Slipstream (2005)

(On DVD, May 2006) I will at least admit one thing: Slipstream had the potential to be interesting. Not fascinating, nor even original, but interesting: The premise involves a gadget that can rewind reality ten minutes back in time, a nerdy scientist and a bank robbery that goes wrong. Add to that a number of very nice production values (including CGI, helicopters, a decent truck crash and a good SWAT stand-off) and the result could have been a decent B-grade genre film. But bad writing and even worse direction dictated that this wasn’t to be: Slipstream quickly worsens with a pretentious (and nonsensical) opening monologue, and then proceeds to dig down even further. Sean Astin’s protagonist is immediately repulsive, and never recovers our affections later on. Vinnie Jones does better as a stereotypical crazy criminal, but Ivana Milicevic brings nothing special to her role as a FBI agent. Worse is the script, which can’t be bothered to wring any cleverness beyond the initial premise. The film still feels long even though it’s less than 90 minutes, which is a telling commentary on a film chiefly concerned about time. But where Slipstream really suffers is in the direction, which steals freely from dozens of better films without quite understanding why style usually serves a storytelling purpose. By the time we get to the merry-go-round of shooters (hey, don’t ask), it’s obvious that the director is padding twenty minutes’ worth of story into the length of a feature film. The result is a mess, not without potential but ultimately broken by its own incompetence. In the time-travel genre, Primer did a whole lot more with a whole lot less.

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