Considered the first release of the new year, Impostor is a sleeper in the worst sense of the word — which is to say that I actually nodded off briefly during the film, owing to severe boredom with the antics on the screen. Granted, there’s a slim chance that during that short time, I missed one of the greatest moments in the history of film. Judging by the bulk of the movie for which I was painfully conscious, however, that idea is more far-fetched than the plot of the film itself. This is one of those movies where someone took a 40-minute segment of an anthology film and decided it could be effectively expanded into a feature on its own. What no one involved seemed to realize was that there’s a world of difference between “effectively expanded” and “padded,” the latter of which is what Impostor plays and feels like. Based on a short story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick (best known to non-sci-fi fans as the author of “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” the story that formed the basis of Blade Runner), Impostor spins the unlikely story of a man who is mistaken for an explosive cyborg and pursued by government agents bent on destroying him before he can reach his target and blow up. If all this sounds like something more suited to Schwarzenegger than Gary Sinise, that’s probably because it is. The plain fact, though, is that this wouldn’t work even as an Arnold vehicle. It’s too cheap, too shoddy, too humorless. It takes place in one of those futures so beloved of bad sci-fi. The world has gone to hell in a hand basket. Science and technology have expanded enormously, yet there seems to be insufficient electricity to power a 60-watt light bulb. As a result, the world — inside and out, day and night — has been turned into something like a particularly dreary Chinese restaurant … and no egg roll. Society has become weirdly fragmented, with the technocrats living it up on the high-tech hog (even if they can’t possibly see much of anything), while some vaguely defined sub-stratum of society inhabits the ruined leftovers and … but, hey, you’ve heard it all before and seen it even more often. No wonder all the people in the film are so humorless. The results here are like half-baked Total Recall combined with Blade Runner Lite. The real surprise is that Impostor made it into theaters, because everything about it — except its unusually strong cast — screams direct-to-video, where it might actually play better. Since there’s so little plot, the film is stretched beyond belief with action scenes that consist of little more than Gary Sinise being chased around dimly lit tunnels by bad guys various and sundry. The only character that brings the film even slightly to life is the character Cale, played by the remarkable Mekhi Phifer (who was also the only reason to see O — someone get this man a picture that’s worth his while!), and it’s not nearly enough. If you stick around long enough, you’ll find the plot twist you expected in reel one indeed does come about by the film’s end, if you really care. I didn’t.
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