“Well, I guess it’ll do until Neuromancer shows up.”
In a dark, grim future, Michelle (Ling) is an assassin, taking out DNA hackers for pay. However, her income is drained as fast as she earns it by her Jackie (Shen), her brother, who has a gambling addiction. To try and pay off his mob debts, he breaks into the apartment of their next-door neighbour, Christian (Newman), a renegade DNA hacker himself, and steals a device on which he was working. The “transcoder” can take a subject’s DNA and, more or less, rewrite it, thereby having the potential to end disease – yet it could also be turned into an enormously destructive weapon. Needless to say, when word gets out that Jackie has this device, everyone wants to get their hands on it.
I liked the visual style, even if it’s so Blade Runner, that Ridley Scott should be cut a fat cheque for its use. And Bai Ling may be in her forties, but is still capable of kicking ass in an impressively competent (and occasionally hyper-bloody) manner: witness the way she disposes of a bunch of evil minions, surrounding her, guns pointed, in about two seconds flat. Let’s just say, Cleric Preston would be impressed. Throw in some impressive industrial beats – VNV Nation leader Ronan Harris provided additional music – and you’ve got something that, at its best, is a very nice slab of cyberpunk.
However, the weaknesses are both severe and obvious. The plotting is clunky and muddied: it’s based on a comic-book (The DNA Hacker Chronicles), but some apparently important points are not explained, while others that appear important are never mentioned again. Jackie is also incredibly annoying; it wasn’t long before Chris and I were wishing a rapid death on this entirely unlikeable jackass. If the film-makers had been wise enough to find another, entirely separate way of bringing Michelle and the transcoder together, we’d have been a great deal happier.
The negatives and positives operate in sharp contrast to each other: the good stuff is really very good, but the bad moments are on the “root canal” level. The unevenness left us with a sense of wasted opportunity; the elements were there for something with definite cult-classic potential. However, they simply succeed in making the failings all the more obvious.
Dir: Pearry Teo
Star: Bai Ling, Parry Shen, Alec Newman, Michael Shamus Wiles