(On Cable TV, January 2014) “It starts snowing… and never stops” is a particularly Canadian nightmare, so it’s no surprise if low-budget Canadian SF/horror film The Colony starts with that premise as an excuse to justify its post-apocalyptic premise. There is some intriguing world-building in depicting self-sufficient underground bunkers, and some of the underlying universe surrounding the Colonies would have been fascinating to explore. Unfortunately, The Colony eventually degenerates into nothing more than a zombie cannibal schlock-fest: couldn’t anything been more interesting than yet another one of those? And yet, The Colony isn’t to be dismissed entirely, mostly for the way it stretches its budget and for the chilling atmosphere it sustains from beginning to middle. Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton are the featured actors and do fine work, although their screen presence is more limited than you’d think. Otherwise, there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy here: the meagre plot is dull, derivative and barely manages to be stretched over to nearly 90 minutes. The thrills are familiar, and the conclusion could have used a ray of sunshine. Direct-to-VOD fodder it is.
(In theaters, December 2009) As far as B-grade action thrillers go, Armored has a number of things going for it. Most notably, it adopts an unusual high concept (protagonist refuses to cooperate with his colleagues during a multimillion heist; finds himself trapped in an armoured truck while they scheme against him) and then spends an hour milking the premise for all it’s worth. Much of it feels mechanical, but there’s no denying that the claustrophobic set-pieces are effective. It feels just a bit fresher than many other thrillers out there, and the trio of familiar actors (Matt Dillon, Jean Reno, Laurence Fishburne) headlining this practically all-male film is a bit amazing considering that in almost all other aspects, it feels like a straight-to-DVD feature. But the problem with Armored is that it simply doesn’t take things beyond the obvious. The actors seems to be slumming in their roles, the character dynamics feel simplistic and contrived; the action sequences are not particularly spectacular and the plot is simple enough that alert viewers will figure out the next plot twist shortly before it occurs. Add to that a number of credibility problems (traceable dollar bills, convenient bottom hatch, etc.) and it’s easy not to be impressed. This is pure formula thriller filmmaking, and while it’s generally enjoyable (it will whittle away a lazy evening), it remains much less than what Armored could have been. Moviegoers with long memories for French-Canadian thrillers will see the film with the added handicap of remembering 1987’s gutsier Pouvoir Intime as another take on a similar premise.