Studio: High Octane Pictures
Director: Iqbal Ahmed
Writer: Iqbal Ahmed
Producer: Iqbal Ahmed, Maria Valentina Bove
Stars: Austin Hebert, Alexis Carra, David S. Lee, Adam Shapiro, Mark Deklin
Pursued by unknown masked men, a man with a mysterious past goes on the run with his girlfriend to uncover his true identity.
Bridd Cole could not be any more milquetoast, and that’s exactly the way he wants it. An orphan without family and only one friend, Bridd works as a mail room clerk, brown bags his lunch, and leaves a footprint so small he might as well be invisible. Being invisible would require impressive power, and that may actually be the only superhuman ability Bridd doesn’t have.
Based on outward appearance, no one would know Bridd can process information so fast that time slows around him. Cray computer calculations are no match for what Bridd’s brain can do. Neither is a bullet when circumstances demand Barry Allen-like reflexes. Bridd knew from an early age he was different. He also knew that with great power comes great responsibility, and even greater danger. Certain that exposure will only attract the wrong kind of attention, Bridd has steadfastly kept his true nature on the down low.
Keeping off radars becomes less of an option after a mysterious delivery arrives courtesy of his mother. More mysterious is how she even mailed a package since she has been dead for 20 years. Bridd can’t make heads or tails of the seemingly defunct device inside the envelope, but whatever it is sparks a merciless manhunt of Richard Kimble proportions. Framed for murders he didn’t commit, Bridd is forced on the run with curly-haired co-worker Charlotte at his side, and silent stalkers bearing blades and black helmets in hot pursuit behind.
With “The Answer,” first-time feature filmmaker Iqbal Ahmed has crafted efficient and energetic action belying its bank account through fleetness and sleekness. While other low-budget thrillers with sci-fi streaks lose themselves in middling maelstroms of overambition and fizzling CGI fireworks, “The Answer” is squarely determined to find personality though scaled-down style. Its characters aren’t the most captivating and its story lacks subtlety, but there is charm in the film’s straight arrow aim at a bullseye of simple escapism that nevertheless hits the target.
The introduction above isn’t kidding about Bridd’s John Lunchpail personality. Actor Austin Hebert has his work cut out for him in making someone who should be an interesting guy into an actually interesting guy, with Bridd’s unsmiling “poor me” portrayal resisting at every opportunity. Luckily, actress Alexis Carra complements Bridd’s stunning absence of charisma with a likably looser take on romantic interest Charlotte. Carra puts so much character into Charlotte that you’re likely to think her role in the pairing will play out with a purpose greater than damsel-in-distress sidekick. It doesn’t, but her pleasant presence balances Bridd’s glum gloom enough that spending 80+ minutes with him is less of a drag.
It’s important to indicate that a 3.5/5 star score is for entertainment value alone, not for noteworthiness regarding script, story, or substance. As enjoyable as the film is with soda in one hand and popcorn in the other, there’s no denying the air released by poking at the plotting.
“The Answer” moves nearly as fast as Bridd. That briskness is welcome for preventing boredom and keeping momentum moving in a forward direction. Speediness is less successful when the plot requires beats to hit faster than the story allows to develop naturally. Progression happens so fast that the film finds itself taking large leaps across the fiction, resulting in a pace that cannot avoid feeling forced.
When melodrama explodes, believability is swallowed up in the mushroom cloud. Looking for any way at all to separate hero and heroine, one moment has Charlotte saying a slightly offensive thing only for Bridd to fly so high off the handle that the next sounds heard are wheels peeling out of the driveway. An otherwise solid musical score occasionally piles on pathos too, particularly during Bridd’s recollection of being returned to the orphanage for beating his foster dad in a game of ping-pong, a moment weirdly heartbreaking for being so wonderfully absurd.
That table tennis memory is “The Answer” in a nutshell: conceptually underdeveloped and maybe misdirected in meaning, yet confounding instinctual reactions by being strangely captivating. Bridd’s black-helmeted enemies are vaguely defined to the point where their Armand Assante/Udo Kier/Tom Sizemore hybrid leader is simply named “Leader” and an unintelligible language only highlights their meaningless interactions. A gift-wrapped ending arrives too quickly to tie its own bow. Somehow, “The Answer” spits lemon juice in the eyes of such conceits to pull off the unlikely accomplishment of emerging no less respectable as a science-fiction speed run worth making the lap.
Flesh out the action with an eight-figure budget, put known names in key roles, and “The Answer” would premiere on 2,500 screens. At its current level of completeness and competence, it ranks at a level equivalent to a two-part episode of “The Outer Limits” revival from the 1990s. That might be a knock to anyone sneering at the comparison, but more forgiving tastes know that is reputable praise for a production of this caliber.
Review Score: 70