Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: Future Justice

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

Future Justice
Directed and edited by Richard Griffin
Scorpio Films Releasing
83 minutes / 2014 

Before the new Disneyfied Star Wars comes our way, I’m glad that trans-genre maven Richard Griffin is getting a chance to stretch his sci-fi director’s legs. Now, I believe this is his first time with footprints in this space-time continuum, but hey, there’s a whole universe to expand into, right?

Nathaniel Sylva
This film was written by its lead actor, Nathaniel Sylva, who plays criminal Python Diamond (really?), a cross between Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisskin (Escape from New York, 1981) and Vin Diesel’s Richard Riddick (Pitch Black, 2000). He’s a dangerous insurgent responsible for killing swathes of people, who is being sent back to Earth for trial after 5 years of being cryogenically frozen in a prison near Saturn.  While Sylva doesn't have the over-the-top adrenaline machismo of Russell or Diesel, he does a more than capable job in the role, especially supported by this fine cast.

Considering what happened in those other bad-boy films, you know this isn’t going to end well for most of the soldiers in this transport crew, some of whom have a history with Python… Okay, I need to call him Diamond; Python sounds too… you know. What I would like to know is why they would unfreeze him before the four month trip back to Earth, rather than when they actually got there, if he’s so dangerous (not to mention the taxing of food supplies, waste, air, etc.). Anyhoo…

Steven O'Broin
When they get to Earth, it seems World War III (or something similar) has happened, and the East Coast of the U.S. is toast. On the West, it’s more militia law (though they refer to themselves as “pirates”). The malevolent and sadistic (of course) guy is charge is the strong-jawed Gazeebo (Steven O’Broin playing evil well). It’s important to realize that some in this gang have strange, post-Apocalypse names, such as Gazeebo’s right (and left?) hands, Rag and Tag. See, even after all the carnage, people still have a sense of humor.

Our valiant crew manages to hit upon a group of less than a dozen scientists who are living in the basement of a business complex, to see what they can do about the entire world being literally infertile, thanks to the radiation. Also among the group in nearly an extended cameo is Michael Thurber, hysterically (both literally and figuratively) playing a Norma Desmond version of himself, much as Bill Murray did in Zombieland (2009), or James Van Der Beek in Don’t Trust the B- in Apartment 23 (2012-2013).

Set desgin
Army and scientists vs. the militia and rag tag gang. Okay, that’s not giving away too much, is it? Now, let’s get down to some nitty gritty:

The in-space sets look pretty exceptional for the budget most of the time, and the CGI is applause worthy, again, for what it is. The computer screens and images, especially, are impressive. Back on earth, well, it’s more meat and potatoes, as a deserted brick building (filmed in Pawtucket, RI) and debris filled yard works perfectly for the story, with no extra computer graphic mumbo-jumbo exteriors needed. The military’s guns look present day, so does that mean they’re antiques here? I mean, during the real life U.S. Gulf Wars, soldiers were complaining about how their equipment was decades old. There are also some guns that shoot lasers, but unless I’m mistaken, they are held by the bad guys. Speaking of which, despite the relatively modern technology, the most accurate weapon used seems to be Gazeebo’s dart gun with exploding arrows.

Elyssa Baldassarri and Aaron Andrade
Like the mainstream films, apparently everyone is a bad aim, even in the future. I mean, think of Arnie or Sly standing in the middle of a field shooting at the multitude of bad guys with them shooting back, and hardly anyone gets shot. Yeah, some die, but most shots seem to just… miss. Not being critical, just observant, because you don’t wanna kill off everyone too fast or yaz don’t have a film, am I right? But don’t think that all the battles are waffles; there are some really well played-out fire fights, especially as time goes on, and a body count is itching to get started.

Despite all the hoopla and anger spewed, there is also a very sharp sense of humor that underflows, if you know how to look for it. For example, Diamond’s bulletproof vest has, written on the back in marker, “Careful, contents under pressure.” Another great line is said by Gazeebo (who definitely has some of the best dialog): “Yeah, right. Pull the other one, it plays Chopin.”

Anna Rizzo
While I would have liked a bit more background to some of the characters, like why Gazeebo wears a Civil War Union hat – made even more bizarre that he has a somewhat Southern accent – there is some indications of motive, such as why the head soldier, Uxbridge (appropriately hot-headedly played by Aaron Andrade to the point of being a controlling asshole who can’t see past his own status) hates Diamond so much. However, I would like to know why other characters, such as one of the survivors, Wren (Rich Tretheway, who puts in one of the best and most subtle performances in the film) sees Diamond as “a rock star,” as questioned by one of the soldiers/medic, Glass (the always welcome and expressive Elyssa Baldassarri, who has one of the best moments towards the end).  It is understandable that in any film with as many roles as this one, a writer and/or director must focus on some key people or the story gets swamped. Perhaps I’ve read too much Leon Uris in my life; but I digress…

Rich Tretheway
True, there are some well-worn themes here, there are also moments of emotion brought to the front by the action, which I place firmly in the workings of the director, Griffin, who has not let me down yet.  For example, when a particular character is killed off, I felt an “aww!” twinge. That’s good directing.

Then when you add in the unexpected Toxic Avenger component, well, things just go from the pot to the fire, and I was smiiiiiiiiling.

The extras include the trailer, a 2010 short created for a contest titled "Mutants of the Apocalypse" that is a bunch of goofy fun (including a device that would be used more fully fleshed out - pun intended - and just as effectively in Griffin's 2014 Frankenstein's [Wax Museum of the] Hungry Dead), and a commentary with the director, cinematographer, and most of the cast. While it's a large group, mostly those who talk do so when their scene is up. Lots of good stories and "making of" information, and thankfully it's well controlled rather than a mass mess. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is saying what, but mostly it's pretty clear and worth a listen. My only gripe is that it seems like there is only one mic, so some are easier to hear than others.

Overall the film has more of an indie/low-budget Battle Beyond the Stars (1981) meets Creepozoids (1986) feel to it than, say, Star Wars (1977) meets *batteries not included (1987), it’s arguably the better for it. 

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