I had initially been sold on the trailer for writer/director S.A. Halewood’s upcoming British-American sci-fi, Division 19. I love the idea of incorporating low-budget sci-fi with action, provided that it’s smartly done, and I’ve seen a good share of such sci-fi to know what I like.
Looking at this particular endeavor however, which earned Halewood a Best Director nod at the Boston Science Film Festival last year, I’m much more inclined to tell folks to be a bir more choosy. Indeed, this film could have been something special, but it’s wasted on constant pessimistic posturing and such poor storytelling to the point where you can’t help but stop caring after the first 30 minutes – or sooner if you’re less tolerant.
Accompanied by a montage of moments from forthcoming from the film, actor Toby Hemmingway leads off with a monologue in the role of Barca, waxing philosophical about corporate greed, societal brainwashing and wokeness. Barca is the leader of a clandestined band of rebels who dare to defy the norms and hold the world’s banks hostage in favor bringing down the nation’s totalitarian state in which anonymity is a crime.
Enter Hardin Jones (Jamie Draven), a maximum-security prisoner who has become a household name via Panopticon TV, a network in which paying subscribers get to “adopt” a convicted felon, basically dictating what they eat, watch, wear and fight. Hardin’s brother, Nash (Will Rothaar), is wanted for hacking into the federal reserve, and instead of staying hidden, he and Division 19 set out to rescue Hardin from the convoy transporting him to an extended, newly-launched “rehabilitation” town for which Hardin is selected.
Hardin escapes amid the daring rescue and now finds himself on the outskirts and fighting to live as far off the grid as possible. With Premiere Lyndon (Linus Roache) at the end of his rope, he seizes an opportunity to capture members of Division 19, including Nash, who now becomes a key player of Panopticon’s “new town” interactive game.
That’s pretty much the wind-up and the pitch for this particular endeavor, and frankly, I don’t really care too much for this movie. I was more bored than anything and found myself tuning out frequently to check my e-mail for more important things to lend my attention to.
Division 19 is as low-budget as sci-fi could possibly get while still appearing “presentable” for decent viewing. Any and all action and stuntwork or matters pertaining to any story elements that might make this film interesting were nowhere to be found for me, and mainly because none of it mattered with Halewood’s script taking off at full speed with no one at the wheel.
The scenic route is often explored with this film and its perpetual shots of the city with blaring sirens in the background. The first half our alone shows you how cheap this movie is when Halewood tries to throw you the same upward wide-shot of Division 19 traceuring its way to stand atop of a structure.
I was laughing, and even moreso at the fact that by the time actress Lotte Verbeek joins in as one of the film’s only few female co-stars, her clothes were off and her character was ready to bang Hardin before I could begin caring who she was. That’s basically the breadth of her role, and all but places this film on the failing end of the Bechdel test.
“The geeks will inherit the earth.” is one of the key taglines for Division 19, to which I reply with the following:
I found this movie to be quite drab, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Aside from Linus Roache and actress Alison Doody being the only worthwhile talent on this film, I can’t even begin suggesting there was any potential to this movie at all. At best, if Halewood focused on simply delivering a kinetic freerunning action sci-fi centered on two brothers fighting to take down a totalitarian ruler (I’m thinking something in the vein of The Running Man by way of District B13), then we might have gotten somewhere.
Alas, here we are. And it’s not that I don’t get Halewood’s intentions here. I do. I just think this movie sucks as a result. However, if you’re a sucker for “visionary” low-budget sci-fi with pointless action and a plot thinly executed with the enthusiasm of a flavorless salad, Division 19 arrives in select theaters and on VoD on April 9 from Uncork’d Entertainment. So… good luck with that.