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rochefort [Celluloid 09.28.16] Australia scifi

If you ask a modern filmmaker to name some of the inspirations for their latest science fiction opus, chances are high he or she won't mention the likes of Circuitry Man, Space Truckers, Slipstream, or Fortress. Chances are also high that if you have any affinity whatsoever for 80's and 90's sci-fi B-movies you will, while watching the latest film from director Shane Abbess, flash back to at least one of these or a host of other hovering-just-below-the-radar flicks, the kind that once dominated the shelves of rental stores.

Science Fiction Vol.1: The Osiris Child takes place in a future where mankind has begun colonizing the galaxy, establishing corporate/military bases on each newly terraformed planet. Lt. Kane Sommerville (Daniel MacPherson), demoted after a major combat mishap, serves as a lowly military contractor for Ex-O, a terraforming company with the usual questionable code of ethics. When a prison break supposedly unleashes a horde of mysterious, rampaging alien creatures called Raggeds across the surface of the planet, Kane defiantly escapes from the cloud-bound corporate base to rescue his surface-dwelling daughter. Along the way he enlists the aid of Sy Lombrok (Kellan Lutz), a drifter who may or may not be a doctor from the aforementioned prison, and two mercenaries Gyp (Isabel Lucas) and Bill (Luke Ford), who have an armored truck that could get them through what is certain to be harsh terrain. But they'll have to move fast, since Ex-O plans to deal with the Raggeds by dropping a bomb that'll kill everything not hovering in the sky.

Director Abbess had big success with his first feature, Gabriel, a curious supernatural action thriller about emo angels which featured quite a lot of grimness and angst, scattershot casting, and lengthy but forgettable blocks of dialogue. His second film, Infini, showed him tightening things up a bit, and with his latest he continues to show substantial growth as a storyteller. Osiris Child is his best film yet, and combines what I'm starting to think are his two most compelling traits as a genre director. One, he comes from the world of visual effects, so he knows how to stretch his FX budget and achieve visuals one would usually only expect in big-budget Hollywood fare (there's a moment in an aerial dogfight, and you'll know it when you see it, that is easily the coolest of its kind in a long time). And two, there's just something a little off about his choices, in casting, in pacing, in letting scenes go a little longer than they probably should, that sometimes hampers the overall experience but at other times produces something refreshingly different.

Maybe the biggest flaw here is in some, but not all of the casting decisions. Lead Daniel MacPherson is a square-jawed male model who was quite good in the so-so "Shannara Chronicles" MTV series, and he's turning out to be a very likable actor. By contrast, Kellan Lutz is a square-jawed male model with the charisma of a cinder block. And the scene where Kane meets a pumped-up Bill and Gyp is a textbook definition of how not to let your actors run wild, and they make quite a mess before the story gets back on track. But back in the positive column you have the prison's vicious Warden Mourdain, played by Temuera Morrison, who most will recognize from Attack of the Clones but whose real legacy will always be Once Were Warriors, as the most badass part of a truly badass movie, and he's great in this as well. This inconsistency from scene to scene, as well as Abbess' odd decision to tell the story in a chapterized, Pulp Fiction structure, might prompt some people to dismiss Osiris Child out of hand, but as I walked out of the theater I realized I had a different impression. This isn't a film that inspires dislike for what it gets wrong; it inspires frustration because it gets so much more right, and comes this close to Saturday Matinee greatness. Which is what it was designed to be, a fun, quasi-pulp sci-fi adventure where Jason of Star Command meets Razorback, one that embraces all the potential quirks such a mix might create. And just so we're clear: LOVE Jason of Star Command and Razorback, flaws and all and I had a lot of fun with Osiris Child, too.

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