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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Doug Liman|
scr David S Goyer, Jim Uhls, Simon Kinberg
with Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Samuel L Jackson, Diane Lane, Michael Rooker, Teddy Dunn, Max Thieriot, AnnaSophia Robb, Jesse James, Tom Hulce, Kristen Stewart
release US/UK 14.Feb.08
08/US Fox 1h28
Rome if you want to: Bilson and Christensen
The teleporting premise is intriguing enough to hold our interest, but the screenwriters never make anything of it, letting the story get increasingly corny.
David (Thieriot then Christensen) discovered his teleportation ability at age 15 and over the years has perfected his bank-robbery techniques. He now lives in Manhattan splendour, spending his days flitting around the world. Then the sinister Roland (Jackson) starts tracking him, and the people David left back home--his shattered dad (Rooker) and tentative girlfriend (Robb then Bilson)--are in danger. Suddenly he meets another jumper (Bell) who seems to know what's going on, but may be trouble.
Director Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith) makes good use of the whizzy effects and snazzy globe-hopping settings. And the characters have big personalities, although David's cocky arrogance leaves the film without a hero we care about. There's also the problem of Roland's motivation for ethnically cleansing the world of jumpers, which seems to stem from a hazily described medieval war or something (to say nothing of who funds his crusade or how he stays top-secret despite his bleach-white hairdo).
Meanwhile, the film is a blur of slick action sequences that are thrilling and visually inventive even if we never have a clue why everyone's at each others' throats. The cast is fine in their ill-defined roles; only Bell manages to breathe life into his character. Frankly, it leaves us wishing the movie had been about him instead of the more wooden Christensen in his trite romantic subplot with the perpetually lost Bilson.
This laziness shows at every level, from the David's tired trenchcoat (already a cliche by 1985) to his ridiculous perch on Big Ben's minute hand. It's like a compendium of things a young boy would think were really cool before he learned better. And as it progresses, the dialog becomes heavy with goofy jingo--the paladins, the jump scar, the grid--while the gadgets feel lifted from Ghostbusters or Men in Black. All of this undercuts what should have been an engaging story of a reluctant hero caught in a twisted spiritual war. But apparently the studio thought audiences would prefer not to engage their brains.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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