I feel like people just really like the idea of Frank Grillo. I mean, he’s a good-looking, charismatic, athletic guy who moves well and acts very naturally when he’s yelling. People like the idea of Frank Grillo being the person who yells at them to keep to the left, hey hey hey I said left! when evacuating a stopped subway train during an alien invasion (or when there’s anarchists attacking), or being the person who takes point during the we-are-slinking-down-a-suspiciously-deserted-street-all-stealthy-like, because, again, he moves well and handles his gun that never runs out of bullets with movie-star-like stylishness. And, mark this: people LOVE Frank Grillo sleeveless, shirtless, in a disheveled and tattered shirt, or in a clinging, wet, easily-seen-through-shirt. And it’s not like the guy doesn’t have range! He gets to whisper-yell encouragement to young kids and frightened women, and yell-coach a pregnant woman through labor (not kidding) even though she’s not due for another six months. WHAT.
The movie starts like most Frank Grillo movies do, with the backstory and character trappings of our protagonist briskly illustrated by having him roll up to the station and drink something we know is futuristic because it’s sparkly and blue. He’s there to (unwillingly) bail out his son, who needs to be bailed out because this is a third strike and Grillo’s ex-partner doesn’t want to book him if he doesn’t need to. The family relationship has been strained since the wife/mother unit died; but father and son still do share a bond. All of this takes roughly thirteen minutes, and then the aliens start zapping people with blue light and beaming them onto their ship, which is hovering over LA.
(This is where the “Hey hey hey stay on the right!” “Watch the rails!” “I SAID KEEP UP!”) part of Frank Grillo yelling at people comes in, and the gun that never runs out of bullets makes its first appearance shortly after the aliens do. And start ripping people’s brains out. Ugh.
This part lasts until Grillo and the group he is trying to protect (including his mesmerized son), all get beamed into the ship. He happens to escape (no, seriously, how come he’s still got ammo?), and, helped by one of the aliens, bumps into the pregnant woman. She explains that the stolen brains are running the alien….machines…and that the one helping is actually her husband and her child’s father. When the aliens get ahold of children…Such as the one who just arrived…damn that was fast…and the mother dies.
And thus we get, which is also always a thing people like: badass guy protecting a child, because one thing people like is Frank Grillo, minimally shirt-clad, holding a baby. Meanwhile, Son and the Cute train Conductor are somehow not having their brains ripped out, and the mission is on to rescue them.
I am just along for the ride at this point.
There’s a bit of yelling and thrashing around and Son gets his brain ripped out in front of Frank. What the actually meaningful part of this story is right now is a fight between the head alien, and the alien who was the baby’s father, who stayed behind to cover their exit….and had a grenade palmed.
In grand and traditional fashion, one explosive, no matter how tiny, in the right place, is enough to bring the entire ship crashing down. It’s somewhere…tropical…and the locals have by this point apparently figured out that GIANT MOTORCYCLE HELMETS PROTECT YOUR BRAINS. Lol. Also there’s a guy with a flamethrower. He gets a close-up for mysterious reasons.
And then there is an ENTIRELY RANDOM kung fu fight. What?
The plot-relevant part of these guys is that they collect a crystal egg-like thing that fell on the ground. I’m guessing it’s a grenade or a computer or something. Our heroes make it out of the ship, with the visibly-larger baby. Also, it might bear mentioning that Cute Conductor is now also shirtless. Well, in a camisole. Heroes plus baby but soon minus blind guy bump into the motorcycle-helmeted duo. Also, the baby is about two years old now with a nice head of hair.
HEY, THAT’S IKO UWAIS UNDER THE HELMET! (That explains the kung fu, LOL.) THIS MOVIE, SERIOUSLY. You could get an entire TV series out of the plot and genre shifts just this far and we’re only fifty-seven minutes in. (Lol at the motorcycle-helmet girl whaling on Cute Conductor Girl. That’s just unnecessary.) I mean, sheesh, they’re FIGHTING IN A MUD PIT WITH CLINIGING WET RIPPED SHIRTS ON. The guys are, that is. BUT THEN! Other guys arrive, necessitating the guys stopping fighting and joining ranks. Well, that was easy.
HEY I RECOGNIZE THAT GUY HE IS THE OTHER INDONESIAN KUNG FU GUY (and had a flamethrower a few scenes ago.) More to the point, he also has a gun in Frank Grillo’s face. But they get the drop on him and decide to shoot him and then take him along. At this point the kid is about four years old and violence isn’t good for Baby Girl to watch.
And our heroes march through Ankor Wat, or at least a nice CGI version of it to an underground base where they are met by a white guy with a British accent (a chemist by trade), and there is also a dedicated prison space for Other Kung Fu Guy. We are now one hundred and four minutes into the movie. (Wait, hang on, is this Cambodia or Thailand?)
This movie, seriously.
Anyhow, the chemist guy sciences Baby Girl’s blood a little and gets freaked out. This leads to an unconvincing scene where Grank….yeah I’m leaving that typo…explains that SHE IS OUR HOPE! But also she’s running out of blood and her system is shutting down due to the demands of constant growth. Grillo volunteers for the transfusion, since he had stuff happen to him on the alien ship blah blah blah. And Ms. Motorcycle Helmet mellows out a little bit seeing Cute Conductor and Baby Girl cuddling up.
So we cut to…some random woman (who died in the intro) waking up in a hospital bed…
…wait…noooooooooo….she has a wedding ring like the one Grillo has been playing with periodically, around her neck…
No, now I’m really confused.
So cut back to the science guy sciencing a little bit more, blah blah. Did he really just say, “Scientifically speaking”–? Sure did. Heh. And then at minute one hundred and thirteen, it turns out that using Baby Girl’s blood plus one of their canons will free all of the machine-soldier-brains. (“You sure he’s not doing the drugs?”) And thus the world will be saved. Suuuuuuuuuuure, and I believe you guys are going to do that all on your motorcycle-helmeted own, even if you do have a Vietnam-war era base with a punji stick trapdoor.
Anyhow, our peaceful interlude is interrupted by brain-stealing aliens attacking the girls. Ms. Motorcycle Helmet runs into a minefield, drawing the brainstealing thing after her….but steps on something that goes click. It blows her up and destroys the Stealer. Cute Conductor flees back to base, horrified (and we get some more Reassuring Frank Grillo action, also getting Baby Girl somewhere safe. D’awww, he gives her a headbutt.)
But then (have I mentioned we are one hundred and nineteen minutes into this movie?) the Indothaibodians prepare to DEFEND THE BASE while Grillo heads out with the magical blood syringe to rescue the brainwashed (literally? Ew) machines. (“Fucking Americans.” Hah.)
The aliens start to move down into the underground base (which has been lavishly booby-trapped) while Grillo slinks around topside, action-movie-star-style. He makes it back up to the ship, but the civilians are forced to also flee the safety of the base. But it’s OK, because Iko Uwais launches a grenade at the glowing blue thingy and it blows up. BUT IT’S NOT OKAY BECAUSE THE ALIEN LEADER IS ACTUALLY THERE IN HIS ALIEN GIANT MECHA SUIT OH NOES.
I think that’s about as much as I’m going to be bothered with. They’re fighting in the ruins of Ankor Wat and then the good mecha piloted by the Son who’s been rescued by the power of seeing his dad’s wedding ring shows up and lets just say Ankor Wat is going to be a little bit more ruined than it was before. Baby Girl arms the torpedo canon and then it gets fired off by Son and the alien machines’ eyes turn from blue (evil) to red (good). The family unit reforms….they’re gonna name Baby Girl after Grank’s dead wife Rose…and…
Cut to the woman from the beginning….Rose, all grown up, I assume…and despite the fact that she’s dressed in street clothes….look, SERIOUSLY, YOU GUYS COULDN’T HAVE STUCK HER IN A BODYSUIT OR SOMETHING? HELLO SHE IS A SEMIALIEN WEAPON IN COMMAND OF A SHIP ABOUT TO TAKE THE WAR TO THE ENEMY WHY IS SHE DRESSED UP LIKE SHE JUST HIT FOREVER 21? She gets hailed with “Captain on deck!” YEAH RIGHT but whatever because they’re taking the fight to THEM NOW.
(Things blowing up spacey)
Hah, there’s a blooper reel over the credits.
Overall, I feel a sense of impatience and pity for this movie. It tries so hard, and it has such energy and promise, and Iko Uwais fighting alien soldiers with dual knives and no sleeves and Frank Grillo fighting alien soldiers a tight wet shirt, and whatshisface, the other Indonesian guy, fighting alien soldiers with a machete and no shirt, and yet still it falls so short. I think it honestly could have worked really well as a series. With this budget (…per episode…) and cast, and enough time to flesh everyone out and make us care that Motorcycle Helmet Girl just got blown up and her chemist boyfriend is sad? With more time to watch Frank Grillo running around yelling at people? With a little more explanation of what the heck Baby Girl is? And then at least half an episode to follow up on the whole we-are-taking-the-fight-back-to-them? Absolutely this could have been a masterpiece. As it is, though…
Rated: This movie, seriously.