With so many past lives to choose from, the filmmakers of Infinite still repeated the same mistakes when there should have been limitless possibilities. Instead, it’s an endless exercise in suspense-free filmmaking.
Like most movies that deal with mental illness, it’s used as a backdrop or a way to add color to a film’s script. Antoine Fuqua’s new film, Infinite, working with an adapted script from Ian Shorr, is a bit like that. It uses the hallucinations of a schizophrenic as a ploy to tell a story about warriors living through infinite time with past lives. An endless cycle of recreation, which can be a curse or a gift.
If the premise sounds familiar and you’re over the age of 40, it sounds like Highlander because it basically is the Christopher Lambert films. That series never stopped making unbearable sequels. More recently, The Old Guard came out last summer around the same time Infinite was about to be released and delayed because of COVID-19. This is a case of an industry tactic called “twinning,” as both have a group of warriors with swords traveling through time and have the same actor playing the villain in Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Infinite tells the story of a schizophrenic named Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) who possesses a remarkable set of skills he has only learned through hallucinations. After losing out on a job that would have provided him health insurance for his mental health disorder, he creates a damn fine-looking sword to trade for a couple of months’ worth of pills (yeah, it’s that kind of movie). He is arrested and is about to be killed by an old nemesis/friend named Bathurst (Ejiofor) when a group named the “infinites” breaks him out. They think he is their lost leader, Treadwell, and they need to unlock these hallucinations to help save the human race.
I’ll admit, the beginning of Fuqua’s film had me encouraged, with a terrific exciting car chase scene led by frequent Wahlberg costar, actor Dylan O’Brien. The opener serves as a flashback for a plot point and it’s really the best part of the picture. Unfortunately, the adaptation of D. Eric Maikranz’s The Reincarnationist Papers is just a convoluted mess.
First of all, when the action settles down, the dialogue between Wahlberg and his love interest and devoted infinite, Mora (played by Sophia Cookson), is cringe-worthy. As are any lines spoken by the rest of the team. “He’s drowning!” is a line yelled by a team member that is so stupid, if Infinite was shown in theatres, it would have caused incidental laughter or an, uh, infinite amount of responses that would have sounded like, “No s**t!” Honestly, it sounded as if the lines were only written after shaking a Magic-8-Ball designed to spit out generic lines to fill in the blanks. Jason Mantzoukas shtick in a serious film doesn’t help matters either.
Also, the plot is convoluted, which was easily avoidable, but they can’t get out of their way. An endless amount of face-covered villains pop in and out like a bad sci-fi series. There is an eye-roll-inducing scene of a gunfight in the woods with a zillion bullets flying, but Wahlberg and Cookson’s characters make sure to stop feeling and stand in the middle of a storm of gunfire to attempt a quippy line that has no wit; another is Cookson fighting another woman twice her height, size, and equal in fighting ability (and a bunch of extra guns in her pants pockets that she doesn’t use) while also having a steel rod sticking out her stomach, but manages to beat her easily. Shouldn’t the one who loses be the one that is sweating and looked defeated?
Also, the character motivation is questionable at best. No one seems to like the human race, on either side. The good guy has no qualms about wearing “flesh suits” that take over someone else’s life as if they were nothing. So why all the fuss about saving them? If they are so worried about dying, what is the big emotional reaction when one of their comrades takes a shot to the head? They will just reincarnate anyway, right? It’s an exercise in an endless amount of suspense-free filmmaking.