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When I’m telling the story of my life to my grandkids, it is highly probable I’ll leave out the time I watched a movie for the twenty seconds Jessica Alba was in it.  Where does that rate on the Moments I’m Not Proud Of scale?  Maybe a little better than the week one thinks was probably spent in a Taiwanese crack den, but can’t really remember.  And a little worse than realizing the total hours spent on Guitar Hero may have reached triple digits.

The story (by Leora Barish and Henry Bean (the team behind, um, Basic Instinct 2)) is actually kind of interesting.  Taking place in the near future, there’s an island just off the coast (some generic coast of some generic city) that has been turned into a prison.  When the prisoners revolt, taking the guards and their families hostage, the (evil, naturally) corporation running the jail decides the best response is to just forget the place ever existed.  Now fast forward about twenty years.  Three people on the island jail manage to escape.  Two make it to civilization.  One of whom is the lovely Audie England (the clip below is from some movie called Free Enterprise, but rates decently on the unintentional comedy scale):

Through some deus ex machina, she ends up with a sweet crib and a job waitressing at a bar.  But at the same time, the corporation, determined to continue covering up what happened at the island, begins a hunt for the escapees.  For reasons not entirely clear, the mayor appears to be tied up in the mess.  And the only person entrusted to undertake the manhunt is someone in the town’s prison (Billy Wirth).

Anyway, Wirth is promised his freedom if he finds the escapees.  It isn’t long before he starts circling Audie England.  Now, the rest of the plot more or less follows your standard thriller format.  Wirth falls for England, the other escapee strongarms England, she leads Wirth to him, and there’s a climactic four way shootout with the three of them and someone from the corporation, as Wirth struggles to figure out what he thinks is the right thing to do.

Well, a standard plot with three exceptions.  Wirth and England actually first meet in this totally insane virtual reality world.  The basic idea behind the world is you put on glasses, describe how you want to look, and then have any sort of wild and/or kinky sex with an anonymous stranger you desire.  Wirth and England choose the scenario which takes place on a train, and which inevitably starts with them (or, at least, different actors playing romance novel versions of them) staring at each other and then walking slowly toward the same room.  It felt like ten minutes of the movie is devoted to this kind of odd and incredibly boring footage.

Second, Morgan Fairchild has an inexplicable cameo as the owner of the bar where England works.  I think she’s tied into the whole corporation coverup thing, but really, it is just a cheap excuse to be able to put her on the cover of the DVD box.  And third, the ending actually turns out to be a little discordant with the rest of the movie.

I actually think the story would make for an interesting tv show.  Something J.J. Abrams-ish, light futuristic sci-fi, nebulous corporation pulling strings, that jail on the island could be a source of new characters / counterpoint to the society on the mainland, you could soup up the virtual reality angle.  To me, shoehorning the ideas into a movie forced them into something substandard.

Leora Barish’s script is awkward, to be kind.  Explanations for why things happen are optional, apparently.  In a similar vein, the flow of the movie feels off as it jumps from scene to scene, offering little in the way of solid connections.  Not that I’m saying there’s an issue with believability, since we all know that isn’t my schtick, more than the movie seems to be in such a hurry to get to the next plot point, the film sometimes glosses over how it got there.  It is also incredibly jarring that once the people escape from the jail island, we never revisit the place.  I’m fine with the film making some sort of point about it, but then I think there needs to at least be an implicit reference to the fact that everyone is cool with leaving every to continue fending for themselves on the island, a place where there is no food, and a new generation of people are being born in captivity.

Oh, and yeah, the twenty second flashback Jessica Alba is in?  She’s an age more appropriate for Brian.  And has like one line.  Good times.

The trailer (couldn’t find an embeddable one) is worth watching if you don’t plan on seeing the movie, because it lies and give away most of the ending.

July 2008