Hard to believe, but there was a time when the phrase ‘starring Vin Diesel!’ was more of a promise than a threat. He was also tipped as a filmmaking force after Spielberg saw his short Multi-Facial and cast him in Saving Private Ryan. His directing ambitions stalled as he growled louder than the engines in The Fast And The Furious and glowered in bargain-basement Aliens knock-off Pitch Black…
Suddenly, he was tagged the new Bruce, the new Ahhnold, even the new Bond – with xXx supposedly a 007 for Generations X & Y (though the result was mostly Zzzzz). Now, Babylon AD... Not quite as mind-numbingly dreadful as Diesel’s last action outing A Man Apart, nor as turgid as director Mathieu Kassovitz’s prior gig Gothika, but so mired in mediocrity as to eventually be somewhat soul-crushing. Vin, it’s come to this?
He’s Toorop (yes, really), an ex-marine mercenary in your standard cookie-cutter post-global meltdown dystopian future (basically Children Of Men minus the imagination). Tasked with smuggling an odd virginal girl (Mélanie Thierry) into the US, he teams with her minder (Michelle Yeoh) and tries to avoid getting offed while sticking to his credo: “Life’s simple, kill or be killed and always finish the job. A survivor’s code; my code…” Dear God.
Yeoh does what she can and actually milks a little emotion out of one brief scene, while Diesel doesn’t look nearly as embarrassed as he should. But the inoffensively dire direct-to-DVD opening eventually descends into sub-Matrix Revolutions gibberish featuring, incidentally, that picture’s flamboyant Frenchman, Lambert Wilson (aka Merovingian) – who dribbles exposition while poncing about like Rupert Everett at Mardi Gras.
The nonsensical closing scene is supposed to offer the promise of hope. Well, Diesel will be back again in 2009, with Fast And Furious. Yes, they really are just dropping the ‘the’, but we hope – no, we know – that it has to be better than this.
Life in an ultra-violent, desperate, refugee-strewn world of vice, crime and rancour cant be any worse than this. Diesel needs a hit, Kassovitz needs to be hit. La Haine? With a vengeance.