Complete A-Z list

Babylon A.D.


Stars: Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Gerard Depardieu, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Strong, Lambert Wilson, Jerome Le Banner, Joel Kirby, Souleymane Dicko, Radek Bruna, Jan Unger, Abraham Belaga, Gary Cowan, David Gasman

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

On the evidence of this overstuffed and undercooked turkey of a science fiction action thriller, Kassovitz would be best advised to stick to subtitled films (he directed the excellent La Haine) in future: at least that would ensure him respectful reviews from broadsheet critics for whom a movie not in the English language qualifies it for at least two extra stars regardless of content or quality.

Here Kassovitz’s best efforts are hampered or, rather, destroyed by two key elements – the often incomprehensible screen adaption of the novel Babylon Babies, which he co-wrote with Eric Besnar, and Diesel whose performance as a potential saviour of the world resembles someone suffering from terminal constipation. While he’s just about adequate in action, shooting, wrestling, punching and generally causing mayhem, his acting, such as it is, is embarrassingly wooden.

Mind you, he hasn’t much opposition in the bad acting stakes. Depardieu is overweight, underpowered and pitifully poor as the villain who hires former mercenary Diesel to deliver Thierry from a convent in a bleak future (we’re not sure quite how far in the future but we learn that the only Siberian tigers that exist are clones) Eastern Europe to New York. Which, accompanied by Yeoh as the maiden’s minder, he does amid a welter of viscerally enjoyable action sequences including a chase in snowmobiles, only to find Thierry is not what she seems to be in a plot that has strong resonances with Children of Men but without its panache and professionalism.

Naming the worst performer is a difficult call but my money is on Rampling whose turn as a (I think) high priestess of some bizarre cult involving Thierry is even further over the top than door-crasher Jack Nicholson – Here’s Johnny! – was hamming it up to stratospheric levels in The Shining. Even science fiction completists should beware.

Alan Frank

USA/France 2008. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Duboicolor.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Aug 2008