Babylon A.D. Review
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As an actor, Vin Diesel has certainly perfected the role of the growling, gravel-voiced, disaffected anti-hero, to the point of total cliché. I have no doubt that he has talent deep down under that brooding stone-faced façade (he did, after all, get into the business by writing, producing, directing, and acting in an interesting indie movie called Strays—one has to admire that). However, Babylon A.D. only perpetuates the dry, unoriginal vehicles that have so far plagued his short career (Pitch Black excluded). Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, Babylon A.D. is too derivative of other, more successful takes (Blade Runner, Escape from New York, The Fifth Element) on the gritty, gray future that we’re speculatively careening toward.

Set in the “not too distant” future, the film presents a world in political and military turmoil, which breeds soldiers and mercenaries like our anti-hero for this evening, Toorop (Diesel). Living in war-torn Serbia in a building that looks like a leftover set from Children of Men, Toorop tramps through his world as a laconic loner. We know, however, that he has morals and a little humanity because he talks to one of the scruffy young street urchins in his building.

Pretty soon, Toorop is hired by Goresky, a fellow mercenary/businessman (a heavily made-up Gerard Depardieu, who, scarily, doesn’t look heavily made-up) to bring a young virgin girl, Aurora (Mélanie Thierry), and her mentor/mother (a tragically wasted Michelle Yeoh) to the United States to see a doctor about her “secret condition.” What follows is a series of jarringly staged action sequences and quasi-religious rhetoric that attempt to make the narrative appear more profound that it actually is. The story is a jumble of ideas, loosely explored yet never developed (environmental issues, DNA cloning, humanity, war, and its discontents—all very admirable themes that are lost in a narrative that’s thin on substance). Everything you expect to happen happens in this movie: Diesel’s character goes from being a hard-ass to bonding with the women in his protection, thus achieving a sense of redemption; characters are sacrificed so the virgin may live...oh, it’s all there.

Having said all that, though, the movie does have its moments of visual flare. Not often, but it does have them. As such, Babylon A.D. isn’t boring, but it’s all sound and fury, signifying nada. It’s as empty as the bombed-out buildings and the pseudo-profundity it espouses. Based on Babylon Babies by French science-fiction (and metaphysical) writer Maurice Georges Dantec, the story may have once, in that form, had something to say about humanity—but no more. Action and spectacle (and not much of that) have replaced character and theme.

However, if you enjoy watching Vin Diesel regurgitate his growling, gravel-voiced, disaffected anti-hero personae, à la Riddick from Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick, Babylon A.D. might entertain you for 90 minutes.

The DVD’s special features include a couple of making-of featurettes, an interview with the author of the book (which was obviously made before he saw the final film), and a deleted action sequence, which is just tedious and visually vacuous.

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