(On Cable TV, October 2012) There is nothing special about Crisis Point, and at times it seems as if this is entirely intentional. This film wouldn’t have existed without the perverse consequences of cultural protectionism: Canada assigns movie-channel network licenses on the condition that they broadcast at least X% of Canadian content, so there is a captive market for cheap Canadian movies. Quality is not a priority for films sporting the TMN/Super Écran/Movie Central logos in the credit sequence, and Crisis Point seems blander than most. The linear storyline seems painfully familiar even from the lengthy get-go: After a hostage negotiator bungles a case, she finds herself targeted in a subsequent bank robbery. Montréal stands-in for Detroit, but the limited budget ensures that there’s no leaving the land of cheap “made for TV” films: the editing is slack, the cinematography is sparse and some stock footage jumps out. Rhona Mitra headlines as the protagonist, but Crisis Point’s script is as by-the-numbers as they come: the lifeless plot isn’t helped along by a rhythm that takes forever to go anywhere. The beginning is interminable, the ending never seems to end, and the film feels very, very long even at its mandated 90-minutes duration. It’s hard to imagine anyone outside Crisis Point’s cast and crew being actually excited about the product they have delivered to the maw of the cable channels. Even excuses about how the film isn’t terrible, about the jobs created along the way, about the experience that the cast and crew got from the production don’t really excuse the fact that the final result is dull and formulaic. The budget constraints must be painful, but it doesn’t cost much more to pay for a script that actually generates some narrative momentum, features compelling dialogue or creates characters we haven’t seen a thousand times before. Sure, we Canadians enjoy seen home-grown content on-screen… but it’s even better when it’s actually any good.
(On DVD, December 2009) I suppose we shouldn’t begrudge the boys a bit of fun when then set out to make a Scottish post-apocalyptic horror/action film featuring a gun-toting babe. Still, Doomsday most often feels like a tedious rehash of about half a dozen far better films, made with mechanical skills and little inspiration. The plot points are so painfully contrived that they create resentment and very little viewer buy-in. (A plague contained by locking off Scotland? Uh-huh.) By the time we reach the cannibalistic barbarians inspired by Prodigy videos and then a pseudo-medieval tyrant, it’s obvious that if Doomsday has anything left to show us, it will be in bits and pieces of direction, not in the overall script or end result. Director Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) is lost in the woods during most of the film, but from time to time there’s a striking shot or action set-piece that reminds us of his past successes and makes us wish this was a far better film. Rhona Mitra (presumably standing-in for Kate Beckinsale) is the only one besides Bob Hoskins who emerges from this film with even a smidgen of respect left. The action tends to be on the splattery side, something that the “unrated” DVD version tends to maximize to very little improvement over the theatrical version. After a ludicrous car chase that is still better than most of the film, the ending fizzles off –much like the rest of Doomsday. It is what it is, one supposes –but there’s a reason why it disappeared from North American theatres in mere days. The DVD extra features make it clearer that the picture was aiming for a deliberate hommage to SF exploitation pictures and is reasonably entertaining in describing how to do wide-scale action on a budget… but don’t redeem the end result.