“Familiar,” a nice word for “derivative,” is hardly the worst charge you can level at a science fiction action-adventure. They almost all are, and the best of the familiar lot find a way to persuade viewers to go along with it.
Writer-director Francesco Cinquemani’s corridors-and-shadows thriller Andron does itself no favors by asking us to go along with a lot that we’ve gone with before: Set in a concrete maze beneath some future dystopia, it pits combatants against each other to the death in a contest televised by a brooding tyrant to quell the population, and that contest is no-joke called The Redemption Games, and the contestants get it in their heads that they’re somehow, through clever play, bringing about a revolution.
Most of this takes place in half-lit tunnels, with a cast whose charisma mostly can’t penetrate the murk enough to make anyone distinctive, except for Deborah Dyer as a shaven-headed survivor lifting herself above a traumatic backstory. Alec Baldwin splits the Donald Sutherland role with Danny Glover, for some reason, in a series of brief cutaway scenes in a fuzzily futuristic gel-capped office space. Baldwin glares at holo-projections of the action, saying things like “Let’s liven things up” or “Now it’s getting interesting.” Sometimes it does — the brawls and sequences of competitors stalking one another and the tyrant’s soldiers prove suspenseful and inventive, often in complex shots that take advantage of corners, darkness, and a cast playing hide-and-seek.
The movie gets wilder and weirder as it goes: There are eyeball cams, a video-game-style power-up, a scary super-soldier with a light-up luchador mask, lots of hurled lightning, and the revelation, about forty minutes in, of the gleaming city above all this subterranean combat. But then, at some point, it all gets ponderous, especially all the vague political machinations.
Written and directed by Francesco Cinquemani
Opens June 3, Cinema Village