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Friday, 22 April 2016

Not Quite The Worst Superhero Movie Ever, But A Strong Contender...


Bequeathed the magical "Cross Of The Isles" as a young boy, Callan (Brian Austin Green) now leads a heavily-armed vigilante force keeping the streets of Los Angeles safe from gangsters (although not doing a particularly good job, as there are still plenty around at the start - and end - of the film).

The titular cross - of 2011's Cross - gives Callan a bullet-proof force field and the ability to fire bolts of energy from his hand (as well as a couple of other Deus ex Machina abilities when required to counter the doomsday weapon at the climax of the story).

Callan finds himself drawn into the schemes of a Vandal Savage-like immortal Viking, Gunnar (Vinnie Jones), who has been cursed (by whom?) to be the last living human on the planet and wants to speed things up with an apocalyptic, ancient Egyptian staff powered by the blood of the descendants of five Greek gods (you know, in an Ancient Aliens twist and the gods really walked on the Earth back in the day).

There are definitely some decent ideas hidden in the backstory of Cross, but unfortunately they get buried in the morass of mediocrity that is the finished product.

Matters aren't helped by writer/director Patrick Durham trying to deliver mega-budget ambitions on a restrictive micro-budget. Durham also took the bizarre decision to make his action film both ultraviolent and virtually gore-free, which really jars with modern sensibilities when characters are spraying bullets around with gay abandon.

At times you can't help but think the whole film is some twisted prank, as though an open audition was held in Hollywood to find the worst actors willing to work for peanuts and then saddling them with the worst script imaginable, just to see what would happen.

It says a lot about a film when Vinnie Jones turns in the strongest performance - by a country mile - and delivers the most rounded, and interesting, character.

And you remember back in 2008 when Beverly Hills 90210's resident rapper Brian Austin Green turned up in The Sarah Connor Chronicles as Derek Reese and was really rather good?

Well, that's not the Brian Austin Green that turns up here and sleepwalks through Cross.

Also, rather bizarrely, Tom Sizemore appears in two bookending sequences as police detective Nitti, who is hunting Callan and his crew.

These scenes have no impact on the rest of the film; it's as though Sizemore's in a totally different movie, a played-for-laughs parody of his tough guy persona, a dialled back version of Natural Born Killers' Jack Scagnetti.

Cross, as a whole, could have been laughably 'so-bad-it's-good' - and there are some moments of deliciously forced humour, particularly from Jake Busey, as grenadier Backfire - if large portions of it weren't so painful.

In these moments, it feels like an amateur film school project, hampered by moronic dialogue delivered mechanically and with no conviction, and when you think you've seen the worst performance another automaton opens its mouth.

The plot lurches from crassness to crassness and just as it drops some half-decent exposition it veers even more quickly back down the toilet.

Except that he loses his magical amulet as the plot stumbles into its second act, it seems odd that Callan has attached himself to such a large group of fellow vigilantes who don't have any form of magical protection. They are also pretty much interchangeable cookie-cutter supporting roles, identified by risible, cheesy nicknames such as War, Riot, Backfire, Shark etc

Danny Trejo is supposed to be in Cross, as a character called Ripper, but I have no recollection of seeing him.

However, for all its many, many faults, Cross was still more entertaining than Josh Trank's Fantastic Four. And unlike that major suckfest, Cross has - somehow - earned itself a sequel, the imaginatively titled Cross 2 due out later this year.

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