There just isn’t enough here to recommend 'Infinite' as more than background noise for a lazy afternoon.
- ♾ Some fun car chases.
- ♾ Jason Mantzoukas steals the show.
- ♾ Derivative and boilerplate to a fault.
- ♾ These characters barely have a single personality between them.
- ♾ The action feels like it's on autopilot.
There is the nugget of an interesting idea at the core of director Antoine Fuqua’s and writers Ian Shorr and Todd Stein’s Infinite, the first major original film release on Paramount+. If reincarnation is real, then what are the limits of human potential if select individuals are capable of remembering the events, experiences, and learned skills and aptitudes of their past lives? There’s a vast playground of possibilities to explore in that premise, seemingly endless permutations of what makes individual identity unique, let alone the potential shenanigans that could occur in action set pieces as actors shift between any number of advanced martial arts and technical knowhow. But the sad truth of Infinite is that its premise could have been just about any number of boilerplate excuses to get a team of mercenaries together for a good-guys, bad-guys showdown, and there just isn’t enough here to recommend the film as more than background noise for a lazy afternoon.
Our protagonist is Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg, who would feel miscast if the rest of the film didn’t reflect his blandness like a mirror), a man diagnosed with schizophrenia due to his persistent flashbacks to past lives. If it weren’t for an opening monologue laying out the central conflict, the first act of this film would be nothing but a confusing mess of car chases — admittedly pretty fun car chases – punctuated by Wahlberg tripping balls as his past memories overwhelm his perceptions. The long and short of it is, people who are able to reincarnate are called Infinites. There’s one named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who leads a faction called the Nihilists, a personality-less assortment of SWAT goons whose goal is to wipe out all life on Earth. Evan is intercepted by Tammy (Sophie Cookson), a member of the Believers, a group whose goal is, um, not-genocide, I guess. Though Infinites should be able to remember their past lives entirely, various factors, including mistreatments for his non-existent schizophrenia, prevent Evan from remembering where his past life hid a McGuffin that Bathurst needs to reach his villainous goals.
If you gave Mr. Ejiofor a snake-shaped helmet, this plot would fit right at home in a G.I. Joe movie, but Infinite has almost no self-awareness of how arch its character motivations are or what it could do to have any fun with its premise. The filmmakers seem bored with the conceit of their own film, merely using it as a vehicle to stage shootouts and car stunts with cardboard cutout characters who have no persona beyond their plot utility. Toby Jones, Liz Carr, and Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson are all wasted as exposition machines, as any attempt to make the Believers’ personalities clash falls flat because it’s difficult to even remember their names for how underdeveloped they are, and their perpetual hackneyed aphorisms are substitutes for neither snark nor wit. The sole exception to this is the second-act emergence of Jason Mantzoukas, who brings his usual charm and charisma to a role that the movie oddly doesn’t seem to want us to like despite being the most lively and human piece of characterization available.
The unearned self-seriousness might not drag everything down so much if the action weren’t so rote. The frenetic energy of the film’s early car chases just isn’t sustained as the action pits faceless goons against defensive explosions and swift driving. It’s action on autopilot, an exploitation of a toolbox honed over Fuqua’s prolific career that doesn’t have any creativity or energy behind it, especially when the action is enhanced by obvious computer effects. The one piece of novelty shamelessly turns Mark Wahlberg into a bargain bin Neo from The Matrix, as Evan is somehow able to psychically manipulate energies — or something — in order to not get thrown off a moving plane. And does that power become at all relevant after that moment? Nah, but you do get to see Wahlberg clumsily swing a katana around while continually bumping into the walls of the plane’s interior. What joy.
Infinite is not an incompetently made film, and it certainly passes the time without feeling like a chore or an offense to the sensibilities. However, there simply isn’t any identifiable passion behind it, no spark of visual creativity, philosophical intent, or, Gods forbid, fun. It’s just a derivative action movie that doesn’t understand, or even seem to care, that being derivative isn’t a license to not give a damn about delivering on its potential.
Infinite is now available on Paramount+.
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