It may be unfair to make general statements about an actor, their level of talent, their particular charisma or the added value they bring to a project. But sometimes a movie is such a mess, and the star at its center is so misinterpreted, that broad generalizations have to be made. So this is it. Mark Wahlberg should never be in a sci-fi movie again. While the exclusive Paramount Plus streaming movie Infinite isn’t entirely its bad – the direction, script, and overall lack of creative vision also range from absurd to embarrassing – it suffers deeply from its bland, telephoned, table-seeking crafting performance.
Haven’t we learned anything from Tim Burton Planet of the Apes or that of M. Night Shyamalan The event? Wahlberg is not an actor for this genre, although Infinite can hardly be called a genre film. Of course, he’s playing around with better ideas from various sci-fi movies, books, and TV series, including The matrix, Altered carbon, The fifth Element, and Total recall. And of course, it mimics the “special chosen” format so familiar now for big-budget blockbusters like the Star Wars or The Hunger Games franchises. Familiarity is not a fatal flaw in itself. But it can be when combined with all other aspects of Infinite who do not have a specific identity.
Director Antoine Fuqua InfiniteThe production design of is built on the reheated leftovers of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the Underground world franchise. Its action scenes are as hectic and physically light as those in Michael Bay’s late-career work, à la 6 Underground. And his superficial understanding of the idea of reincarnation, along with his downright bizarre treatment of Asian and Indigenous identities as throwaway components of his white protagonist’s journey of self-realization, adds to an overall vibe that can be summed up as “Yikes. ”
Located primarily in present-day New York City, Infinite follows the diagnosis of schizophrenia Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg), who since his teens has struggled with what he believes to be mental health issues. He remembers memories that are not his own and he dreams so vividly that he wakes up confused as to where and when he is now. He takes a variety of medications to keep him balanced. He has a strong moral compass and a tendency to stand up for those in need. (All InfiniteWomen count as weaker characters than Evan needs to get out of harm’s way.) He seems to know an endless array of unexpected facts and anecdotes: “Homeboy knows everything. He’s a monster, ”says one of his drug dealers.
That’s about all you’ll know about Evan before Infinite begins to jump back and forth, by means of flashing lights and blurry compositions, between his current life and his past lives as Heinrich Treadway. In Evan’s most recent life in the 1980s (in which he is played by Dylan O’Brien), Treadway fought his former ally Bathurst (then played by Rupert Friend), who developed a device in the form of egg that could kill all of humanity. (It doesn’t matter how the thing works; none of the details in Infinite don’t think too much about it.) In the 1980s, Treadway hid the egg somewhere, and although the current version of himself has no memory of it, Bathurst (now played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is determined to remove it.
A Typical Moment of Confused History: One character tells Evan that Treadway was born in the 1750s. Another says that he and Treadway served together in the Punic Wars between the Romans and the Carthaginians. In the flashback, we see Evan / Treadway’s past lives as the aforementioned Japanese and Native men. Japanese samurai, as Treadway would have been, existed from the 12th century until the dissolution of the caste in the 19th century, when we all know what happened to Native Americans in the centuries after Christopher Columbus arrived in America. in 1492. Treadway really born? In what order were these lives lived? His name was always “Heinrich”? Show us the math!
Anyway. Infinite progresses with Bathurst in pursuit of Treadway as Evan tries to remember he even is Treadway, with the help of his fellow Infinites Bryan (Toby Jones), Nora (Sophie Cookson), Kovic (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson), Trace (Kae Alexander) and the Craftsman (Jason Mantzoukas). They put him in an MRI-type machine to unlock his memories. They teach him to fight. And they explain, at length, their mission to save humanity. Let’s be blunt here, they all seem to be doing a terrible job! Like Thanos, Orm in Aquaman, or Alan Moore’s original version of Doctor Manhattan, Bathurst is disappointed in humanity because he is selfish, destructive, and short-sighted, and his exhaustion is quite relatable!
There are a few bright spots in this casting: O’Brien uses these Labyrinth action skills to credibly wield a samurai sword, and when he jumps from a crashing car toward a construction crane, that might be the only thrilling scene in the movie. Mantzoukas does what looks like a spin of his Tick Tock Man character from John Wick : Chapitre 3 – Parabellum. But then there’s Wahlberg, who drags it all around with his harshness and flatness, and Cookson’s Nora is such a nullity she makes no impression. The only scene that inspires at least one absurd delight comes when Jones’s Bryan, who just got waterboarded with a pot of honey, and Ejiofor’s Bathurst, who just ordered that waterboarding after waterboarding. himself earlier in the movie as a sort of strength training yell in your face as to whether people are worth protecting. Play this clip in MOMA till the end of time because it’s art.
This (somewhat loose) adaptation of the 2009 novel The reincarnationist papers by D. Eric Maikranz was dumped by Paramount on its streaming service, Paramount Plus, after initially moving its theatrical release date to 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Infinite is so drab and so visually uninteresting that nothing valuable has been lost by this change in publishing strategy. Slow-motion shots of CGI bullets, drifting cars, murderous drones, and Wahlberg’s perpetually wrinkled forehead look as generic on a home TV as they do on a movie-sized screen. Whatever the stylistic flair of Antoine Fuqua who made Training day, king arthur, and gaucher once owned has since curdled.
But maybe no director could bring a movie to life with such a catastrophic storyline and such a superficial sense of their own world-building and inner mythology. Infinite looks like what we would get if Ridley Scott had given in to every interference studio note for Blade runner: all additional narration, plus all additional exposure, plus all the extra repetitive dialogue. It’s hard to discern which element of Ian Shorr’s screenplay or Todd Stein’s story is worse. Is it the fact of the first year philosophy that the immortal beings who are reincarnated in different bodies over and over again are divided into two warring factions called the “believers” and the “nihilists”? Does the movie play totally right that the “believing” Infinites really think they’ve improved life on Earth through their individual efforts over hundreds of years? (Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and that of Gina Prince-Bythewood The old guard both did a better job of examining the grief, regret, and exhaustion that immortal beneficent characters might have in the face of humanity’s lack of progress.)
Or is it the more mundane part of this movie is the fact that the main “Infinites” are almost exclusively white characters who have lived past lives as Asians and Natives, all of whom are reduced to characteristics that only emphasize the usefulness of their body? The Japanese man who knows how to make and wield a samurai sword. The native who knows how to fight. What memories have these characters given to someone like Treadway? What lived experiences, say, dead or hunted Native Americans would give the Infinites that would broaden their perspectives, challenge their preconceptions, or complicate their certainty that they could truly build a better world with just a few hundred overpowered people? Infinite doesn’t touch any of that, but it does make sure to include a coda that shows another of these whites being reborn as a Middle Eastern baby in a US-occupied war zone. Let me repeat, yuck. “I’m not crazy, okay? Just misunderstood, ”Wahlberg’s Evan said at one point. But a better explanation for Infinite would be inept.
Infinite communicated exclusively to Paramount Plus June 11.