'Cosmic Sin' doesn’t have a worthwhile story to tell, but even if it did, it just doesn’t have the spectacle to back it up.
- 🚀The first act sets up a promising lo-fi zombie alien invasion scenario.
- 🚀The movie seems to have blown its effects budget on big-name actors.
- 🚀Bruce Willis clearly doesn't want to be here.
- 🚀This story is explicitly fascist, or at least so badly told that it comes across as such.
Look, going after a low-budget film for failing to have high production values is not a good look for any critic. It’s the film criticism equivalent of picking on the little guy, of undermining the passion the filmmakers have for a project that might not have the financial backing to realize the scope of its vision. Sure, that may be noteworthy in preventing a film from achieving greatness, but solid direction, writing, and acting should be recognized on their own merits, even if the technical specs aren’t exactly cutting edge. But here’s the thing about Cosmic Sin: not only does it not have the direction, writing, or acting to make up for its technical shortcomings, but it seems to have dumped all its budget into enlisting two big named actors to lead what amounts to an Asylum-level production. And frankly, that lack of priorities erases any qualms about examining this film’s ugliness, in terms of its ethics as well as its aesthetics.
A series of fast-flashing title cards reveal that Cosmic Sin takes place in 2524, and the human race has become spacefaring, colonizing other worlds. On one of those worlds, first contact is made with an alien species, which is only alluded to in shadows but is framed as hostile. Upon realization of that contact, General Eron Ryle (Frank Grillo) brings in James Ford (Bruce Willis), a former general who was relieved of duty after activating a “Q Bomb” – yes, really – in a mass casualty event. The decision is made to execute a preemptive strike against the alien species, with a small group of soldiers covertly going in as Operation Cosmic Sin.
Grillo and Willis are obviously the stars meant to stud this affair, and while Grillo does okay with his rough sketch of a military commander, Willis embodies the spirit of his emotionally compromised former officer with the enthusiasm of a wet sponge, looking alternately bored and sleepy as he waits for the film to shuffle him off-screen so he can go home. However, in spite of this stunt casting, the film’s first act does show promise as the alien lifeform takes over the bodies of their deceased human victims, creating a low-key zombie invasion scenario that complements the low-light industrial setting the film passes as its secret military base. If the film had deigned to capitalize on its ideas that didn’t require interstellar travel and expansive futuristic technology, there might have been some fun to be had here.
Instead, the second act finds the team of soldiers teleporting to a distant planet to take the fight to the aliens, where a mistake in inputting coordinates conveniently cuts the expensive actors out of the film for a while. The remaining soldiers, played by such actors as Brandon Thomas Lee, C.J. Perry, and Costas Mandylor, must meet up with the remains of the human resistance and make a plan against the alien threat, all while donning power armor – I’m sorry, “Icarus Suits” – that are obviously little more than molded plastic over Under Armour. But don't worry, the aliens don't look any more imposing, as they could most charitably be described as buff dudes in cloaks. For as seriously as this film wants us to take its military bravado, it’s very difficult when the production looks like someone filmed a LARPing session in the woods behind their mom’s house. The post-production effects work looks fine, but in that glossy, holographic way that doesn’t lend the film a visual identity of its own, like a pale imitation of The Expanse or any number of Sci Fi Channel productions from last decade.
Meanwhile, as the tension supposedly escalates and the inevitability of confrontation draws near, it becomes increasingly obvious that the film is not in the least bit interested in adequately critiquing the preemptive tactics of its black ops strike force. It’s established that the team goes in without government authorization, but the government is also shown as explicitly, militaristically fascist in ways that are so pointed that they would feel like satire if they were making any sort of explicit point. This might be less of a sticking point if the film had some good action scenes to carry it – they barely serve as adequate – but the film also goes out of its way to have a dissenting voice on the team in the form of James Ford’s ex-wife, Dr. Lea Goss (Perrey Reeves). She raises points about how the hostile force may not represent the entirety of their species or even be representative of a faction within that species, but the decision to attack without diplomacy still comes across as the right thing to do, so much so that Dr. Goss is punished by fate for her naiveté. It’s frankly bizarre that the film chooses to make its uncomfortable subtext into actual text for characters to debate over, only to come to the conclusion that imperialist might makes right. If this is an attempt social satire a la Starship Troopers, its intentions are buried so far under the assumed heroism of its protagonists that it falls way short of the mark.
Cosmic Sin doesn’t have a worthwhile story to tell, but even if it did, it just doesn’t have the spectacle to back it up. It’s clearly banking on the appeal of Frank Grillo and Bruce Willis to draw curiosity, but the two are only in about half of the movie by the most generous of measurements, and Willis can’t even be bothered to be filmed standing for most of it. There are simply so many misplaced priorities here that it’s impossible to recommend even as a curio.
Cosmic Sin premieres on VOD on March 12, 2021.
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