Studio: XLrator Media
Director: Mike Hurst
Writer: Mike Hurst
Producer: Rick Benattar, Nigel Thomas
Stars: Zoe Bell, Malik Yoba, Adam Huss, Bjorn Alexander, Jonathan Camp, Courtney Compton, Brian Flaccus, Michael Aaron Milligan, Steve Suh, Albert Stroth
A research team experimenting with time travel is stalked by a masked killer after sending someone into the future one hour.
The M.I.T. misfits comprising Project 880 should be celebrating the successful first test of their experimental time machine. Except when team member Jim returns from a quick trip of one hour into the future, he has a panicked report of a lab floor covered in blood, decapitated researchers, a self-destruct sequence set to explode the building, and a disguised killer determined to eliminate every last one of them.
How could things go so horribly wrong in only 60 minutes? That’s exactly the mystery that the Project 880 team needs to solve if they are to avoid their ill-fated future, provided it is possible to redirect their fate at all.
With one multi-finger swipe, time travel thriller “Paradox” aims to scratch itches of science-fiction drama, fist meets face action, masked murderer whodunit, even “I was on a top secret undercover surveillance mission but really did fall in love with you” romance. Despite this oversupply of ambition, “Paradox” earns only a C grade for execution because its small-scale script doesn’t have the originality and its under-delivered directing doesn’t have the energy to add up to more than an average effort.
The “Ten Little Indians” framework is fine for fostering initial intrigue, even if the overall storyline is populated by common archetypes that don't break new ground as far as duality conundrums and temporal paradoxes go. A greater deficiency in the screenplay stems from dialogue.
“Showtime. Party’s just getting started,” says an NSA agent on a stakeout. “We’ve got a live one here,” comes from the clenched smile of a bad guy struggling to hold a captive. Whenever characters aren’t choking on large paragraphs of exposition, which is often, they’re spitting up formulaic lines pulled from whatever action-thriller cliché template covers betrayed lovers, feuding partners, Mexican standoffs, red herring villainy, and the audience idiot surrogate telling babbling brainiacs to “now try English” with terms he can understand.
With time travel subject matter, one might assume potential hang-ups would relate to sorting out pseudo-science or mentally resolving logic implications of a timeline-hopping plot. Detail issues in “Paradox” have less to do with how the title fits into the fiction and more to do with entirely different matters.
Outside of the movie, questions come from silly points such as wondering how a building could have only an electricity-powered elevator as the sole means of transportation between floors, an architectural impossibility. Within the movie, distractions come from unmodulated performances allowing actors to sell shock/surprise with bulging eyes, dropped jaws, or similarly over-exaggerated expressions. Norwegian-born Bjorn Alexander can’t seem to settle on whether or not to fully mask his natural accent. Two other actors are physically and facially similar to the point of being indistinguishable until accepting the notion that one of them could be Eli Roth’s lookalike.
“Paradox” looks like a TV movie, which shouldn’t be surprising considering director Mike Hurst’s credits include made-for-cablers “House of the Dead 2” and “Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud” in addition to several episodes of the series “Femme Fatales.” That shouldn’t be taken as a diss necessarily, merely an observation that “Paradox” feels like part of a Saturday syndication sandwich circa 1998 bookended by reruns of “Poltergeist: The Legacy” and “Earth: Final Conflict.”
It’s unclear who is intended to be impressed by “Paradox” other than Zoe Bell diehards. For acts one and two, it’s refreshing to see Bell in a role actually freeing her to inhabit a core character instead of restricting her to being a stuntperson with dialogue. Then the last third resorts to exploiting her calling card with an inevitable extended fistfight that ends up being among the least exciting scenes in the film. For a Zoe Bell vehicle packing a much fiercer punch, track down “Raze” (review here).
Rather than a light bulb-flashing “aha!” or brain-teasing “wow!” moment, the final twist and big reveal of “Paradox” arrives with a shoulder-shrugging “eh.” Complemented by a digital fire-filled finale that is more than just a little unconvincing, the film outs itself as having only enough oomph to be “just okay.” In a surprisingly rich indie world of low-budget time travel thrillers with high entertainment value like “Synchronicity” (review here), “Extracted” (review here), “I’ll Follow You Down” (review here), “Time Lapse” (review here), and others, there simply isn’t enough depth to its mystery or to its production quality for “Paradox” to confidently compete with its superior peers.
Review Score: 50