With poor acting, poor writing, and poor direction, Crossbreed is a cross of the very worst elements of film-making.
Crossbreed is not a good film. I say this with all seriousness and with a pang of disappointment because it is a truth that must be told despite the soft spot I harbor in my heart for any variety of ambitious science fiction films.
Written and directed by Brandon Slagle, sharing writing credits with Robert Thompson, Crossbreed tells the story of a small team of military veterans tasked with finding and returning an alien lifeform to terrestrial authorities after said alien is stolen by some seemingly unknown entity. The team is led by Boss (Stink Fisher), who runs a bar on the moon and who has other attributes with which the film does little other than to use as a few lines of dialog at very inopportune times. We’re told that his wife and daughter died — or were murdered, as the case may be — and that he abandoned earth for the moon in hopes of being freed of the subsequent grief. It is at the bar, after a short though awkward quarrel with local riffraff, that he is met by Secretary of Defense Weathers (Daniel Baldwin) and asked to lead this particular mission coming directly from the mouth of the current leader of the human species, President Ellen Henricksen (Vivica A. Fox).
But by this point, the mission doesn’t seem too clear or too urgent, and as viewers, we are not exactly sure if the stodginess in the air is because of the loose connection the mission is supposed to have to the rather lackluster introductory scene or if because of some ironic intention to create discomfort. Well, first impressions matter and the introductory scene is to blame, specifically its poor production values, its poor cinematography, poor action choreography, poor writing, its poor direction, and the fact that these issues remain present throughout the rest of the film.
This unfortunate trend of unironically creating discomfort is crystallized soon after the mission-giving meeting by a scene showing Boss now looking for members whom he can recruit to join his team. While using whatever technology is used in this universe to find mercenary recruits, Boss scrolls through profiles of people and the technology provides public replies of whether the person is eligible, a good choice for his needs, or something. For me, the entire sequence was uncomfortable because it made no sense. What Boss is doing is something that no military veteran just put on assignment would do in public, especially with the foreknowledge that the device being used is going to announce to the world what’s being done. Similar nonsense happens later and is similarly devastating to the film, such as when Boss and his teammate prepare to engage in gunfire. During such moments, the guns indicate whether they are in stun mode or kill mode. As this happened, all I could think was, would not the noise alert enemies of their presence? The universe of the film, when it comes to its technology, is cheap and nonsensical, thinking itself clever.
Really, the only aspect of this film that works is the plot. It is a conventional plot, granted, but the fact that it is conventional causes one to begin to wonder what this film might have been if perhaps more time or better writing was put into it, or what wonder it could be if it was altogether remade. The universe comes across as an interesting place to be, one where humans have escaped the strong societal pull of earth, where alien contact has been made and made with a species with whom we have generally good relations, and that it is a universe where those good relations are under imminent threat as a result of a small breach of the peace. The plot is solid and the premise is promising. The film has ambitions of being like The Expanse written all over it, and it could very well be, though it would need to come with its own cinematic twist to it.
But despite a solid plot being in place, Crossbreed fails to rise above rotary adventure because it fails to delve into any of the accompanying subtle implications. Boss and his teammates are not memorable, nor are their conversations funny or insightful. While every film, in general, is inescapably an artifact of play-acting, a film with as many problems as Crossbreed quickly proves incompetent at encouraging viewers’ suspension of disbelief much more than others. The film, like it’s main characters, can be effectively described with one word: try-hard. Not enough attention is given to much of anything, despite what the director and writer clearly think of their directing and writing. The film is, at best, a poor — very poor — man’s Dredd (2012), with its enclosed spaces, quippy dialog, and slow firefights. It’s truly a shame that it is not better.