Director: Gary Fleder
Cast: Gary Sinise, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Tony Shalhoub, Mekhi Phifer
MPAA Rating: (for intense sci-fi violence, some sensuality and language)
Running Time: 1:36
Release Date: 1/4/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
Ever wonder what a B-movie is? If you know what it is, have you ever wondered if theyíre still made? Iíve heard it said that summer blockbusters are the modern equivalent of B-movies, but Iíd argue that the best place to find them is on the straight-to-video shelf at your local video store. Or you can see Impostor, which has all the values of a straight-to-video movie, but because it has a bigger-name cast, it gets a full theatrical release. Some scenes in Impostor reminded me of Battlefield Earth, and if that isnít a death wish for a science-fiction movie, I donít know what is. But Impostor isnít as bad as Battlefield Earth and itís helped a bit by its strong cast and an interesting premise, but itís a thriller that plays by all the rules and doesnít generate thrills because its workings are in plain view.
Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the source material for Blade Runner), Impostor tells the story of a man named Spencer John Olham (Gary Sinise) who is a weapons engineer in 2079. His father was killed in battle with an alien raceóa war thatís still going on. After returning from a camping trip with his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe), he comes back to work, only to be arrested for treason. The reason? Major Hathaway (Vincent DíOnofrio) of the ESA tells Spencer that he is actually a cyborg from the enemy. These kinds of cyborgs can feel human emotions, bleed, etc., but within their hearts, they carry a bomb. Spencer was scheduled to meet with a high-powered world government (now united in war) official, and Hathaway believes that Spencer is the assassin. After witnessing the very unpleasant and lethal way in which the ESA defuses the cyborg-bombs, Spencer beats up and kills a few guards and a good friend and escapes, thanks to some very conveniently placed ventilation shafts. Now his face is everywhere, and almost everyone is out to get him.
This is all quite intriguing, but alas, the movie is determined to stupefy itself with dull action sequences and even duller in-between scenes. Director Gary Fleder falls into the trap of so many directors handling material like this and overdoes the style of his movie, and in the process, completely eliminates all style from it. There a lot of slow motion shots, slanted angles, and quick cuts. Thereís even one instance of the spinning camera I so despised in Behind Enemy Lines. As a result, all of the shootout and fight sequences become predictable and, at times, incoherent. Combing close-ups and quick editing tricks may get across a frenzied feeling but using this technique consistently just destroys simple understanding. Thereís no reason behind all of these tricks except to make drab material seem flashier. A lot of the time, that doesnít work, and it certainly doesnít help here.
Scene upon scene unfolds, and nothing really interests you enough to care. Itís going through the steps. Since the action and suspense scenes fail to excite, the downtime will obviously suffer, too. As the story progresses, we get the feeling that something unexpected will explain everything. Unfortunately, weíre not involved enough to keep that thought in the back of our heads, and we begin suspecting possibilities. The setup doesnít offer too many different ones, and during the only scene between Hathaway and Maya, I already had most of the conclusion figured out. Ten minutes later, I guessed the rest. I wouldnít dare give it away, but not because the surprise is all that surprising. There are a limited number of characters, and tiny details that are given away donít leave much to the imagination. When the movie does finally pull the rug, it finds an ironically funny last lineónot even completed. It goes on after this, though.
Impostor has a solid premise, but it substitutes action for intelligence. A minor saving grace is its cast. They arenít given much to do, which is a shame when you consider whoís involved. Sinise makes a solid effort playing hero, but he can do so much better than this. Theyíll all get work again, of course, hopefully in something far less pedestrian.
Note: An opening title makes us aware that Dickís short story was written in 1953. From what I took from this note, the filmmakers want us to consider some aspects of the movie within a context of recent world events. This is meant, I think, to imply that Dick was either very imaginative for his time or prophetic. The former is unnecessary, and the latter doesnít take into consideration that perhaps the story was a commentary on another little international conflict during its time called the Cold War. Whatever the meaning, itís an awkward note for the movie to start on.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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