Studio: Entertainment One
Director: Valeri Milev
Writer: Valeri Milev, Matthew Waynee, Vasil Rousev
Producer: Bashar Rahal, Konstantin Borov, Donald A. Barton, Gia Muresan
Stars: Paul Logan, Manal El-Feitury, Mya-Lecia Naylor, Julian Kostov, Valentin Ganev
A Special Forces soldier is sent into Bulgaria when a chemical agent from WWII is uncovered that can reanimate the dead.
Any military tactic that involves using reanimated corpses as a weapon is doomed at inception. If zombies are going to combat armed soldiers, then the undead battalion has to exceed a 1:1 ratio. One on one, zombies would just be mowed down in a bullet spray. The only sensible method is swarming the living with the dead. Except then you have the problem of what to do should the zombies actually win. Maybe the enemy is eradicated, but now you have a city overrun with bloodthirsty ghouls. You could drop a bomb and wipe out the problem that way, but if that was an option, why not exclude the zombie middleman and just blow up everything in the first place?
In his mad dash to out-crazy Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin never thought things through that far. While trying to one-up the Nazis as far as diabolical experiments went during WWII, Stalin unleashed a nerve gas that raised the dead in order to turn the tide of the Battle of Stalingrad. As desperate as the situation had become, infesting a city bearing your name with flesh-eating creatures seems like a questionable strategy to leave as a legacy. Nevertheless, a stockpile of the chemical agent in question survived through the decades until a Bulgarian army colonel finds it buried underneath a munitions warehouse. Now it is up to Special Forces soldier John Ramb- whoops, John McGahey to infiltrate the military base and recover the bio-weapon before it is too late.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a movie if he weren’t too late. The chemical escapes containment, the area becomes infected, and all hell breaks loose as soldiers and citizens scramble for sanctuary while a code red locks down the city.
“Code Red” could have been inventive had it stayed with the World War Two backstory and borrowed some of the Nazi zombies from “Dead Snow” for a more unique movie. Instead, the film is just fine skating by on only enough story to set up noisy scenes of running, explosions, gunfire, and more running.
Moving things along is a paint-by-numbers plot populated by stereotyped characters including a square-jawed action hero, plucky heroine, kid clutching a stuffed animal, and devious Bulgarian army colonel. Anybody who has seen any one of these characters before can guess with 100% certainty what each person’s motivation is. The colonel wants to secure the dangerous chemical for his own evil purposes. The little girl and her mother must reunite. And the grizzled soldier is the only person who can prevent the former while facilitating the latter.
Keeping everyone’s feet locked in clichéd territory is flat dialogue that rivals the characterizations for most uninspired element in the movie. Lines are often melodramatically overwrought, such as when a bitten human puts a deep groove in his brow and huskily says, “don’t let me leave the world like one of those things.” Or it can be as nonsensical as an exchange between a subordinate who says, “we have to declare a state of emergency,” and his C.O. who responds, “emergency? What are you babbling about?” What babbling? Was there another way for that statement to be more direct?
A fair amount of money is put onscreen in the form of APCs crushing cars, fireballs burning in the streets, and blood-soaked zombies having their skulls shattered by thwipping assault rifle rounds. The movie also has a crisp digital look that details each pockmark on a soldier’s face and every cinder in a mushroom cloud. Too bad that detail is largely lost in a hyper-stylized guerrilla war camera style unable to stand still and frequently washed in dark tar blacks. Although the bigger waste is that the cracker-thin story provides so little meat that the plentiful action is empty and meaningless.
“Code Red” ends on a confusing black and white still frame montage suggesting the movie ran out of cash to film the final five minutes and just tacked this on in its place. If the effort that went into the effects went into developing a smarter script, “Code Red” might have been recommendable. As it is, the movie is at best a decent enough 80 minutes of action only for those who just need bursting bullet squibs and stuntmen flying into things to be entertained.
Review Score: 45