Babylon A.D. (2008)
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz
Michelle Yeoh/Sister Rebeka
In the year 2019, jaded and self centered mercenary Toorop (Diesel) gets a shot at a better life in exchange for transporting an odd yet cute as a button nun (Thierry) from Russia to the USA. All would’ve been dandy, if she didn’t display odd powers and if everybody and their uncle’s mistresses didn’t want a piece of her for themselves. Lots of running, fighting and pow-pow ensues.
I’ve been jazzed for BABYLON A.D. since I first heard about it. I mean how can you go wrong with a sci fi actionner helmed by ace French director Mathieu Kassovitz and that has Vin Diesel going back to what he does best; play the tough anti hero? Hard to f*ck that one up if you ask me.
The film had me... that’s until director Kassovitz bashed his own film and the studio behind it (FOX) in the press with words like:
- I'm very unhappy with the film, I never had a chance to do one scene the way it was written or the way I wanted it to be.
- The script wasn't respected. Bad producers, bad partners, it was a terrible experience.
- I had something much better in my hands but I just wasn't allowed to work.
- I should have chosen a studio that has guts. Fox was just trying to get a PG-13 movie.
Yup that kind of urinated on my anticipation factor with tract infection splendor. Now
I am every much aware that there are two sides to a coin and that Kassovitz is
probably not 100% innocent in terms of how this final cut turned out. With that
said, as I was watching BABYLON AD, Kassovitz sentiments rang oh so true, hence
I'll go with that via this review.
BABYLON AD came off as granted an un-original (Children of Men meets Fifth Element meets Blade Runner’s urban setting meets The Terminator’s last line: “There’s a
storm coming”) yet potentially great film. One that was never given the room to grow during production and that was then shamelessly botched in the editing room. Now that’s not to say that it was all bad news on the tube. I was actually having a cheap hoot with it for the first hour or so. The initial premise had me by the stoogats, Vin Diesel was on top of his game and he and his co stars shared a wonderful chemistry that
gave the whole charm and pretty much held the film together. Moreover, the pacing was tight, some of the scenarios affecting (submarine scene had me), Diesel had some priceless one liners and there was at least one action bit (snow mobile jamboree) that had me squirming in my seat in
fanboy exhilaration. Finally, the flick was well shot, with stylish camera moves, gritty cinematography and grim mood to burn. Always a good thing.
Alas, whatever meat BABYLON A.D. used to have was shaved off its ass, leaving it bare and embarrassed. Although the whole worked as an action driven chase flick, when it came to the WHY behind it all, I can’t say it made much sense to me or
that it had much of an impact. Felt like the flick’s subplots and explanation were strung together by somebody who didn’t want to address it or understand it. Speaking of editing, who ever cut the hand to hand fights and the gun battles in this film should step into the ring with me right now for a dire lesson in manners. WTF?
I can’t remember being THIS frustrated as to NOT being allowed to see action scenes unravel because of slap dash and disorienting cutting.
The "parcours" bits - botched. The fight in the cage -botched.
Michelle Yeoh kicking ass - botched. Did they even have the coverage? And what was up with the low quotient of violence? This flick begged to be Rated R! This neutered incarnation fell short and then some. Pathetic! Finally, the last act of the film was clunky at best. Was it even in sequence or did the chimp that cut the film give up at that point and just strung scenes together? BOOOO!
All in all, BABYLON AD was another could’ve been. Could’ve been the
shite if left in the hands of the filmmaker. Here it had studio interference/too many cooks spoiled the pot and banged everybody's wife STAMPED all over it.
And the thing was; even with a clown editor and ample bullshit weighting it down -BABYLON AD still pulled off being fun. I can just imagine how groovy it would've been if done right.Bummer...big f*cking bummer.
We get a bit of blood, bullet hits, dead polar bears and Gerard Depardieu's somewhat revolting makeup - that was pretty much it.
Vin Diesel (Toorop) was back at doing what he does best and I was one happy mofo for it. The dude is hard to beat when it comes to playing dark, cynical, tough as nails yet compassionate anti heroes. Shades of Riddick here. Mélanie Thierry (Aurora) was inspired casting as the angelic looking nun. She hit all the right emotional notes and I fell in love with her in a micro second. Michelle Yeoh (Sister Rebecca) was on acting wise – too bad whoever edited this wouldn’t let me see her kick ass like I know she can. Lambert Wilson (Dr. Arthur Darquandier) and Charlotte Rampling (Noelite Priestess) were wasted with the bulk of their roles presumably left on the cutting room floor. Gerard Depardieu (Gorsky) was slime-ball incarnated via his fun performance and his unsettling (to me anyways) makeup.
T & A
The ladies get Vinnie D. shirtless and us dudes get some strippers (with tops on) showing cheeks in thongs and Melanie Thierry in a top and undies.
Kassovitz directed with a firm hand, backed up by arresting cinematography, impressive production designs and top notch visual effects.
We get a competent score by Hans Zimmer and Atli Örvarsson. And I have to admit, I dug the hip-hop noise on hand by Shavo Odadjian and RZA.
In a perfect world, somebody would give Mathieu Kassovitz all of the BABYLON AD footage and let him streamline a cut of it himself. I’m sure we’d get something stronger than this slap-dash collage. As-is BABYLON AD was too watered down, choppily edited and clumsy as to its substance to stand tall and proud. Think a bubble gum version of Children of Men cut together by an ADHD ape. Thanks Zeus above or is it below) that the pace was furious, the casting inspired and that the whole managed to be amusing none the less (well to me that is). I am SOOOO praying for a Director’s Cut DVD release. I’d pay good money to see that! MAKE IT HAPPEN!
The film was loosely based on Maurice G. Dantec's novel Babylon Babies.
Production went behind schedule and over-budget.
Vin Diesel dropped out as the lead in HITMAN to do this film.
THE OFFICIAL BABYLON AD SITE HERE