Vin Diesel is a geek. He loves Dungeons & Dragons. He’s a World Of Warcraft fanatic. And sci-fi is his favourite genre. The bald behemoth dropped out of videogame adap Hitman to star in this dystopian thriller, his first role since he sprouted hair and – even more amazingly – acting chops in 2006’s courtroom drama Find Me Guilty.
Parachuting into an rainy, near-future urban wasteland where the streets are lined with car wrecks and militia, we find gravel-gargling, tattooed mercenary Riddick (Diesel) taking ‘one last job’ transporting a young woman (Melanie Thierry) and her nun protector (Michelle Yeoh) from an Eastern European convent to New York and… Hang on.
Did we say Riddick? Sorry. We meant Toorop. Gravel-gargling, tattooed mercenary Toorop. But Diesel’s blankety-blank performance makes it hard to tell if even he knows the difference. And there are more questions. What are this girl’s strange pre-cog powers? Why are the men chasing them willing to die in order to grab her? And is she carrying a deadly virus? And do all nuns know kung fu?
Er, don’t ask us. Don’t bother asking writer/director Mathieu Kassovitz either. Adapted by Kassovitz from French author Maurice Georges Dantec’s cyberpunk novel Babylon Babies, the script gingerly eyeballs themes of technology, genetics, philosophy, politics and religion… but decides it does fancy tackling any of them.
Trudging through Russian refugee camps, huge fields of ice and finally to a Tokyo-esque New York, the entire film is a build-up to a pay-off that never arrives. With the best effects shots all in the trailer, Babylon AD‘s low-tech future vision also suffers from a killer combo of lowbudgetitis and chronic inspiration deficit. For once, we have a sci-fi thriller that’s not derivative enough: Kassovitz has so few ideas of his own, you’re left begging him to steal someone else’s.
It’s only after some seriously clunky action scenes (spinning camera, ADD edits that coyly cut away from the violence) that it finally hits you. Kassovitz might have directed incendiary cult-fave La Haine. But that was 13 years ago. His last film was Gothika.
- Director Mathieu Kassovitz
- Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Gerard Depardieu
FYI American artist Khem Caigan designed the sigil tattoo on Toorop’s neck – an emblem which originally appeared in the Schlangekraft Necronomicon in 1977.
Read the original article at SFX.