Thursday, January 3, 2002

Total recoil

Movie: Impostor

Posted on Thu, Jan 3, 2002 at 4:00 AM

**
Our Rating: 2.00

If watching "Impostor" (and that's by no means a suggestion) leaves you pining for "Blade Runner" or even "Total Recall," there's a reason: All three were based on the writings of science-fiction great Philip K. Dick. As such, they share a host of common elements, from human societies at odds with artificial intelligence to heroes whose very identities are open to dispute.

Sound complex? Not really. This one's an adaptation of one of Dick's short stories, and the movie's four screenwriters prove unable to expand that source material into a story that feels like a feature-length film, let alone a good one. Frankly, there's more dramatic meat in an episode of "The Outer Limits."

In the midst of a protracted war with malevolent aliens, defense scientist Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) is tagged by Earth's government as a "genetic cyborg," a walking bomb allegedly sent to wreak chaos for the enemy. Spencer is marked for vivisection, but a lip-smacking, long-winded speech by his official accuser (Vincent D'Onofrio) gives him enough time to escape. Now a fugitive, he'll stop at nothing to clear his name and be reunited with his beloved wife, Maya (Madeline Stowe).

Why a futuristic Richilieu would spend several pages of dialogue hurling charges at a replicant he's about to destroy anyway is beyond me; perhaps this war-torn society has forgotten the lessons of the "Austin Powers" movies. But almost everything that happens in "Impostor" is B-picture cheese. Shortly before his flight from captivity, Spencer is shot up with hallucinogenic drugs that remain in his bloodstream long enough to louse up his perception whenever the movie needs to fill some time with extraneous, inconsequential minitraumas.

Spencer's biggest foe, however, is not the drugs, the government or even the aliens. It's the movie's wardrobe department. Beginning the picture in a charcoal, band-collared number that makes him look like the missing link between Captain Video and Joe Diffie, he inaugurates his incognito period by slipping into a hooded robe and sunglasses that bespeak Bono gone Druid. His future's so bleak, we all should wear shades.

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