Despite decent acting, Babylon A.D. fails to deliver

What the hell happened? This movie had such promise. Vin Diesel starred in it.

Granted, the action star has had quite a few duds the past few years, but he is usually a solid actor for these types of films.

Mathieu Kassovitz directed it, and while he might not be a household name, he does have a knack for visual flare and stylish directing.

However, the director’s usual panache (and I use this word loosely) only peeked through periodically during the sans-substance movie.

The main problem that continually plagued the 90-minute futuristic thriller was a completely underdeveloped script.

And although there were some unique and interesting ideas, the terrible writing is to blame for the nonsensical plot and bad dialogue.

Eric Besnard, who served as the writer for the movie, should have left the job in more capable hands.

However, these lapses in judgment make more sense when put in light of the studio trouble Kassovitz encountered with 20th Century Fox.

Aside from several minor production issues, including falling behind schedule and going over budget, the final film shown to audiences in the United States varies greatly with the film shown to mainland European countries.

Apparently, as 20th Century Fox had control over the stateside distribution of the movie, the studio was not pleased with Kassovitz’s final product and subsequently trimmed several scenes from the beginning and drastically altered the ending.

The result is a disjointed and disappointing film that feels rushed as it progresses to an absurd conclusion.

The film follows Toorop (Vin Diesel, playing a role he is all too familiar with), a “transporter” for hire with a mysterious past and an assumed expertise in combat, as he is hired for a new job.

Exiled due to supposed terrorist activity, Toorop had been living a mediocre life in Eastern Europe, which was ruled by Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu, strange and underused).

Despite Toorop’s initial reluctance to complete the assignment, he concedes once Gorsky offers him a “biological passport” that will allow Toorop to return to his home in the United States.

Toorop’s mission involves transporting and protecting a young woman named Aurora (Mélanie Thierry, mediocre), as he takes her and her guardian (Michelle Yeoh, who should probably be more selective with the movies she chooses) from Mongolia to New York City.

As the journey progresses, Aurora exhibits strange capabilities that lead Toorop to question the purpose of his task.

What follows is a sequence of ridiculous explanations and a third-act twist that destroys any redeeming quality of the first two-thirds of the film.

The film takes place in an unspecified cyberpunk future (somewhat of a cross between the worlds displayed in Natural City and Blade Runner) with the bulk of the filming locations indicating the dystopian nature of the futuristic world in which Toorop resides.

The resulting atmosphere created by this post-modern setting provides a nice backdrop for the melancholy tone of the movie.

Despite the predominance of negative qualities, the film did contain a sparse few key positive aspects that managed to make the viewing more bearable. The score by Örvarsson was particularly enjoyable, as it complemented the action scenes and helped build tension at several important points during the movie.

The acting was by no means terrible, as the majority of the actors did the best they could with what they were given.

Vin Diesel plays a role reminiscent of his characters in Pitch Black and xXx, and Michelle Yeoh is never given much to do.

The action is fairly entertaining and the movie moves at a fast pace, never leaving the viewer bored.

However, quick cuts are often used too frequently during fight scenes, and the final action sequence left a lot to be desired, as it felt more like a mid-movie chase scene than a concluding blowout. I would not be surprised if this problem was a result of the studio tampering with the American version of the film.

Had it been in the right hands (and the right studio) Babylon A.D. had a premise that could have resulted in a fun, mindless, grade B action movie.

Sadly, the audience is left with a sub-par, horrendously preposterous plot and writing that is worse than what you would see in a straight-to-DVD, grade C movie.