Hardly the utter fiasco promised by its lengthy delay and no-press dumping on Labor Day weekend, Mathieu Kassovitz’s Babylon A.D. arrives shorn of 10 minutes of its European running time, and God knows what else cut before the film ever made it into any theater. In a vague post-apocalyptic future, mercenary Toorop (Vin Diesel) hides out in Russia until mobster Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu!) hires him to smuggle Aurora (Mélanie Thierry) into the U.S. Unsurprisingly, two factions led by cult actors—Lambert Wilson as Aurora’s father on one side, and the ever-freaky Charlotte Rampling as mom, a/k/a High Priestess, the CEO of the Neolite sect, on the other—attempt to kill them along every step of their journey. What’s missing here are the seeds that would explain what Kassovitz increasingly seems to be angling for in the back half: a dystopian vision of a society in which organized religion is exclusively the pretext for global corporate dominance. Without whatever strident critique Kassovitz intends, it’s a typical B action movie—the inevitable pseudo-warm bonding scenes deadly, the fights largely incoherent—with the occasional pleasing set-piece. If nothing else, it’s nice to see an action movie that takes Europe, not America, as its grounding point. And depicting Russia as the world’s future dominant power suddenly seems oddly prescient.
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