Bruce Willis, for whatever reason, is determined to go the schlocky B movie route these days and has been cranking them out with stunning punctuality and frequency. Last year he did a “body snatchers in space” style one called Breach which I actually kind of enjoyed and now he has a new one called… “Cosmic Sin”, which sounds like a flavour of Axe Body Spray. Well… and I just know I’m going to catch major shit for this, but I didn’t hate this one either, as slipshod, incoherent and cheap as it is. Willis once again plays a legendary military leader who has fallen from grace. Once called “the blood general” for dropping a mega-bomb on an entire species to eradicate them before a war could break out, he’s been dragged out of his favourite bar (complete with robot bartenders, I must excitedly note) for One Last Mission: first contact with another aggressive alien species has been established and the leaders of what’s left of humanity want him to spearhead a deadly preemptive strike in order to avoid intergalactic war, an operation called ‘cosmic sin’ that should have been called ‘operation I’ll fucken do it again.’ It’s basically sanctioned genocide, and an odd idea for a story but I suppose it makes sense, if the species in question is hostile and nasty enough to warrant it. So he blasts off in a special quantum leap suit to the forest moon of Ellora with several others including his longtime sidekick (Corey Large, also responsible for writing and producing these things), a battle hardened veteran (Costas Mandylor and a surprisingly good British accent), a lab tech (Adelaide Kane) in charge of handling their ‘Q-Bomb,’ a hotheaded rookie (Brandon Thomas Lee, who is Pam Anderson & Tommy Lee’s kid), a foxy scientist (Perrey Reeves) who has vague romantic history with Willis and Frank Grillo as yet another military badass. The film consists of lots of murky pseudo-scientific and political expository dialogue, clunky gunfights in cheap looking mecha-suits, half mumbled lines from Willis, lots of running, shooting, neon lights, a pulsating video game type score and eventual aliens that look like regular people in Spirit Halloween costumes. I’m not gonna lie, the thing sucks hard, but if you’re a trash aficionado like me, it sucks in… just the right way (I realize after typing that how it sounds). It’s the kind of breezy junk food cinema you’d find playing at 2am on SyFy in the glorious early 2000’s in between reruns of Xena, and honestly sometimes I miss those days. I think the fact that it has Willis in it, and that people aren’t quite used to him in fare like this yet (you’ll come around, don’t worry. It happened to Pacino and DeNiro too lol) is why it’s being *especially* shredded and roasted in reviews. And yeah, its shitty, but it’s fun shitty, and I need those type of films on my menu just as much as all the rest. Oh and one more thing: I have to give this extra points for having maybe my favourite written line in any film of 2021. As one character tries to reassure another who has been shot and is bleeding out, he literally says “Don’t even think about dying, or I’ll fucking kill you.” *That*, my friends, is what cinema is all about.
Alright, the Bruce Willis space movie. Breach (aka AntiLife) isn’t terrible, it’s just not super inspired or original and if you go in with your nose already turned up at it, well that’s on you bud, you silly cinephile you. However, if you’re a periodically undemanding moviegoer who enjoys a nice schlocktastic cheapie once in a while you may just get a kick out of it. This thing riffs on everything from Doom to The Thing to Pandorum and if you don’t have expectations higher than Bruce Willis and Johnny Messner clearly got while filming their scenes then you’ll have just as much fun as the two of them clearly did. So it’s sometime in the future and earth has been all but decimated by a plague, the remnants of humanity are packed into a giant space station and hurtled towards a distant exoplanet called ‘New Earth’ under the stern, hambone stewardship of The Admiral (Thomas Jane). Most of the passengers slumber in tranquil cryogenic sleep save for a barebones maintenance crew managed by Willis’s once great colonel turned disgraced alcoholic janitor. They’re watched like a hawk by a military man (Timothy V. Murphy) that Willis literally refers to as a ‘space Nazi’ (to his face), but somehow a doomsday zealot manages to smuggle some freaky alien parasite onboard which quickly begins infecting the crew and turning them into ink spewing, putrefied space zombies. Willis and his team that includes Cody Kearsely, Corey Large, Callab Mulvey, Continuum’s Rachel Nichols and scene stealing Messner are stuck fighting off legions of what I suppose would count as the undead in a way but they’re more like a hive minded organism, really. Willis is cool here and actually looks like he’s having a modicum of fun compared to other B flicks he’s recently done. He also plays against type as kind of a reverse action hero and I never thought I’d see the day he plays a character that gets referred to as a ‘lover, not a fighter.’ Jane only has a few atypical military A-hole scenes but he fires off his lines with glib, cavalier flair and I find it hysterical how intensely he insists on wearing his pitch dark tinted aviator shades *indoors*, in a dimly lit spaceship no less. Look, it’s junk, I won’t call pretend it’s a great film, but as an avid lover of cinematic junk food it did the trick for me, and I had fun with it.
In the endless sea of direct to video output, sometimes you find one that although is rough as all hell around the edges, has potential and moments that shine, even if they’re stuck in a muddled, overcrowded narrative. Toxic is one such film, a psychological horror/crime hybrid that is so full of B level movie legends, rappers and porn stars that some are only around for a second, a whole galaxy of fringe talent caught up in a story that needs complete attention to be understood, not because it’s any kind of genius labyrinthine story, but simply because it’s edited with a chainsaw and has more dangling plot threads than an entire season of CSI. There’s two timelines it takes place in, a setup that already isn’t explained well enough off the bat, but such is the level of commotion. In one, nervous mobster Tom Sizemore (nuttier than usual as this was his first gig after a stint in jail) hires two henchman (Corey Large and Danny Trejo) to find his daughter (Charity Shea) who is apparently very dangerous, but he won’t say how or why. She ends up at a strip club run by rapper Master P and her presence seems to cause nothing but trouble for everyone there including a severely depressed hooker (Dominique Swain), an ill fated homeless man (C. Thomas Howell) and others. In another timeline we see another strip club run by pimp-with-a-heart-of-gold Costas Mandylor, in which Corey Large shows up again as a mysterious bartender and the whole berserk plot hinges on his two characters, but they really should have let him stick to producing duties and hired another actor because he’s in desperate need of some acting classes. All manner of other famous faces make cameos too including Bai Ling as Sizemore’s weird clairvoyant girlfriend, scene stealer Susan Ward as a sympathetic bartender, Steven Bauer, Lochlyn Munro in dual roles, Paul Johansson, Ron Jeremy, James Duval, Johann Urb, Holt McCallany, Cerina Vincent, Shar Jackson, Nick Chinlund and the list goes until you start to wonder if these prolific people were just hanging around the studio lot and needed extra work. Here’s the thing: there *is* actually a discernible story here that’s interesting and engaging, and upon reflection it does all in fact make sense. *But*…in a ninety minute film with this many cameos and random stuff, it’s too much to feel coherent. I will say that the final twist/revelation is handled in a top tier, musically visceral way that’s quality stuff, but so much else was kind of incomprehensible that several people I’ve watched it with could tell there was a twist by the tropes being used, but not what it actually was. With a new angle on editing, sharpening up the script and whatnot this could have been something more accessible, but I still really like it for effort put into a neat storyline, the laundry list of cool cast members, that final scene that’s done so well and the obvious, endearing homages to Tarantino and Tony Scott in style and tone. Interesting, pulpy, lurid, scattershot stuff.