Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Eve of Destruction


Directed by: Duncan Gibbons
Screenplay: Duncan Gibbons & Yale Udoff
Starring: Gregory Hines & Renee Soutendjik

A strange hybrid of sci-fi, action and soap opera, Eve of Destruction is an all but forgotten film that despite varying tone and quality is worth a look. Research scientist Eve Simmons (Renee Soutendjik) has developed the latest in life like robotics. Modelled after herself in appearance and behaviour, the Eve VIII is an advanced cyborg that can be used for military operations. On a field test run the Eve VIII is damaged, and stuck in battle field mode, goes AWOL. Able to channel its maker’s feelings, fantasies and memories, Eve VIII sets out to fulfil some of these fantasies and ambitions, killing anyone who gets in her way. Seeing that she might go nuclear at any time, Simmons enlists the help of anti-terrorist expert Jim McQuade (Hines) and the two set out to do battle with the rampaging cyborg.

Sometimes slick and intense, other times too slow and bogged down in soap opera theatrics, Eve of Destruction is still a fairly decent slab of sci-fi action. Obviously it’s no Terminator and to compare the two is fruitless. What Eve of Destruction does offer, when it takes off, is some decent hard edged 90s style action and pretty strong performances from the leads. Soutendjik plays the two roles of concerned scientist and gun toting robot and switches from one to the other effortlessly: both characters being put through different emotional ringers. Her striking Dutch looks work well when in robot mode and the scenes she shares with Hines as the scientist have a certain level of drama not often found in this kind of film. The two lock horns at first before coming to rely on one another and even spend some time trying to sound out how to handle the situation in a more realistic manner. Hines may not be the first choice for this kind of role, but he brings a very human edge to his action hero character, being just as good at thinking things out as he is at shooting guns.

The film stumbles with too many scenes of the leads sat either in a helicopter or some non descript room, talking things out, thus deadening the momentum. Eve VIII uses Simmons memories to live out sexual fantasies and extract revenge on those who did her wrong. It’s a novel idea, Simmons urges being lived out through her clone, and makes a change from the standard story of a robot beginning to feel human. But it also hampers the film in too much tedious back story of Simmons being abused by her father and seeing her mother killed. This also means that the cyborg’s rampage sometimes comes across as female revenge on men. Most of the male characters she encounters are scumbags and do deserve what they have coming but all this and Simmons back story do slip into melodrama when the action should be ramping up. The often drippy music doesn’t help either. Still, the filmmakers have attempted to add a different dimension to the robot run amok genre and should at least be applauded for that.

Eve of Destruction is compensated by the decent acting, tight direction and hard hitting action. Eve VIII’s red leather clad, Uzi brandishing image makes a nice visual for the robot action scenes and while they are often short, the action scenes are sharp and well staged. The end gun battle/chase is particularly effective as Hines chases Eve VIII into the subway after she has shot up part of downtown New York. Director, Duncan Gibbons, keeps things tight and tense meaning that after a somewhat ponderous middle section the finale delivers the goods.

While it may not succeed in its ambitions, Eve of Destruction is unfairly trashed as being just another silly Terminator rip off. Silly it may be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining and with a narrative that at least tries to make its characters human and offer something a little different, the film is worth a look for those who like their action with a sci-fi edge.

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