Peoples's screenplay is half Gattaca,
with its vision of the future as devoid of character, and half The Postman, with a society of pathetic dolts who
can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Luckily, Russell's character,
Sergeant Todd, fits right in: He isn't equipped to do anything but
fight. In fact, I didn't think he could even speak until he finally uttered
his first (of very few) words, over one half hour into the film. And then
I wished he hadn't.
Todd is a trained soldier who has been rendered obsolete by a new breed
of warrior genetically engineered to be faster, stronger, and more
efficient (less space wasted on gray matter) than Todd and his gang. A specimen
of this new order is Caine (Jason Scott Lee), who is put to the test against
Todd and two other of his old-school bully boys. Todd and his friends are
beaten to a pulp, thought to be dead, and thrown out with the trash on a
planet used solely for a waste receptacle. When he wakes up, Todd has already
missed the bus back home, so he's got to make his way among the peaceful
folk that live on Planet Dump.
Though a community of Oscar the Grouches would not be at all out of place
among the ridiculous pretexts ever present in this script, the people of
this literal wasteland aren't just living there because they happen to like
trash. As Todd learns from his hosts, Sandra (Connie Nielsen) and her husband
Mace (Sean Pertwee), they too were abandoned and forgotten, and have long
since given up trying to flag down the dump ships. So they have fashioned
a whole town, complete with a meeting hall, apartments, and a bar, all made
out of garbage (mostly airplane parts).
Todd gets kicked out of town for looking at Sandra's boobs, but then
he's re-accepted when they learn he has taught a little kid how to kill
a snake. (Yay another anti-snake message from Hollywood.) And his
reintroduction into Garbageville society is not a minute too soon, because
nasty Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs), who developed Caine and his master race,
plans to invade the planet, using Caine as the leader of the hostile takeover.
So now wordless Todd must single-handedly do battle with his wordless old
nemesis and 17 other well-armed, wordless baddies.
Such an astoundingly bad film is no real surprise from director Anderson, whose short resume includes such classics as Event Horizon (1997) and Mortal Kombat (1995). And Russell, I guess, just needed the dough. What really surprises me is that writer Peoples, who has turned out such masterful screenplays as 12 Monkeys (1995), Unforgiven (1992), and Bladerunner (1982), would sink to such depths. Kurt Russell's career has had its ups and downs ever since he starred as Dexter Riley in Disney's The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1970). But take it from me, folks: Dexter's been unplugged. *
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