Fantasia XXVII Review: In RESTORE POINT, Robert Hloz’s Debut Resuscitates Czech Sci-Fi From Dormancy
Robert Hloz’s feature debut, Restore Point, is a turning point for genre cinema out of the Czech Republic. Reportedly the first film of its kind in the region since Oldřich Lipský’s A Heartfelt Greeting From Earth, Hloz’s film is also the latest to garner the kind of reception likening it to other notable titles with its arena, namely hits like Blade Runner and Minority Report according to Justin Langlois’s Fantasia programming notes.
I’d throw it in with a few other notable titles but I simply haven’t seen that many sci-fi movies to lend a fair comparison that wouldn’t get me chewed out by someone with a little more viewing experience than me. Indeed though, Hloz is apt at the genre with a look and production quality that earns its hype, and a story that bodes more as a slow-burn sci-fi crime procedural. It’s an intricately detailed affair that does take you to task at times with understanding how the in-movie concept of restoring a dead person to life works, particularly involving the plot.
Hloz’s film, penned by Tomislav Cecka and Zdenek Jecelin, is set in Prague just under a few decades into the future, and kicks off with the heinous murder of four people by a hooded terrorist soon confronted by dauntless maverick detective, Em (Andrea Mohylová). The incident is further pressure added to her and her colleagues to bring down a notorious terrorist organization whose sole ideology stands against that of the institute behind revolutionary technology that can revive a person whose death is caused unnaturally.
In the aftermath, her latest case now finds her investigating the brutal murder of one of that institution’s founding members, as well as that of David (Matej Hádek), and his wife. Her investigation soon gives chase to a potential terrorism suspect, but not before being suddenly confronted by a version of David, revived and running on short memory and borrowed time with the help of a tentative serum. The twist ultimately leads to more questions than answers – specifically when it comes to the victimized couple, as well as the terrorist group in question. With a crooked agent placed in her proximity and eyeing her every move, Em is forced on the run, and to fight tooth and nail to get to the truth, and why it seems the people least expectant to hide it would want to do so.
One key aspect of the film’s dystopian backdrop is the economic inequality that contributes into the rise of crime and death that precedes the evolution of the titular technology. As the film progresses, however, the film focuses much more on its crime procedural format along with the coverage of Em’s own stoic journey following the recent murder of her orchestrial pianist husband. Em’s resignation to her own methods of detection is a recurring element in the film which tends to lead to a more singular and linear, more controlled unraveling of the story, even as the tangential entrance of a few characters get mingled in, along with some bits of addendum geared toward the film’s sci-fi lore.
What helps by the end is that just about everything the film sets out to bring full circle does so. It takes a while for this effort to really get moving at times as the film does tend to lean a bit hard and trudge through suspense and cerebral-paced storytelling and dramatizations. As far as lead performances ago, Mohylová puts in the incredible work of tackling the role of Em, which makes it a relief that a European studio production is putting a woman in the forefront to carry such a big-scale and layered noir sci-fi detective whodunit thriller with all the trimmings. All in all, Restore Point is a satifying genre pleasantry that will hit the spot if you’re a fan.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.