Studio: Entertainment One
Director: Francesco Cinquemani
Writer: Francesco Cinquemani
Producer: Monika Bacardi, Andrea Iervolino
Stars: Alec Baldwin, Leo Howard, Gale Morgan Harold III, Michelle Ryan, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Skin, Alex Martin, Mauro Conte, Gaia Scodellaro, Jon Kortajarena, Danny Glover
Ten strangers with no memory of their identities are forced to fight in a futuristic deathmatch overseen by an elite gamemaster.
“Andron” is a weird one, and not in a good way. Even if you never miss a moment starting from the first company logo, you might have the distinct sensation that you’re coming in late not long after opening credits conclude. It’s a feeling you’re likely to experience more than once as you ask, “did I skip a scene or something?” repeatedly throughout the movie.
Take comfort in knowing that the contestants of “The Redemption Games” are just as confused. In the somewhat futuristic world depicted, ten people have their minds wiped before entering this Thunderdome fight to a Highlander finish. They don’t know it yet, but everyone is trapped in a televised deathmatch simulated by a VR machine so sophisticated, it can make a maze in 2154 look like a Hoboken warehouse abandoned since 1973.
Mirroring the audience, the ten contestants are in the dark about what they are doing here and why. So much so that they don’t know their own names, forcing them to refer to one another as “guy with the glasses” and “that other girl.” Fortunately, everyone is distinguishable by ethnicity, gender, and wardrobe. This means you too can concoct nicknames to tell everyone apart, like “mustache man,” “dark-haired lady,” and “Alec Baldwin.”
Yes, Alec Baldwin. Despite being a sci-fi thriller set over a century into the future, “Andron” is not terribly interested in convincing CGI effects or state-of-the-art scenery to bring its fantasy setting to fruition. Clearly, the bulk of the budget went instead to securing Alec Baldwin’s name for the credits.
Regrettably, I admit it is money well spent, as Baldwin’s inclusion hooked me into seeing the film, possibly you too, if you’re reading this after the fact. Then again, sparing $8 of his day rate for a roll of gaffer’s tape to keep Styrofoam “stones” from wiggling would have been wise, too. Baldwin is of course the main attraction in “Andron,” if only to wonder how a star of his stature ended up in a choppily-edited production of such low-budget caliber.
I’d love to know the true story of how Alec Baldwin came aboard, as I’m certain it is at least more coherent than the fictional tale told in “Andron.” Baldwin’s performance is the onscreen equivalent of how some “The Simpsons” guest stars don’t even suffer the inconvenience of driving to a sound studio by recording their lines over the phone. Baldwin is somewhere entirely different than the main cast, certainly not slumming it on the dirty soundstage where everyone else is karate kicking in action shots that are too dark to see clearly. Baldwin basically acts as disembodied overseer, observing the game via hologram vidscreen and occasionally flicking his fingers with “Minority Report” movements.
Only one other actor ever appears in the same room with Baldwin. Danny Glover also shares brief scenes with him, but only as a projected image spliced in via movie magic. Children’s birthday party magic, not David Copperfield stage illusions.
Glover appears to be reciting his lines cold, without having rehearsed, peppering pregnant pauses in between words as though stalling while his memory catches up. Musician and model Deborah Dyer, aka Skin, makes her acting debut with a performance equally worthy of clenching teeth in vicarious discomfort. Writer/director Francesco Cinquemani has a multinational, multicultural cast on hand, but managing their disparate accents and abilities makes for acting and dialogue conveyed less than believably.
Other than mid-movie exposition dumps, most of the spoken words are inconsequential anyway. At least it’s reassuring to know that “no sh*t, Sherlock” and “we’re not in Kansas anymore” survive as common expressions 150 years from now. Other dated dialogue includes exchanges like:
“Did you hear that?”
“I didn’t hear anything.”
Because these things demand ratings of some sort, “Andron” is awarded 1.5 stars out of five, though I don’t know what that is for, or what it is even worth. On conception, style, and execution, the movie is too much of a disjointed, hyperactive, overdramatic mess to make much sense of. “Andron” isn’t just bad, it’s bizarrely bad.
NOTE: The movie is also known by the title “Andron: The Black Labyrinth.”
Review Score: 30