Babylon AD

Year: 2008
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Producer: Mathieu Kassovitz
Writer: Mathieu Kassovitz
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, gerard Depardieu, Lambert Wilson, Charlotte Rampling
If you're a Hollywood watcher you might have heard director Kassovitz's very public pillorying of 20th Century Fox for stripping all the cerebral elements out of his sci-fi story and leaving it a charred action movie hulk.

So you might be expecting a flashing neon, Fifth Element-like semi-comic romp with flying cars, a Blade Runner inspired design sensibility and Vin Diesel in full aw-shucks mode.

In fact Babylon AD's far from it, and if you had no idea about Kassovitz's complaints you might not see anything wrong for most of the film. Diesel is Toorop, a mercenary in a stereotypical far future where half of humanity lives in glowing cities and the other in sprawling, brutal shantytowns like his home outside Moscow. When local mobster (a ridiculous-looking Gerard Depardieu) offers him a chance to transport the mysterious and beautiful young Aurora (Thierry) to America where her secret will be revealed, he accepts.

Accompanied by the priestess (Yeoh) who shepherds the young woman from the secluded convent where they live, Toorop makes his way overland towards New York where the delivery will take place, but on the way he feels both women work his way into his formerly cold heart.

Until the final minute of the film, everything's working fine - Babylon AD is full of blistering action that's no sillier than any other film of the genre, a gritty aspect not often seen in science fiction and a slowly building conspiracy premise involving a charismatic high official (Rampling) and a cybernetic-assisted scientist who knows the truth about Aurora.

Then suddenly, the movie falls flat on its face. It feels as if there's 30 or 40 minutes missing that contained the climactic battle, the secret to Aurora's identity and the natural culmination of the story. Maybe Fox wrestled the final edit from Kassovitz and cobbled together a 60 second ending from a handful of footage, but there's no climax, no resolution and no explanation, major characters simply disappearing to leave you wondering what you're not being told.

Do yourself a favour - right after the big car chase, get up and leave. Pretend everything was resolved satisfactorily and Babylon AD might remain an imaginative and well-executed sci-fi actioner.

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