely accurate.

This comes very much from the Sky Captain / 300 / Casshern style school of virtual sets and effects that sort of sit halfway between reality and animation. In both the above cases it's a striking look, albeit a strange one. It's largely the same here, although setting itself as it does in the standard issue bleak, browny-grey dystopia does seem to make this more like an Xbox360 first person shooter than a vision of the future. It has to be ugly, I suppose, but that very fact makes it harder to roll with its slightly odd compositions and effect shots that all of these films have.

Such is life, and slightly dodgy effects are not of themselves enough to have me disliking a film. After all, such complaints are common even on films with substantially higher budgets than this. What's enough to have me disliking a film is this - it's pretty dull.

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This is something of a surprise in a film where this many people are stabbed in the face with metal spikes. It manages to string you along for a while with the promise of turning into a bombastic all-out shooting match, but never does. For what feels like an action flick, there's a notable lack of action and as such the film just plods along, producing that weird time dilation effect where a film seems to be about five hours longer than it actually is.

The acting from all concerned is passable enough, I suppose, for this sort of thing, and the problems with Mutant Chronicles have little to do with the believability of the characters or their motivations. It's just dull.

I'm not really sure what, if anything I'd expected going into this, the limit of my knowledge being one mildly stylish trailer before Bangkok Dangerous. I guess I was looking for something with some genuine scope, vision and sense of direction. This has that exactly, but the essential ingredient of fun is almost entirely absent. Ah well.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Simon Hunter
Cast list:
Thomas Jane (Maj. 'Mitch' Hunter)
Ron Perlman (Brother Samuel)
Devon Aoki (Cpl. Valerie Duval)
Sean Pertwee (Capt. Nathan Rooker)
Benno Furmann (Lt. Maximillian von Steiner)
John Malkovich (Constantine)
Anna Walton (Severian)
Tom Wu (Cpl. Juba Kim Wu)
Steve Toussaint (Capt. John McGuire)
Luis Echegaray (Cpl. Jesus 'El Jesus' de Barrera)
Pras (Captain Michaels)