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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir Karyn Kusama
scr Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
with Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner, Nikolai Kinski, Caroline Chikezie, Paterson Joseph, Yangzom Brauen, Rainer Will
release US 2.Dec.05, UK 17.Feb.06
05/US Paramount 1h33
Who's that girl: Theron (above), Csokas and Miller
With an intriguing but hardly original premise, a film like this needs a lot of sassy attitude to bring it to life. But Kusama (Girlfight) and her writers play it dead straight, and the result isn't nearly as much fun as it should be.
It's 2415, four centuries after 99 percent of mankind was wiped out by a disease. The remaining population lives in a fortified city ruled by a benevolent dictator Trevor (Csokas) and his sidekick brother Oren (Miller). Aeon Flux (Theron) is a member of the rebellion, working with her sidekick Sithandra (Okonedo) to bring down the government. But something odd is going on here. Aeon seems to have a past connection to Trevor, while Oren is rather over-determined to cling to power.
Visually, Kusama strikes a kind of Logan's Run sunny-garden style, which is hugely refreshing after the grey rain of most futuristic films. She uses sets and effects inventively, and the design elements are witty and sharp. Although the costumes are ludicrous; there are a few sleek catsuits, but most outfits reflect no fashion shift over the next 400 years. And Aeon's beaded pyjamas will be remembered as quite possibly the silliest movie costume of all time.
The cast is far too good for this kind of thing, and they all look even more bored than the audience. By forcing such a serious tone, the dialog feels stiff, dry and monosyllabic. All that livens it up are the wacky gymnastics and the goofy footwear (Aeon wears high heels even in the most acrobatic sequences, while Sithandra has had her feet adapted into hands). Sadly, Kusama uses too many close-ups and quick cuts in the action scenes, so we can barely see what's happening.
Bu the real problem is that humour only exists in a few off-handed remarks. A story like this screams out for warped nuttiness around the edges, because once you start taking it seriously you're dead in the water. Especially when the main plot hinge has a massive hole in it that defies all logic. The result is a chaotic and busy film that's ultimately, surprisingly dull.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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