It hardly comes as a surprise when our worst suspicions are confirmed: Babylon A.D. is nothing more than a Children of Men ripoff on steroids.
For whatever reason, the world in 2019 is in total disarray. Maybe it has to do with terrorism. Or global warming. Anyway, anarchy rules in Eastern Europe, which is where we find exiled American mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel). Desperate to go home, Toorop agrees to transport a strange young woman from a Mongolian convent to New York City. In a film that been hacked to pieces and makes little sense, this is the first thing that strikes you as being really dumb. Why hire a moron to protect the naif responsible for what her religious order is promoting as a "miracle in the making"? Toorop not only places Aurora's (Melanie Thierry) life in danger by making dangerous unscheduled stops, but he habitually loses her in crowds or allows her to be whisked off by those who want to stop her from reaching her destination. Thank goodness Aurora's got her chaperon, Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh), to watch her back. It isn't until we get to New York that all is revealed about the girl, her powers, and her purpose. By then, Babylon A.D.'s already stolen everything it possibly can from The Fifth Element, The Transporter, Minority Report, and even Diesel's xXx. Upset with his film being yanked away from him, director Mathieu Kassovitz has publicly dismissed Babylon A.D. as playing like "a bad episode of 24." Sadly, this futuristic clunker isn't even that good.
Toward the end of Babylon A.D., Vin Diesel's informed that he's just woken up after being in a coma for five days. It's hard to know when exactly the hulking, grimacing musclehead slipped into unconsciousness. He practically sleepwalks through the havoc which results in him being put back together like The Six Million Man. You get the impression Diesel knew from the get-go that Babylon A.D.was a disaster in the making and simply decided to save his energy and emotion for a more worthy endeavor--like perhaps [yawn] next year's Fast & Furious. With Diesel bailing on us, all eyes turn to Yeoh. You put Yeoh in an action film for one reason and one reason only: to beat the crap out of anyone trying to damage "the package." So what's the point of casting Yeoh if she's given the minimal of opportunities to ply her craft? If you really want a woman of peace, get Judi Dench. Or Charlotte Rampling. Then again, Rampling's the only one having any fun as she hams it up to no end as the malevolent leader of Aurora's religious order. As for Thierry, she fails to exude any of the mystery that surrounds the woman destined to save the planet. Oh, and that is an unrecognizable Gerald Depardieu as the man responsible for hiring Diesel. Guess he owed someone a favor.
While its refreshing for a director to slam the studio that hijacked his new film, you can't help but wonder whether Kassovitz's AMC interview was intended to deflect all the blame away from him for this ticking time bomb. Fox reportedly took control of Babylon A.D. to pare it down to 93 minutes and secure a teen-friendly PG-13 rating. Maybe the 15 minutes of excised scenes would have explained why Eastern Europe descended into chaos and what Diesel did to prompt the United States to declare him a terrorist. Maybe the film would have ended with a bang and not a thud. But everything else about the obviously choppy Babylon A.D. comes across as being so uninspired. The Paris-born director, who made his name with 1995's La Haine, shows no imagination when it comes to staging fistfights, shootouts, and car chases. Even cool little moments that should wow yousuch as a submarine breaking through the iceare executed with workman-like competence. And, rather than put any thought into the design of the film's sets, he borrows liberally from the cityscapes that made Blade Runner and Children of Men look so distinctive. By the time Diesel et al. arrive in New York, and things get really silly and incoherent, Kassovitz's clearly given up on Babylon A.D. At the very least, Babylon A.D. and Oliver Hirschbiegel's The Invasion should serve as warnings to talented European directors that Hollywood will wine you, dine you, only to later stab you in the back.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 star.