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Bloddy, Disastrous “Doomsday”

Observer Scene | Wednesday, March 19, 2008

You probably won’t enjoy Doomsday. The movie lacks any real rhythm or flow; in fact it’s really just a 104 minute long action sequence, filled with nonstop, blood-splattering action. But if you’re familiar with Snake Pliskin, Mad Max or any of the old George Romero zombie flicks, you might appreciate this film.

“A virus doesn’t hate or care, it just happens,” Or so the opening narration claims at the beginning of director Neil Marshall’s latest film. The full-blown apocalyptic thriller begins with the killer “Reaper” virus breaking out in the city of Glasgow. It spreads so rapidly the government decides to just wall off the northern half of the island of Great Britain, leaving everyone living within the regions – sick or not – to die.

Three decades later, skyrocketing levels of overpopulation, unemployment and sheer filth lead to another outbreak of the virus in London. Rather than evacuate or quarantine all of England, two corrupt, high ranking government officials John Hatcher (Alexander Siddig) and Michael Canaris (David O’Hara) send an elite team, led by the one-eyed Major Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra), over the wall into what’s left of Scotland.

Hatcher instructs Sinclair to find the cure and return within 48 hours – before the virus overruns London. Sinclair coolly asks what she should do if she doesn’t find the cure. Hatcher responds: “Then you shouldn’t bother coming back.” His comment is sort of ironic, if you stay until the end.

Leading a team of soldiers and a pair of scientists, Sinclair sets out for Glasgow in search of Dr. Kane (Malcom McDowell), the leading researcher on the Reaper Virus 30 years ago, who was trapped inside the city. They don’t find Kane, but what they do looks straight out of John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York.” The streets are empty, the buildings overrun by vegetation and everything appears void of human life. But an empty city is no fun.

Before they know it the place is crawling with club-swinging, Mohawk wearing, tattooed, punk rocking cannibals. Sinclair and her men mow down about a hundred of the freaks before the savage punk rockers manage to overrun her crew. They take her prisoner and she meets their leader, Sol (Craig Conway). The man is about as psycho as you would expect any human being surviving under such circumstances to be. A testament to his insanity, Sol puts on a dance show to the music of Fine Young Cannibals before the cannibals feast on one of Sinclair’s crew members.

From there things only get more ridiculous.Sinclair manages to escape and finds Kane, who happens to be at war with Sol, who, it turns out, is Kane’s son. Unlike Sol’s sweatband and Mohawk toting followers, Kane’s men ride horses wearing suits of armor. The whole scenario is absurd, but it’s redeemed by the interchange Sinclair shares with Kane right before he throws her into a gladiator arena to do battle with his executioner. Kane asks Sinclair what London has become in the decades since the wall went up. Sinclair casually responds, “Same s***, different era.”

Marshall, who won a string of awards for his low-budget independent films “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent,” jumped on to a much larger stage with “Doomsday.” The film is his homage to the gritty, apocalyptic thrillers of the 80s. “[T]he whole idea was that I was making a film for an audience that wasn’t there when “Mad Max” came out. I wanted to give them a sense of what we experienced,” he said in an interview on the Web site chud.com.

When you feel the jolt of the stunt-filled car chase at the end of the film, a scene that took three-and-a-half weeks to film, you might get a sense of what he is trying to accomplish, and overall it’s almost enough to call “Doomsday” a good film.