Let this be a lesson that not all types of stories work together.
Synopsis: Follows a recently released ex-con and his adopted younger brother who are forced to go on the run. Chased by a vengeful criminal, the feds and a cadre of otherworldly soldiers, their only protection is a found weapon of mysterious ancestry. (eOne Films)
Starring: Jack Reynor, Myles Truitt, and Zoe Kravitz
Writer: Daniel Casey
Directors: Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 102mins
After watching the trailer for this one, it was easy to become confused as the story seemed to be going in different directions. Is it a family film? Is it a sci-fi film? Is it both? It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this confusion does not go away while watching the film. While its ambition should be applauded, its individual elements were uninspired at best and never quite fit together, making it all feel like a mess. Because of this, the story never seemed to get anywhere. The film would have been better served either by finding the right balance between its different themes or just choosing one over the other.
Those who have seen the trailer have pretty much seen the film for the most part. In fact, the trailers are better than the film itself. On one side, there’s a kid from a working class neighborhood in Detroit named Elijah (Truitt). The film goes out of its way to remind is that Elijah is poor, a fact that will quickly become irrelevant. He lives with his tough love adoptive father Hal (Dennis Quaid). On the other side, there’s Elijah’s brother and Hal’s biological son Jimmy (Reynor), a recently released ex-con. Jimmy may have been released from prison but he still couldn’t escape his past and crime boss Taylor Balik (James Franco).
Elijah didn’t get too much time to enjoy his new discovery as Jimmy’s plight took over the story when a tragic incident forced the two brothers to go on the run. Instead of being a story about brotherhood or even a redemption story for Jimmy, it simply featured Jimmy being mostly despicable while Elijah was there for the ride. The story follows the brothers as they go on a road trip all the while Jimmy has to hide the truth about what happened from his brother. The further their trip went on, the more dull it became. The story hinted at things happening when it showed the other parties interested in the brothers with either the aliens searching for the gun or Balik and his henchmen searching for Jimmy, however, things just took way too long to happen.
Keep in mind that in order to better enjoy the film, one must suspend belief as the film provides little to no explanation whatsoever for anything. There was nothing about Jimmy or Elijah’s pasts and nothing about the alien weapon or any of the circumstances that led to why the weapon was left where Elijah found it. The film got marginally when everyone else learned about Elijah’s weapon, however, not much more happened afterwards. The film eventually tries to bring everything back at the end during the inevitable final showdown with a “by the way” exposition twist that comes out of nowhere and wasn’t earned. The purpose of the twist is to set up potential other films that may or may not be made (it’s too early to tell) but this film failed to give us a reason to care about any of the characters.
The acting was probably the best part of the film but it was okay at best. The best performance came from Truitt as Elijah although he often found himself overshadowed by Reynor’s often unlikable Jimmy. Their chemistry at least kept things somewhat compelling to watch despite the slow cliche sequences of them bonding. Conversely, the worst part of the film was Franco’s performance as Balik. He was simply unbearable to watch, spewing cringe-worthy dialog at every turn, and not fitting the villain role at all. Ultimately, this was mostly due to the film’s mediocre script and equally mediocre direction than anything else.
Overall, this was an ambitious film that ended up being a mess that never quite worked as a family drama or a sci-fi film. This was thanks to mediocre writing and direction, leading to pacing issues that made it dull at times and a cringe-worthy performance from James Franco. It tries to set up more films within its universe but it fails to give us any reason to care about its characters which will surely make it difficult for viewers to come back for more.