Sunday, May 19, 2019

Redcon-1 Blinds You with Action: A Film Review

Director: Chee Keong Cheung.

Writers: Chee Keong Cheung, Steve Horvath and Mark Strange.

Cast: Oris Erhuero, Carlos Gallardo, Mark Strange, Katarina Leigh Waters, Martyn Ford and Joshua Dickinson.

Redcon-1 is the latest zombie thriller, to emerge from the United Kingdom. Shot in Glasgow and London, this is a martial arts actioner, from director and producer Chee Keong Cheung (Underground). The film was developed by a team of writers. But, you might not notice this in the story, which is paper thin. Borrowing from a few other movies like Escape from New York (1981), 28 Days Later (2002) and a few others, Redcon-1 forgets about some of its characters and their dialogue. Still, there is a lot of dazzle on the screen as the film's crew focuses on the many action elements. In the end, Redcon-1 is a an interesting zombie action tale, which is built on a thin layer of plot.

You may have heard of some of these plot points before. However, the story involves the release of an infection, in the United Kingdom. Millions are infected or killed by a bloodborne virus. Meanwhile, a scientist hides in seclusion - from the responsibility of his misdeeds. A special forces unit is sent in to extract him and they must venture into the hordes and city streets. But, Dr. Raynes (Robert Goodale) is a difficult person to find, in all of the dead bodies about. Eventually, this crack force finds him, in an infected prisoner camp. Yet, there is still a conniving general to deal with, along with street gangs and hundreds of infected. These SAS soldiers could have used a helicopter for a better in-and-out rescue.

This film has been influenced by many others. While watching this title, this viewer was reminded of John Carpenter's Escape from New York. In this earlier movie, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into an island sized penitentiary. Behind the walls, everyone is an enemy. The same goes for Redcon-1, in that there are tonnes and tonnes of villains. There is more than just the infected to worry about in this recent release. Each neighbourhood is guarded by a different criminal gang. As well, these infected utilize higher brain functions. Infected meter maids are still handing out tickets and newspaper boys are still delivering the morning news. This usage of smart monsters is similar to George A. Romero's intelligent zombies in Land of the Dead (2005). In both films, these creatures are not completely mindless and can still go about some general routines. One other comparison is worth noting. There is an homage or two to Danny Boyle's work on 28 Days Later. There are similar shots of London in both films, or shots of quiet English streets. As well, on a wall it is written: "the end is fucking nigh" and most will appreciate the look back to another pivotal infected movie. All-in-all, the writers on this film borrow from some of the better horror films to grace screens in recent years.

Still, the plot is very light here. The writing is really limited to the premise of saving the world - by rescuing a scientist. Meanwhile, the characters are given little backstory. Only the protagonist Marcus (Oris Erhuero) receives any complexity. All of the other soldiers are flat characters, or just caricatures. Strangely, the film utilizes sombre music when one of these cardboard cutouts is killed in action. There is almost no one to empathize with here. To distract from the weak story, Redcon-1 relies on action sequences to carry the film. And, there are hundreds of scenes, many with lots of explosions or gunfire to keep the viewer distracted. However, it would have been more impactful if the writers had developed their characters more, through dialogue or the use of more flashbacks. Stripped down, the story is almost absent here.

The action does standout though. There is a lot of choreographed martial-arts sequences. Kicks break the faces of the infected. Or, there are tanks to barrel through body filled streets. Almost exclusively shot outside, there are interesting scenes of characters navigating a minefield. Or later, there is a grand finale as the remaining survivors square-off against a huge horde of the infected. Children carry guns, while women use chainsaws. These scenes are truly over-the-top and the filmmakers offer lots of flash and bag - to keep your eyes on the screen. But, where is the deeper meaning in all of the bloodshed and murder?

Redcon-1 had a theatrical showing earlier this month, in Santa Ana, California. The film has also recently released on Digital and a Blu-ray format. The film reviewed here is of the Blu-ray variety and the transfer looks excellent. The sound is also good. And, there are lots of extras on the disc (behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes).

In the end, Redcon-1 borrows from some of the best films in the horror genre, while still coming across as original. Built on a quicksand of muddy plot, the story is a bit lackluster. Action sequences are top-notch. But overall, this is not a very memorable infected thriller. Instead, this is more flash and sizzle - with Redcon-1 only really standing out for its long runtime of two hours. The film is a bit of a slog for the soldiers and sometimes even for the viewer.

Overall: 6.5 out of 10.

More Details on the Film are Available at Epic Pictures: Redcon-1 at Epic Pictures

The Stills Shown Here Were borrowed from a Brit Flicks review (Jane Foster): Redcon-1 Reviewed at Brit Flicks

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