Rotten Tomatoes recently released their Worst of the Worst - the 100 worst-reviewed films from 2000 to 2009. Guess which is the most recent movie to make the list? Yup, this one (though at 100th place, it's the best of the worst). And y'know, the trailer already has suck written all over it - it's all just a lot of quick-cutting and loud noises that make it look like a thrill-a-minute action movie, but barely tells us what the movie is about. But hey, I won tickets to a preview screening courtesy of Nuffnang and Warner Bros. Pictures (w00t!). So does it deserve the honour of being one of the worst movies of the decade?
Well, no, not really. Doesn't mean it's good though.
Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) is the U.S. Marshal on duty at the Amundsen-Scott Station near the South Pole. Three days before she's due to leave for the winter, she's called to investigate a body that turns out to be a homicide - the first ever in Antarctica. Aided by her friend "Doc" (Tom Skerritt) and pilot Delfy (Columbus Short), her investigations lead to a suspicious encounter with U.N. special investigator Robert Pryce (Gabriel Macht) and a 50-year-old mystery that someone will kill for.
So I'm fully expecting this movie to be bad, right? And for the first half hour, it didn't disappoint. Within a minute of Stetko's first appearance, we get a shameless fanservicey shower scene. I have nothing against looking at Ms. Beckinsale's yummy bits per se, but a movie that sticks her bepantied butt at the camera isn't one that can expect to be taken seriously. And a while later, we get a truly facepalm-worthy action sequence in which Stetko is attacked by a masked killer with an ice axe, and forgets that she has a gun. We see her strap it on just minutes before, we see her pull it out later, but in between when she has an axe-wielding maniac after her, all she does is run. Aiyoo, movie, what laa??
But for the rest of the running time, it's surprisingly decent. Or at least there's nothing as egregiously dumb as the first half hour, which is honestly surprising. It's a by-the-numbers thriller with an action scene or two, and for the most part it hits those numbers competently. You got your protagonist with a traumatic past, who works through her issues by the end of the movie. You got your twisty little murder mystery, with red herrings galore and a shocking (kinda) reveal. None of it's terrifically effective, but at least it doesn't suck.
That's for the plot. The direction, however, sucks. Dominic Sena is best known for Swordfish, which is best known for Halle Berry's topless scene, so it's not like I'm expecting greatness from him. Still, the climactic chase/fight scene in a snowstorm is so confusingly shot that you can barely make out who's who. There's a lot of annoying quick-cutting even during quiet dialogue scenes. The movie breaks out the shaky-cam for no good reason. And perhaps worst of all, Sena has no idea how to create a sense of place. This is a movie set in the coldest place on earth, yet I hardly felt a chill in the cinema.
Kate Beckinsale gets a chance to headline a movie without vampires or werewolves or black leather catsuits, and she's... okay lar. It's not an amazingly nuanced role anyway, and her performance is merely adequate. No one else makes much of an impression; Macht is wooden, Short has little to do, and Skerritt is fine so long as he does his wise old mentor routine - anything more and he fails to convince.
I'm not sure if I can put all the blame on Sena - Dark Castle Entertainment does not have a good track record, and I wouldn't be surprised if some uppity-up producer took over the editing reins and made it dumber and louder. (Probably the same guy who cut the trailer.) I'm probably being really generous giving it two-and-a-half stars, but I was honestly surprised that it wasn't as stupid throughout as that first half hour. If the movie had fixed that part - if Stetko had pulled her gun on the axe-wielding maniac, then lost it or something - I'd probably... still give it two-and-a-half stars. My generosity has limits.
NEXT REVIEW: Papadom
Anticipation level: my man Afdlin, don't let me down