Doomsday (England 2008)

Rating: *(*)
Release Date: 3/14/08
Written And Directed By: Neil Marshall
Cast: Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Craig Conway, Alexander Siddig, Lee-Anne Liebenberg

Another wasted opportunity in the female action genre. Similar to "Ultraviolet" (2005) and the "Resident Evil" films, Doomsday is solely a star vehicle for its leading actress - in this case, the incredible Rhona Mitra. Unfortunately, the film is crippled by horrible writing, an immature and incoherent plot, stupid and unlikable characters, ridiculously absurd villains, laughably gratuitous violence and gore, and a complete lack of consistency, direction, and common sense. In a nutshell, every scene with Rhona Mitra is awesome (hence the optional two-star rating), while everything else is complete and utter crap.

At its core, the film is a remake of John Carpenter's "Escape From New York" (1981) with Rhona Mitra playing the role of Snake Plissken (she even wears the eye patch). A horrible disease breaks out in England, which forces the government to build a retaining wall around Scotland to contain the infected masses. Twenty-seven years later, the disease reappears in London and the government discovers survivors in the quarantine zone. Where there are survivors, there must be a cure, so a covert strike team is assembled to sneak into the quarantine zone and find the cure before all hell breaks loose in the outside world. The team is led by Major Eden Sinclair (tough as nails Rhona Mitra) and she is captured almost immediately by Sol (over-the-top Craig Conway), the psychotic punk rock leader of the savages that roam the wasteland. After much tomfoolery she escapes, only to be captured by another lunatic named Kane (B-movie mainstay Malcolm McDowell) and his medieval followers. After escaping from him, she manages to find a car and engages in a post-apocalyptic auto battle with Sol's forces while racing to the extraction point. She naturally double-crosses the shifty politician who sent her on the mission in the first place, and goes back to the savages to proclaim herself as ruler of the wasteland. Whatever.

The film has not a single ounce of originality or common sense about it, and in addition to "Escape From New York" it liberally steals from "Aliens" (1986) and "The Road Warrior" (1981). I even saw touches of "Ghost In The Shell" (1995), "Excalibur" (1981), and "Lifeforce" (1985) here and there. Sadly, the film relies on shock tactics and visceral thrills instead of bothering about a plot or character development. Sinclair is a great character and doesn't have anything to prove, but all of the other characters are insipid one-dimensional caricatures of B-movie clichés. Every time someone opens their mouth, something stupid comes out of it. The film is pleasant enough to look at and the effects are competent, but the stunt choreography is poor and the editing is shameful. Mitra's showdown with Lee-Anne Liebenberg could have been (and perhaps should have been) the highlight of the film, but it's completely ruined by jerky camera work and invasive editing. You never see any contact and it basically looks like spastic arm flapping. It's also over way too quickly, whereas the other action set pieces seem to drag on way too long. The soundtrack is questionable, and in a misplaced scene oddly reminiscent of "Tank Girl" (1995), the villain embarrassingly performs his own musical dance number. But nothing can prepare you for the nonsensical "Road Warrior" styled auto combat finale, which is deliriously accompanied by Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes." At this point, you have to wonder if director Neil Marshall meant for the film to be a parody of the films that inspired it rather than an homage.

Anyway, if nothing else the film proves that Rhona Mitra is a force to be reckoned with, and I anxiously look forward to the continued growth and nurturing of her action persona. She is definitely someone to keep an eye on.