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Cosmic Sin
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by Peter Sobczynski

"LazyBlast"
1 stars

Although he still turns up in the occasional A-list feature, Bruce Willis’s career as of late has taken on a depressingly familiar turn. Nowadays, the majority of his work turns up in cheapjack generic genre fare in which he is charged with turning up in some less-than-glamorous location—maybe Bulgaria or Cleveland—and appear on screen just long enough to justify both his billing and what must be, judging from the surrounding production elements, a exceedingly moderate payday. Whatever he gets paid, it is evidently not enough to goad him into putting much of an effort into the proceedings—he tends to just sit around looking vaguely pissed off while the lower-billed stars do all the work.

This has become such a depressingly familiar formula that while watching his latest effort along these lines, “Cosmic Sin,” the biggest surprise comes from the fact that he is actually in it all the way through and it is co-star Frank Grillo who assumes his usual position as the name actor who is mysteriously absent for long stretches of time. Unfortunately, that is also the only surprise because despite having a bigger presence than usual, Willis still plods through the proceedings with his couldn’t-care-less attitude and that, in combination with the utility-grade meat-and-potatoes screenplay and direction, makes it into yet another ill-advised entry in one of the most inexplicable filmographies of our time.

The year is 2054 and Earth has advanced enough to set up a series of colonies throughout the universe—don’t be too impressed because we, based on the evidence here, are still driving gas-guzzling pickups that look exactly like what you might purchase today. Anyway, one of those colonies makes first contact with an unknown alien life form and General Ryle (Grillo) immediately orders that James Ford (Willis) be brought in to consult. This is a controversial move because a few years earlier, the then-General Ford ordered the dropping of a “Q-bomb” on a colony threatening to secede, a move that resulted in the deaths of 70 million people and caused him to lose his rank and pension and become the kind of pariah who is still being goaded into barroom fights.

Ford has barely arrived at the local military base to help analyze the problem when the unknown life force proves itself to be exceedingly hostile. With no time to get any sort of governmental authority, Ryle orders up another Q-bomb and puts together a hastily assembled secret mission to journey to the aliens home planet and destroy it. (Where is Mike Nelson when you need him.) Accompanying Ryle on this mission are a rag-tag group that includes Ford, a medical officer (Perrey Reeves) who just happens to be Ford’s ex-wife, Ryle’s eager-to-please son (Brandon Thomas Lee), a bomb technician (Adelaide Kane) and career soldier Marcus Bleck (Costas Mandylor, whose performance is colorful, to say the least).

You can pretty much fill in the blanks from this point and there is an excellent chance that you would do a better job of it than director Edward Drake and co-writer Corey Large (who also turns up as Ford’s ever-present and entirely forgettable sidekick), the same team responsible for Willis’s last sci-fi dud, the excruciating “Breach.” “Cosmic Sin” is a slight improvement over their previous effort but that says more about the direness of that film than about the quality of this one. It is evident that the vast majority of the budget presumably went to Willis and Grillo and the attempts to conjure up a vision of 500 years in the future is pretty dire—the occasional CGI effects are pretty chintzy and do not quite manage to cover up the fact that most of the interiors were clearly shot in barely dressed warehouses. The action beats are incredibly dull and are pretty much limited to shootouts that lack the excitement, finesse and choreography you might get from a bunch of kids playing with action figures.

That said, even those who are forgiving towards low-grade special effects and lazily staged action scenes are likely still be turned off by a screenplay that starts off with two big strikes against it and then goes downhill from there. The first is the inescapable fact that during the very first encounter between humans and the aliens at the beginning of the film, it is the humans that act aggressively and fire the first shots for no good reason. The other is the fact that our big hero is a guy who is still peeved that he lost his rank just because he committed genocide against 70 million people. I don’t object to using these details per se but if you are, you are pretty much obligated to do something with them—either take them seriously as a metaphor for overly aggressive foreign policy decisions in the real world or use them for satiric effect in the way that the brilliant “Starship Troopers” did. Here, they are just bits of background information that are dropped in gracelessly and then pretty much ignored, leaving nothing but a bad taste in the mouths of viewers.

“Cosmic Sin” is a dud from start to finish—the kind that you find yourself forgetting about even as it is running. For fans of science-fiction, there is nothing here that you haven’t seen done before and done better. For fans of Bruce Willis, it is one more depressing failure in an oeuvre that already has too many of them to bear. At least when Nicolas Cage makes his excursions into low-grade genre nonsense, he elects to do projects that are so nutty, at least in theory, that you can sort of understand why he might have elected to do them in the first place. Willis, on the other hand, seems content to waste his still-considerable talents on unworthy projects as long as the check clears. This attitude helped kill the careers of such past stars as Charles Bronson and Burt Reynolds and now Willis appears to be blithely going down the same path. The most depressing thing is that this is nowhere near the worst thing that he has ever done—it might not even be the worst movie he does this year when all is said and done. If he can barely muster up the energy to show up for junk like this, why should he expect viewers to do the same?

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=34193&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/12/21 09:41:25
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USA
  12-Mar-2021
  DVD: 18-May-2021

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