THE "COUGH COUGH" STORY: Years after a totalitarian regime was brought down on Mars by a rebellion called Red Faction, the leader of the rebels, Alec Mason (Robert Patrick), is now a shell of himself. You can't blame him: his wife and, supposedly, daughter were murdered by Marauders, a tribal group of Martians who briefly teamed with the Red Faction to bring down the regime. Now Mason is making a drunken fool of himself while his surviving son, Jake (Brian J. Smith), a Red Faction soldier himself, seeks to prove that his sister never really died, but was kidnapped by the group responsible for his mother's daughter and his father's ruination. Setting off on his own with a cute analyst (Danielle Nicolet) and a determination to prove that a new threat is emerging (or maybe reemerging), Jake will now attempt to become the man his father once was while forging out a unique destiny of his own.
I'm not sure if RED FACTION: ORIGINS is meant to be a pilot for a potential series or just the first in a franchise of low-budget space epics, but I was surprised to find that, despite its obvious budget restrictions, the movie provides adequate entertainment. Its characters are likable, its production design is a step above your usual Syfy fare, and there's plenty of action and violence to stir you if doldrums happen to set in once in a while. It's not exactly "Battlestar: Galactica", but as far as movies meant to link two video games together go (the film takes place after 2009's Red Faction: Guerilla and this year's Red Faction: Armageddon) you'd be excused if you expected a whole lot worse.
The odd thing known as "The Robert Patrick Gangsta Pose"
ARE YOU SERIOUS: RED FACTION: ORIGINS plays out without much winking, although thankfully it doesn't expect us to take its tale of Martian Civil War too seriously. There are, however, moments of genuine humor sprinkled in liberally, to the film's benefit. (Not that it's ever actually that funny, but it's always good to try.
MONSTER 411: The villains in RED FACTION: ORIGINS may be from Mars, but they aren't aliens: They're a resurrected portion of the evil Earth Defense Force, the tyrannical regime defeated years earlier by Robert Patrick's character. Led by, of course, the man (Tamer Hassan) who killed Patrick's wife and kidnapped his daughter, they're not exactly intimidating in their all-white uniforms, but they're a threat, nonetheless.
"It's not what it looks li- okay it's exactly what it looks like."
PAYCHECK ACTING: Robert Patrick looks quite like a man at the end of his rope, fueled only by booze and bad memories - I just hope it was the result of a great performance and not an indication of where the actor really is in life! The only other "name" to speak of is Kate Vernon, who fans of "Battlestar: Galactica" will recall as Ellen Tigh. Here she plays the leader of the Marauders, a lady known as "The Matriarch". She appears mostly via hologram and goes through the motions . Paycheck acting indeed.
HOE DOWN: Tamzin Merchant plays Jake's long lost sister Lyra, although its hard to feel anything other than familial towards the meek gal. Jake's love interest, Tess (Nicolet), is more alluring and even sheds her top at one point (in an effort to hopefully distract a guard); this being Syfy, however, we're not given clearance to the goods.
Anyone know what happened to Ms. Nicolet's butt? If you've seen it, let us know...
WRAP UP: I'm not sure that I'm clamoring for another RED FACTION movie at the moment, but it's hard to deny that my enjoyment level remained fairly high throughout ORIGINS. If they were to make another, I'd advise them to raise the visual effects budget - at least for the spaceships - a tad, and perhaps grace the film with a slightly more persuasive bad guy, but otherwise they'd do well to continue along the same path.
RATING: 3 out of 4
SO BAD IT'S GOOD RATING: N/A