Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Gene Generation


   The Gene Generation is quite a mixed bag. On one hand, it's a trashy and stylish cyberpunk thriller with cool technology and cracking action scenes. On the other hand... it's meandering pace, weak story, and a few bad apples when it comes to acting ability, drag the movie down fairly badly. Having said all that, I did enjoy the movie. Bai Ling was fantastic and her acting skills surprised me. I thought this would be a movie where she was only cast to be a pretty face who can kick ass, and while that might very well be true, she certainly transcended the material. On the flip side, the movie focuses as much on her character's brother, Jackie, as it does on her. He was annoying and sucked a lot of the life out of the movie. It's doubly unfortunate then, that the plot revolves very heavily around him. Ugh.

  The movie revolves around technology that can alter genetics and DNA, and there's a lot of world building involving all this. There's some unfair class separated society thing going on, and you can't leave this city-slum unless you have 'good genetics'. Yet it's also implied you can buy or fake a pass? The Gene Generation has plenty of great ideas, and enough visuals and atmosphere to make them interesting. The problem is, some of it's ideas conflict with each other, or details were skipped over. There's also a lack of explanation about a lot of it. The plot revolves around a specific gadget called the 'transcoder'. It can 're-sequence DNA' and heal people instantly. Apparently it could make disease itself extinct. The downside is, the transcoder can also be used as a weapon. It sprouts worm-like tentacle things that can tear you apart from the inside out.

  Dated/low-budget special effects aside- on it's own merits, these things look horrifying. The filmmakers went through a lot of trouble to make the effects convincing. I'm sure that there's the digital equivalent of smearing vaseline on the lens in there somewhere. As fake as a lot of the visuals look in this movie, they also do feel like they inhabit the same space/time as real objects and actors. That's no small feet with effects like these. Anyways, the transcoder is this major maguffin-type object, but despite lots of technical jargon and rambling, I'm never quite convinced this thing could save or damn all of mankind. The prop itself looks interesting at times, and hokey at others. Which reflects the movie itself. It's interesting at times, and hokey at others.

   When Bai Ling is on-screen, the movie is really good. She has solid on-screen presence and kicks a lot of ass. She's not always fighting and shooting, because despite having several really neat action scenes, The Gene Generation is not an action movie. Which is almost a shame because I think they had a better handle on their action sequences than they did on the science half of their science fiction. Not to say it's not actually quite original, unique, and even fascinating at times- but too often is it left by the wayside in favor of an overbearing, runaway sub-plot involving Jackie's gambling problems. I say 'overbearing' and 'runaway' because this sub-plot ends up being way too essential to the movie. I'm sure the writer was well-intentioned, but I never once gave a crap about Jackie or his problems. It's a real shame that so much of the main plot revolves around them.

  This is crazier once you realize how interesting Bai Ling's character, Michelle, is. She's a contract assassin who's often hired to kill 'DNA hackers'. If the movie focused more on her life, and her job, instead of on her idiot brother and his gambling problems- the movie would've been ten times better. I feel I'm being a bit too harsh on it though. It is entertaining when all is said and done. The villain is grotesque and vile, Michelle is a really cool character, the visuals are stunning, and the set design is ambitious- fantastic at times even. There's definitely shades of Blade Runner in the movie, but what cyberpunk doesn't owe it's right arm to that movie? The cool thing about The Gene Generation is how strikingly different and unique it's style and concepts are.

  Obviously, the movie is far from perfect- and fuck me running, I really don't like Alec Newman, who plays a main character here, BUT... again, the movie is entertaining. It has high production values and it looks like a lot of effort went into it. It also seems like the filmmakers tried to make a truly thoughtful, emotional, and serious movie. They didn't always hit that mark though- but their ambition counts for a lot in my book. I loved the action scenes- short but intense and powerful. I loved the set design, and how colorful the movie was. I've seen far too many movies that promise ass kicking violence, stunning visuals, and smart sci-fi, and deliver precisely none of that. Bland looking, low budget garbage, without any competent action scenes. The Gene Generation isn't that, thank god. It was $4 well spent, and I'm glad I own it now. I'd watch it again. I feel like it has a strong cult appeal to it. I liked this movie, despite all it's glaring shortcomings- but not everyone will.

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