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Doomsday

dir: Neil Marshall
[img_assist|nid=15|title=Come to Scotland: See the sights, Spend time with our beautiful ladies|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=568|height=246]
Doom, doom, doom…. Oh yes, someone is doomed. It’s you, dear watcher. It’s you if you sit through this.

Watching this movie gave me some hideous sexually transmitted disease. Not syphilis, but something not altogether nice all the same. Time for the blue lotion again, except this time I have to make sure I keep it away from open flames.

Doomsday as a title for this flick doesn’t even really make sense, but I guess they had to shorten it from its original title: Escape from 28 Days of Resident Mad Mars Aliens Later. Because this flick is little more than an attempt to do what the two prime dickheads in the recent Michel Gondry flick Be Kind Rewind do, which is to make cheesy versions of classic action flicks.

And poorly, I might add. It is so brazen in what it does, though, and I am qualifying this as much as inhumanly possible, that there are almost moments where I forgave it for how shitty and derivative it was.

It’s almost like walking through a crowd, sensing the hand of a pickpocket and grabbing it, and then feeling almost forgiving as you glimpse the little urchin’s cheeky smile beaming up at you. Before, of course, you bring the hammer down and crack his wrist.

Set at some dismal time in the future, which looks almost indistinguishable from contemporary Britain, a virus tears through Scotland killing whole swathes of the population. A mother and daughter try to flee, and the daughter loses an eye to a soldier’s bullet, but mercifully is carried out and over before the entire country is sealed off from the rest of the world. Quarantined with extreme prejudice, if you will.

That one-eyed girl grows up to be a one-eyed bad-ass generic super spy / agent / soldier with a detachable super eye, played as an adult by the rather quite attractive Rhona Mitra. Twenty five years later, the British Government, as led by, of all people, Alexander Siddig (or Siddig el Fadil as he used to be known back when he played Dr Julian Bashir on Deep Space Nine) comes up with some plan to send a crack squad of disposable grunts into Scotland to find out if some doctor called Kane (predictably played by Malcolm McDowell) has happened upon a cure these twenty five years later.

One of the screenplay’s many conceits is that nothing is known about the Scottish side of the wall. Lo, these two and a half decades, who knows if anyone is still alive? I wonder. Now, I can’t say I’m the cleverest cookie in the cookie jar, or even in the top twenty percent of clever cookies. But even I know how ridiculous building a wall north of Newcastle to seal off an entire country is.

Boats? Did the Scottish, we presume, never master the premise of floating on a constructed craft and journeying over water? Too busy frying already fried food to master the disciplines associated with travelling, locomotion, flight and navigation?

And what of the satellites countries currently use for communications and reconnaissance these days: they no longer work in the future?

The team led by One-Eyed Lopez get into not one but two vehicles identical to the armoured personnel carrier in Aliens, and drive through the wall before it is welded shut again. When they get to Glasgow, an incredible assortment of punks and crusties, who have somehow lived through 25 years without utilities, services, soap or the magical tubes of the internets, are armed with Molotov cocktails and spiked clubs primed to take out the Southern invaders.

Bunch of savages. Wait a second, why were these people sitting around with Molotov cocktails, having no idea when or why anyone would be coming through? Where did they get the petrol for them? Where did they get the bottles and lighters, for that matter? They’ve spent the last twenty five years stockpiling petrol, bottles and matches in anticipation of attack, but they never thought to use that stuff to maybe, I dunno, get out of Scotland?

When the team are taken apart by these highly resourceful idiots in punk clothing, we see the true horror of what Lord of the Flies applied Scotland-wide would look like: cannibalism gone amuck.

One lucky member of the team is hauled out before the crowd, roasted alive and eaten by the eager punk masses, but not before an elaborate stage show (with DJ) and pep rally led by their charismatic leader Sol (Craig Conway). Sol’s only way of communicating is by screaming at both the top and bottom of his lungs.

This is one of the only things that made me really smile, but during the stage show, powered somehow and also with musical accompaniment, a song called Good Thing is played and sung/danced along to. The song itself is of little relevance, apart from the fact that the only reason I can think of that it is played is that the band who performed that lovely little ditty were The Fine Young Cannibals.

Oh, how goddamn witty. Sol, in gentle conversation with a temporarily incarcerated One Eye, explains to her that he knew the day would come when the Southern wankers would come back, and that she and her team (at least the ones who don’t get eaten) are his ticket back into civilisation.

Just to keep score, thus far the explicit movie references have been: Escape from New York, Ghosts of Mars, Mad Max: The Road Warrior, Aliens, Resident Evil(s), 28 Days Later, and every other craptacular movie with a post-apocalyptic scenario that you’ve ever had the good fortune to sit through.

Of course, that wasn’t enough for the strange people who made this film, especially the director, Neil Marshall, who up until this flick I’d thought was a director to look out for. His recent flick The Descent was one of the best horror flicks I’d seen in years. This is certainly not one of the best flicks I’ve seen in years. But it manages to get even worse from here, almost inexplicably.

It compels me, even me, to use the phrase “just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse…”

Well, it literally goes medieval on our arses. The story and the main characters go from the urban savage hellhole on a train (a fucking STEAM train at that) to the wilderness, where the much sought after Dr Kane is revealed to be living as a technology-rejecting absolute monarch. And just as before, our protagonist’s guns and shiny polymer-based armour is no match for guys with bows and arrows.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, well, things keep getting progressively worse. There’s even a scene that would have sat comfortably in Gladiator. Then a scene from Platoon. And then, oh gods, and then it turns into Battlefield Earth mixed with Mad Max. Again.

Our Hero One Eye Lopez finds a luxury hotted up Bentley that, despite the fact that it’s been sitting untouched in a cargo container for 25 years, works perfectly on its fully pumped up tires, or at least perfectly enough for road rage to ensue. Even more inexplicably, the car’s speed varies not in proportion to how hard the driver presses on the pedal, but on whether other punk-driven cars are close by. The closer they are, the slower One Eye drives. Maybe she’s lonely. It’s understandable.

These, by the way, are the nasty urban savages from Glasgow who have absolutely no reason to be where they are, who couldn’t have known what was going on even if they had mobile phone (or two cans and a piece of string) technology at their disposal.

Some will get their comeuppance, some will not. What I can assure you is that you will not care. You might think Marshall is taking the piss (or at least winking at the audience) with set pieces that make the collective works of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer seem like exercises in subtlety and restraint in comparison, but you’re watching them within the context of a flick that is hollow beyond its core, and that lacks a single believable moment of acting despite the quality of the actors involved.

Rhona Mitra, being the latest to join the ranks of Milla Jovovich, Kate Beckinsale and several other models turned actresses playing highly unlikely action leads, doesn’t do a horrible job. She can’t save a film this dumb, but she’s not utterly horrible in the lead role. The emotional scenes are comical, but she’s convincing enough (or should I say, her stunt doubles are convincing enough) in the bad ass scenes that she seems like she can hold her own. She also gets to finish the film with an insane but impressive final scene.

The film is not completely dire, but it’s certainly not good. The genre mishmashing and the reference-lifting really doesn’t work, and looks like lazy complacency rather than as a homage to beloved genre stalwarts. Hot Fuzz is probably the closest reference and comparison point that I can make, in that it’s treading similar ground, has a sheen of parody to it, explicitly references the film’s it’s taking the piss out of, but it still manages to be more than the sum of its references, standing on its own two delightful feet.

Doomsday does not stand on its own two feet. It’s pretty fucking dumb, to be honest, but it thinks it’s smarter than its audience. It’s certainly not smarter than this member of the audience.

4 times I was embarrassed for Scotland watching this two-plus hour stream of effluent out of 10

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“This is our city! Whoever they send here, we're gonna catch them, we're gonna kill them, and we're gonna eat them!” – Doomsday.

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