Serena and the Ratts

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“Look what the RATTs dragged in…”

serenaA somewhat jumbled mix, this sounds like a film about a punk-rock band but certainly isn’t. It actually starts off playing as a WW2 version of The Terminator, then morphs in the middle to become a mongrel crossbreed of Leon and Nikita, more or less abandoning the whole time-travel aspect entirely. The reasons for this do eventually become clear, yet still leave you feeling like the first third of the film was an entire waste of effort. To begin in the middle, Serena (Marie, who as you can see from the left, even looks like early Anne Parillaud) is a young woman, plucked off the streets by the Boss (Thomson) and raised in his image to become an assassin. She and her boyfriend, Leonard (Neal) are given a very strange mission. A group of scientists have discovered how to manipulate the space-time continuum, allowing them to travel in time, and they have sent someone back to kill Hitler as a child. A counter-group, the RATTs – Researchers Against Time Travel – believe this will just make things worse i.e. allowing someone else, more competent, to rise instead, so through Boss, hire Serena and Leonard to kill the assassin. So how do you stop someone, when those behind them have the ability to control time itself, and counter every move?

By coincidence, I watched this the same week as Predestination, and that film demonstrates how time-travel, altering past effects and the resulting paradoxes, should be handled. Here, the film never gets a firm grasp on it, and nor does the budget allow for anything approaching the credible depiction of a previous era that is necessary. The performances are all over the place too, mostly under-emoted and flat, though there’s also the worst apparent attempt at a British accent I’ve heard in years: Dick Van Dyke snorts derisively from the corner. [Look, I know we make great villains and all, but if you don’t have someone who can do it properly, and the Britishness isn’t necessary to the plot, I have to wonder: why bother?] As noted, there’s a sudden switch in focus, and it’s quite jarring, although I suppose it kinda makes sense for a story (nominally) about time-travel to have a fractured structure. Here again though, it doesn’t add anything to the plot, and a more linear retelling might perhaps have allowed the makers to build more empathy with Serena.

It wouldn’t have impacted the plot much, since it’s only at the end, when the Boss does the whole “let me tell you the entire plan for no good reason” thing – a staple of movie characters since early Bond flicks – that it makes sense. However, please note the sharp distinction between “sense” and “compelling viewing”, since the latter is never even approached here. Technically sound, with some interesting camerawork and a decent soundtrack, this remains just marginally passable as entertainment, mostly thanks to a script in need of at least two more rewrites.

Dir: Kevin James Barry
Star: Evalena Marie, Jonathan Thomson, Dave Neal, Marek Tarlowski

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