Prototype (UK DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Joe Cabatit, Mark Kelly, Michael Tylo, Natalie Thompson, Matt Ferrucci
Directed by Michael Reilly
Distributed by Scanbox Entertainment
Prototype is an uneven new entry in the angry-loner-gains-powers-and-seeks-violent-reprisal-against-his-enemies subgenre. The mostly forgotten 1989 angry-teen-with-a-laser-gun flick Deadly Weapon kept springing to mind as I watched Prototype. Again we have a troubled teen, Alex, one of those quiet religious guys wound so tight it’s only a matter of time before something sets them off. Again we have a state-of-the-art device that in the wrong hangs can prove destructive: experimental gloves created by a crippled scientist to help others like himself that when worn can move objects via electromagnetism controlled by mental telepathy. Give an unbalanced religious guy the ability to destroy and kill with a mere flick of the wrist and thought in the head, and you have a recipe for high-tech holy terror.
Given his circumstances I don't fully blame meek Alex for wanting some empowered payback. His dad is an alcoholic, gambling addict, physically abusive (Alex makes reference to his priest Father Bruce and dad slaps him to the ground barking, "He's not your father! I'm your father!") deadbeat only keeping him around to pay the bills. His boss is a hateful douchebag constantly mocking his religious beliefs and going out of his way to make him miserable by giving him the longest hours and most physically demanding jobs. Alex suspects his co-worker girlfriend is having an affair with his boss, and as it turns out, they're not having an affair yet, but she's very much working her way up to sleeping with the guy if it'll get her a promotion. That seems like sufficient reason to steal the telekinetic Nintendo Power Gloves and go on a killing spree.
While I definitely bought into Joe Cabitat's pent-up performance as acrimonious Alex, I believed him more as a potential Columbine kid in the making, not as religious fanatic with a God complex distilling Old Testament vengeance with psionic skater gloves.
Standing in Alex's way is a sheriff grappling with his own personal tribulations -- namely, his ex-wife is preparing to move far away with their son. Whenever the focus shifted to the sheriff's personal problems, I began to tune out. The guy is even wrestling with his own crisis of faith. Father Bruce will be there to provide him with spiritual guidance as they join forces to stop Alex.
Prototype contains almost as much religious discussion as C Me Dance, although where that film was outright fundamentalist Christian propaganda, Prototype is merely overwritten and makes the mistake of incessantly beating viewers over the head with its themes. I don't have an aversion to religious talk. I do have an aversion to inauthentic religious talk. A primo example of the script's need to overstate everything comes when the sheriff begins using his authority to harass the ex’s new husband and she accuses him of playing god. No, he's just abusing his power, but then the point is to make certain we comprehend the weak parallel being drawn between how he and Alex are on power trips for personal gain.
The miniscule budget unfortunately didn't allow for much hand of god mayhem, a pity because Prototype really could have benefited from a bit more action and fewer clunky and repetitive conversations.
Prototype also would have benefited greatly from an actual ending. The film just trails off anticlimactically into a wrap-up that feels like "To Be Continued..." should appear on the screen. Did the filmmakers think it would be more dramatic to conclude the film in this fashion? Was it a presumptuous idea designed to leave things open for a possible sequel? Did they just run out of money and were forced to wrap things up in a hurry without a culmination to their story? Is it a misguided metaphor for the ongoing struggle between good and evil? Whatever the reason it left a bad taste in my mouth. There's a difference between an open ending and a non-ending and that's what this is - a non-ending.
2 out of 5
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