Studio: Epic Pictures
Director: Caroline Labreche, Steeve Leonard
Writer: Caroline Labreche, Steeve Leonard
Producer: Anne-Marie Gelinas, Benoit Beaulieu, Jean Du Toit
Stars: Diego Klattenhoff, Charlotte Sullivan, Brett Donahue
An amnesiac man must solve the mystery of why anyone who steps within 50 feet of him suddenly drops dead.
Liam just recovered from a car crash on a remote country road to find he has no memory of what happened or who he is. If not for the driver’s license in his pocket, he wouldn’t know his name.
Liam flags down a passing car only to watch it careen down an embankment as its driver dies suddenly. A bird overhead falls to the ground in similar fashion. Liam frantically seeks help at a nearby diner, discovering nothing but corpses there too.
Initially racking his brain with wild ideas of a chemical outbreak or terrorist attack, Liam eventually draws a far more frightening conclusion. He doesn’t know why, and he certainly doesn’t know how, but anyone who comes within 50 feet of Liam will inexplicably drop dead.
Anyone except Jane Doe, that is. Claiming to have been a passenger in Liam’s vehicle, Jane came out of their crash with the same amnesia. Somehow, she appears to be Liam’s antidote, as his death radius is nullified as long as Jane stands within it. Together, this mystery man and woman must remember who they really are in order to uncover what happened, without piling up any more unfortunate bodies along the way.
The premise of “Radius” casts a spell of complete captivation just three minutes into the movie. Crazy-ish concepts like this were more commonplace in the 80s and 90s, when Rutger Hauer and Mimi Rogers had to remain within 100 yards of each other lest their own heads explode. We don’t see low-budget indies take on such tones as much in the 21st century, yet right away we are swept into a sci-fi Saturday night setting that packs “Outer Limits” intrigue into a “Twilight Zone” mystery.
Despite far-out fiction sending the movie in motion, “Radius” remains sensibly grounded within a compact feature. The idea may be big, but scope stays small, starting on a single character and expanding the primary player roster to only three people by the time the last act hits full stride.
Simplicity is always a smart strategy when limited time and limited money influence how much can be accomplished. “Radius” does well to pack as much punch as possible behind each penny, although it can feel hamstrung and stretched out as both plotting and pacing are forced to occupy more real estate than they necessarily need. “Radius” is rarely uninteresting, yet it occasionally finds itself on a treadmill of movement that doesn’t always advance to a new position since so few tools are in play.
Diego Klattenhoff as Liam and Charlotte Sullivan as Jane aren’t exactly overflowing with personality. How can they be when they’re playing people who literally have none? Nevertheless, both actors fare fine, forcing their characters to have sympathetic charm almost purely through presence. The audience is along more for the journey than for the companionship anyway.
Anyone looking to find fault with the story can criticize that “Radius” doesn’t dig as daringly deep as it can. Given where the movie ends up, the script really could have charted unexpectedly twisty territory had it gone all in on the bond that builds between Liam and Jane. I suspect that some will have similar “yeah, buts” regarding the setup’s potential versus what “Radius” chooses to do with it, which isn’t a fully mind-blowing exploration of a personal death radius problem layered into a “Total Recall” identity crisis.
Looking at it realistically, there are only two likely explanations for how Liam acquired his peculiar affliction: secret science experiment or supernatural/otherworldly origin. “Radius” picks a path that may have many muttering, “that’s it?” The thing about that though, is writers/directors Caroline Labreche and Steeve Leonard aren’t interested in the science part of their fiction to the extent others might be. Their fable concerns itself with the behavior of those in the predicament’s path, which is why “Radius” reads as an intimate experience. This in turn means those interested in more action or explanation may encounter mild disappointment instead.
Whatever its drawbacks, “Radius” retains a fascinatingly original springboard pushing it well above average in the realm of scaled down sci-fi. Labreche and Leonard encounter several stutters, such as a strange obsession with repeatedly delivering exposition at convenient moments via radio or TV news bulletins, though their movie’s thematic maturity sharpens “Radius” with an edge of intelligent introspection. Maybe it could have been a mountain, but the molehill builds high enough to see its peak still capped with satisfying entertainment.
Review Score: 60