Doomsday packs violently nostalgic punch

***½ out of *****

Director Neil Marshall, whose work I have enjoyed since 2002's Dog Soldiers, has admitted that his most recent project, Doomsday, is a throwback to the action films of his childhood -- chiefly, John Carpenter's Escape From New York and George Miller's Mad Max trilogy. If that is indeed what Marshall intended with this loud, fast-paced and gritty post-apocalyptic action flick, then he succeeded splendidly.

Doomsday opens with a lengthy bit of exposition courtesy of Malcolm McDowell (who plays a small but significant role in the film). In 2008, a virus known as the Reaper sweeps through the British isles with the speed of the common cold and the destructive capabilities of a medieval plague. Desperate, the British government quarantines Scotland, erecting a steel wall manned by machine-gun toting guards to contain the deadly disease.

Three decades later, the Reaper resurfaces. Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) is commissioned to lead an elite squad into contaminated Scotland, make contact with Kane (McDowell), a doctor who may have survived the virus, and bring back the cure.

Marshall's intended homage to the great, ultra-violent action films of the 80s is apparent from the get-go. The villains of the film, survivors who have rebuilt a society from the ashes of the Reaper's devastation, are S&M fetishists sporting mohawks, tattoos and all manner of punk attire. This wild bunch of anarchists reek of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior's influence.

The lead villain, Sol (Craig Conway), is particularly awesome. I couldn't get past the fact that Conway seemed to channeling a young Dennis Hopper in his role as the psychotic, raging ringleader of the post-apocalyptic punks. His character might have been the most enjoyable aspect of the film for me.

There is, of course, the action -- and Doomsday delivers. Fight scenes and shootouts galore, car chases, gladiator matches (yep, seriously) ... the film boasts more than enough to sate any action-junkie's hunger.

Doomsday is a flawed film, however, in more ways than one. Aside from the opening exposition, there are no significant plot or character developments. A couple "twists" crop up here and there, but they're nothing significant or even surprising. There's also an annoying bit of Michael Bay-esque product placement involving a car. The automobile gets more screentime than poor Mr. McDowell in this picture.

But the cast has fun and Marshall clearly does too. In fact, the fun permeates from this film, sinking into the pores of the audience and bringing devilish smiles to their faces. Doomsday is a refreshing bit of fluff to fulfill the need for explosions, car chases and gratuitous violence in those long months between the winter and summer movies seasons.


  1. I - having never seen the trailer before viewing - thought it was full of surprises. I realize this is a rarity among the TV-hungry, Internet-addicted public and usually for myself as well and probably has nothing to do with the overall quality of the film. However, I wanted to gloat at my (sadly) unique experience and tell everyone that they should try to do the same. :) Hell pre-viewing, I didn't even know that the virus resurfaced, that there were survivors in Scotland or anything else. Refreshing.

    Anyways ... well-written review. I don't disagree on any one point. But I do wonder at you expecting character development from a film channeling Escape From New York and Mad Max I suppose one can dream.

  2. I feel that character development and story progression is something that should happen in the simplest of premises.

    In Escape From New York, Snake grows as a character, and there are twists and turns in the story.

    In The Road Warrior, the character of Max progresses past being a hollowed-out shell of a man after the murder of his wife and children to a guy fighting for a real cause and protecting the innocent.


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