Films about “The One” – a relative nobody who realizes that he is actually the only person able to stop a threat, defeat a villain, or save the world – have had a good career with The Matrix (1999) through numerous YA adventures in the past two decades. They’ve lost a lot in the past few years, and I think that’s because people have realized how uninteresting the concept is, especially when “the one” is just another boring white guy. However, it turned out that not everyone got this memo since Antoine Fuquathe latest action movie, Infinite, is another story about the average guy who discovers he’s actually pretty goddamn special.
That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. The guy is taken from a bored and more than a little bit smug life to a very balmy life Mark Wahlberg.
In a chase (supposedly around 1970, but nobody buys that) you see a man named Treadway (Dylan O’brien -> actor) is being followed by some very determined people. It ends badly for him, but the hunt continues half a century later when Evan (Wahlberg) attracts the attention of the same people. He is a diagnosed schizophrenic using medication to control his hallucinations, but he became aware of the truth after seeing Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in the interrogation room of a police station – a room that is visibly soundproofed, a room from which you can still hear cars outside – and then rescued by Nora (Sophie Cookson).
It appears that Evan is an Infinite – someone who has been reborn over time and who can remember his or her previous lives and abilities. Nora is a believer, an infinite who sees this as a gift and an opportunity, but Bathurst is a nihilist, one who is tired of life and just wants to see the world burn. When Evan was Treadway, he hid a life-ending object called an egg, and the nihilists plan to use it to destroy every living thing on the planet. Uh oh It’s good that Evan is also the best Infinite who has ever lived. Or so.
Infinite, written by Ian Shorr and adapted from the novel The Reincarnationist Papers, is a big disappointment. Fuqua and Wahlberg have both proven themselves elsewhere, but here their general disinterest is almost palpable as the former audition for a Fast & Furious gig while the latter sleepwalked throughout the film. There are glimpses of what could have been, mostly courtesy of one of the game’s supporting cast members, but by the looks of it, the movie is endlessly stupid, poorly executed, and incapable of having fun with itself.
Wahlberg is the immediate subject in both his presence and his performance. From the muffled roar of his voice to his lifeless representation on screen, it feels like he’s trapped in a role that he either doesn’t want or doesn’t understand. Although he is known for action films, he has had real success in showing off his comedic side in legitimate gems like Pain & Gain (2013), 2 Guns (2013) and The Other Guys (2010) but instead of having a similar amount of fun here, he plays the character directly to the detriment. Without his comedic prowess, we are left with a smug, selfish Wahlberg personality, and his pairing with the concept of “The One” makes an unappealing protagonist whose endless superiority is difficult to find entertaining.
The script is also seemingly unsure of what story it is trying to tell. The Egg MacGuffin is like any other “world-ending” weapon in films in that we know that its pursuit will not end with its use – as that would end the film – and instead Infinite puts forward the idea of human improvement with Evan as its figurehead Child. It has come to the point where most of the other believers are useless fodder, easily gunned down by the murderous nihilists. From then on, however, it becomes blurry, for what begins with human skills being perfected and remembered over the centuries, Evan eventually finds touched by the nods of the Matrix as his relationship with physics dissolves. It’s silly nonsense aimed at thrills but instead delivers sub-par CG effects and repetitive action, including * three * separate cases of surprising snipers through windows. Strands of Highlander (1986) also looks up when we discover that the only way to “stop” an Infinite is to hit the head in the shape of a ball that … uploads your mind to a digital prison in the cloud?
With a boring tour, unimaginative action, and a story that doesn’t pick up on its own absurdity, viewers are forced to look at the supporting cast for brief moments of delight. To that end, it is Ejiofor who not only understands exactly what type of film he is set in but also works to make his over-the-top enthusiasm contagious. His performance and facial expression are great, and even before he puts on VR glasses and gloves to control a squadron of high-tech attack drones, like Elmer Fudd, who is conducting The Flying Dutchman. Jason Mantzoukas deserves a smile or two as a hedonistic scientist (?) who uses Alexa in his high-tech pad, and Toby Jones can pronounce “blah blah blah” as a summary of the plot of the film and his role in it.
However, none of them are enough to save Infinite from its excesses or slack. Evan is as uninteresting and boring as any “someone” who’s gone before, and with too much focus on him we stay a lot more curious about other characters and elements. More from the minor players, more details about the reborn life, more information about the hidden fortress of the believers, which ultimately is neither hidden nor a fortress – hell, everything that goes beyond Wahlberg, who learns that he is great, super competent and is unbeatable – and that could have been a great piece of fun instead of a great piece …