2021, PG-13, 106 mins.
Mark Wahlberg as Evan McCauley / Dylan O'Brien as Heinrich Treadway / Rupert Friend as Bathurst / Chiwetel Ejiofor as Bathurst / Sophie Cookson as Nora / Tom Hughes as Abel / Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Kovic / Toby Jones as Kent / Jason Mantzoukas as PeabodyDirected by Antoine Fuqua / Written by Todd Stein, based on the book THE REINCARNATIONIST PAPERS by D. Eric Maikranz
You know that hilarious GIF that's been circulating online for years that features Mark Wahlberg's character from THE HAPPENING looking utterly confused as to what's happening to the world around him?
You know the one
I'm talking about. Just
Google search "Mark Wahlberg GIFS" and it will literally be
among the top 4 or 5 that generate.
Anyhoo', now that
you know what I'm talking about, you'll understand me when I say that I
had the exact same reaction while watching INFINITE, which is equal parts
befuddling, woefully derivative, and yes, awful.
I can just
imagine the pitch meetings for this sci-fi brain bender (heavy emphasis on
the brain bending, but not in a good way): Battle hardened soldiers
with the power of reincarnation - some good, some evil, but with both
sides being able to live seemingly forever - wage a centuries old conflict
over the fate of the known world. Both
sides are looking for a MacGuffin (or, in this film's case, an Egg
MacGuffin) that has the power to end every human life on Earth.
Caught between this massive battle to end all battles is an
ordinary Joe that becomes the "one" that can save everyone.
Sounds cool, right?
I'm sure that the
makers here pitched INFINITE as THE MATRIX meets THE
OLD GUARD meets any random MCU entry.
I would have added - if in the room - except way, way more
nonsensically dumb. INFINITE
has cool ideas up the proverbial yin-yang, but no idea whatsoever how to
harness these cool ideas into a workable and enjoyable action/sci-fi
adventure, which is probably why this film was unceremoniously dumped to
Paramount's new streaming service as opposed to being granted a full
cinema release (granted, COVID spoiled its original theatrical release
party, but still...). What's
perhaps most damning is that this is directed so half-heartedly by Antoine
Fuqua, who's no stranger to hard boiled pulp fiction action.
That's a real shame, not to mention that his star and co-producer
in Wahlberg - in pure THE HAPPENING Wahlbergian form - looks mostly stiff
and confused throughout this mess of a lame franchise starter.
never seems invested in the material at all (which is telling, seeing as
he was reportedly an eleventh hour replacement for Chris Evans, who was
originally cast, but had to vacate...smart of him to do so).
You can sense Wahlberg's limitless boredom here within the opening
seconds of the film, during which time he dryly - okay, ultra dryly
- provides one of the worst phoned-in voiceover narrations this side of
Harrison Ford in the original BLADE
RUNNER to give viewers insight into INFINITE's premise and world
(if this film's mission was to put me to sleep this early
on...then...mission accomplished). At
least the opening action sequence is okay and tries to breathe some
visceral life into the production early on, which features one of the good
guy immortal reincarnators in possession of the aforementioned Egg
MacGuffin (it's literally an egg) that's being perused by
evil immortal reincarnators. This
sequence has a pulse. I'll give it that.
The rest of the film built after that needs a defibrillator.
We then meet
Wahlberg's downtrodden everyman Evan, who's battling schizophrenia and has
mostly won that battle, but is having a great deal of trouble securing
work because of his condition and the stigma that it creates with
prospective employers. Weirdly,
Evan possesses a bewildering assortment of special skills and abilities
for unknown reasons. He seems
like a walking encyclopedia of knowledge for things that he never studied
in school and, in an unintentionally hilarious reveal, is able to forge
and manufacture an ancient samurai sword from scratch. Now, how the unemployed and destitute Evan is able to do this
is one of the many things that INFINITE doesn't fully explain.
Well, the film does explain that he makes these swords to sell to
vile drug dealers to get his schizophrenia meds.
into it with the law after a botched sword deal that went south real fast,
Evan is apprehended and interrogated by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofer), who
certainly appears to be no mere mortal police investigator as he begins to
insist that Evan has actually known him for centuries.
Thankfully, another good immortal (they're the
"Believers") named Nora (Sophie Cookson) swoops in to save Evan
and takes him back to her people, who form a group called The Infinite
that is made of a slew of other reincarnators that have honed their
abilities for hundreds of years. Evan
learns that Bathrust is on the bad side - known as The Nihilists - and
wants the Egg MacGuffin to destroy all life.
Evans decides that it's in his best interests to join up with the
Believers to take on Bathurst and the Nihilists, and soon learns that he
may himself be a reincarnated being with ties to a past Believer agent
that once possessed the Egg MacGuffin.
apparent very early on in INFINITE that it's the loosest of loose
patchwork jobs, arbitrarily and hopelessly cherry picking and trying to
bring together multiple different genres and films in hopes of making
something innovative and fresh. This
film is like a car made up of so many spare parts that the make and model
becomes almost impossible to discern.
We get snippets of, yes, THE MATRIX, a little bit of THE OLD GUARD
(an - cough, cough - infinitely better film about immortals), a
smattering of INCEPTION, and even a
little bit of the JASON BOURNE
series tossed in (in regards to a main character that has no memory or
knowledge of who he really is). Again,
it's not that INFINITE isn't interesting on paper, but as a high concept
sci-fi action thriller it fails on levels of basic execution and world
building. Plus, it becomes
very easy to start lambasting the multitude of plot holes that riddle the
film, like, for example, the fact that Bathurst has a very nifty looking
weapon (called the Dethroner...love that!) that's able to wipe an
immortal's brain, making them none the wiser as to their immortal status.
Since Bathurst is tormented by his own immortal status, why not
just use the gun on himself? Why
go on the arduously tough mission to find the Egg MacGuffin and then use
it to destroy the world? Plus,
he's facing off against an adversary in Evan that already has memory loss
issues about his reincarnating status.
How is he a threat to Bathurst?
It's enough to make your head burst...or Bathurst, if you
Speaking of Evan,
Wahlberg is such a blank slate bore in this role that you have to
constantly remind yourself that he's a crucial power player in this global
struggle that's worthy of our interest.
Hell, the actor doesn't even have the courage to play things
hilariously broad (as was the case with his appearance in the TRANSFORMERS
films) or bizarrely idiotic (again, see THE HAPPENING) and instead just
sleepwalks through the film. Ejiofer
is in pure pay check mode with his baddie, but at least he fully embraces
the outlandish nature of the material he's given.
The side characters surrounding these two headliners are very
weakly developed, like Cookson's highly dexterous sidekick or an Infinite
aligned researcher played by Toby Jones.
He appears and then reappears in the film, often leading to viewers
forgetting that he was even a character to follow in the first place.
The acting from everyone on board ranges from middling to horribly
wooden, and when you don't have anyone here that we care about it becomes
equally hard to care about the stakes of the story, especially when it
careens towards (sigh) an open ended franchise extending ending that hints
at a sequel that will probably never happen.