Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Directed by: John Eyres
Screenplay: Stephen Lister
Starring: Bill Paxton, Lindsay Frost, Lou Gosset Jr and John Hurt.
If director John Eyres previous film, Project Shadowchaser, was a rip off of Die Hard and The Terminator then Monolith, his sci-fi follow up rips off Lethal Weapon and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, throwing in everything from buddy cop clichés, alien conspiracy’s, tormented flashbacks and painful comedy for its 93 minute running time.
Mismatched cops (is there any other kind?) Tucker (Paxton) and Flynn (Frost) are thrown together after they witness the slaying of a young child by a slightly demented Russian woman. After said demented Russian woman turns out to be a scientist working for the sinister suit Villanos (Hurt), Tucker and Flynn decide to investigate her claims of sinister going’s on and discover that the child may not be all that he seemed. So far so sinister. Throw in Lou Gosset Jr’s permanently irritated police commissioner (again, is there any other kind?) and hard to beat dialogue such as “ Fuck their A6 clearance”, and you have the smorgasbord of film genres and clichés that is Monolith.
Despite featuring some A-list talent and some decent production values, Monolith is still quite a mess and relies far too often on cliché to be anything really refreshing or exciting. First off, the characters Tucker and Flynn are right out of the school of bickering cop partners 101. They don’t get along, they shout a lot, they start to respect each other and finally they end up liking each other. However, this never stops them arguing, most often in scenes of life threatening risk. In fact, this is the film’s weakest aspect; any time any tension or excitement builds, it is completely diluted by the pair’s awful comic bickering. Perhaps director John Eyres was going for a gentle piss take of the buddy cop formula but just ends up falling into its trappings: unreal and annoying. (For a good piss take of the buddy cop formula check out Clint Eastwood’s wildly underrated action classic, The Rookie). To add cliché onto cliché, Tucker also comes with his own tormented past (let his family die), disrespect for authority (argues with everyone) and bad diet (chilli cheese and jalapeno hot dogs…for breakfast). A true tough cop if there ever was one.
Paxton and Frost try hard with their characters but are ultimately let down by bad dialogue and character motivations. The same with Lou Gosset Jr’s walking cliché of a police captain (he loves Tucker and Flynn really, even though he shouts at them a lot). John Hurt doesn’t fair much better as the obsessed Villanos and he wears the perpetual expression of “What the hell I am I doing in this?” In fact, the only character that shows any depth is the demented Russian scientist, unfortunately named Pavlova and played by Musetta Vander (Wild Wild West, Project Shadowchaser 3). She seems to be the only one concerned there is a body snatching alien on the loose and shows the right amount of fear and distress during moments of life threatening harm. Its good see that she realizes that the possible end of the world can’t be stopped by a few comedy quips. Oh wait, yes it can.
In addition to the formulaic cop stuff, there is the not highly original concept of body snatching aliens, which is represented by nothing more than some wavy space rays coming out victim’s mouths. It would have been more effective to have found out what the alien really was and why it was on earth. Which is never explained. Perhaps the budget didn’t cover the actual showing of the alien. This seems to be the case with many scenes as the action is too often not shown, instead resorting to too many close ups of the actor’s faces. When the special effects do kick in towards the end, they are unsurprisingly below par, but do have a certain low-tech charm.
It’s a shame Eyres and his crew didn’t have a bit more money to play with as there is an entertaining movie to be found under all the junk. If you get past all the clichés and dig the alien conspiracy vibe, then Monolith can be quite entertaining. It even opens with an exciting and well-staged car chase. While not the worst movie of its kind, Monolith just about passes as an entertaining B-movie (Eyres’ Project Shadowchaser 2: Night Siege is a far superior B-movie). It would be interesting to know how they got the likes of Paxton, Gosset and Hurt to star in this, but next time aliens try to take over mankind give the task of saving us to the character that actually cares i.e. the demented Russian woman/scientist.