Monday, September 01, 2008

BABYLON A.D. - All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing

I'll say one thing for Russia, the health service is tremendous.Over-budget, over-schedule, unloved by its studio, disowned by its director, heavily edited down and released in two versions....BABYLON A.D. is a confused movie with a void at its centre, and I'm not talking about Vin Diesel. Writer-director Mathieu Kassovitz, who made the brilliant flick LA HAINE, has a done stitch-up job on the studio, accusing them of blocking his artistic vision with harsh editing. He's right. This dystopian thriller, based on the novel by Maurice G Dantec, has had its guts ripped out in the editing suite. The poor viewer never really has a clear idea about what the frack is going on.

My vague feeling is that a hundred years in the future, Russia has turned all of Europe and Asia into satelite states that have disintegrated into cyber-punk savagery. America is a locked-down haven of functionality but at a price - culture has been commercialised to the point where religion is sold through billboards like face-cream. Years ago, a mad scientist created a cylon baby who would have a virgin birth, propelling a particular sect to world domination. This baby, now a woman, is to be smuggled to the sect's headquarters in New York by a mercenary called Toorop and, for no particular reason other than sheer improbaility, a kung-fu nun.

The key point is this: the only bit of that plot summary that comes across coherently in the actual film is the final sentence. In other words, this movie is just one long chase scene for no particular reason. The only real pleasure is in observing the production design, which veers from a cool, gritty Kreuzberg like Europe, via Canadian snow-scapes, to a futuristic New York.

Mathieu Kassovitz claims that the studio hacked his film to death. I believe him. Still, that's only half the problem. The other half is the piss-poor casting. On the one hand you have Vin Diesel who, gods love him, can't really depict characters in the midst of moral dilemmas. And then you have Mélanie Thierry who plays the girl. Now, for the first hour of the film I swear to god I thought she was about fifteen. But then, in a really excruciatingly embarassing scene, her character comes on to the mercenary and you think, oh my god, she's actually meant to be in her twenties! I came home and looked up the actress' age on IMDB. She's actually 27!!! Amazing. Put it this way, you can cast her as your lead actress, but you need to put her opposite someone who looks like he could conceivably have a relationship with her without being accused of pederasty or indeed crushing her to death in the palm of his hand.

So all I'm saying is this. Kassovitz needs to come clean. Yes, the film is shit. Yes, the studio probably did bad things with FinalCut Pro. And maybe, just maybe, they forced Vin Diesel onto him. But he acquiesed. And then he cast an actress who looked 15 opposite him.....

BABYLON A.D. is on release in France, Belgium, Russia, Canada, the UL and the USA. It goes on release next weekend in Indonesia, Argentina, Portugal, Mexico and Panama. It opens on September 11th in Austria, Germany, Singapore and Brazil. It opens in Spain on September 19th. BABYLON A.D. opens in October in Australia, South Korea, Finland, Italy, Norway and Egypt and in November in Venezuela and Greece.


  1. Babylon AD totally feels like a cross between the Fifth Element and Minority Report

  2. I agree! It's not coincidental that the director of Babylon AD acted in Fifth Element.