Overbudget and behind schedule, BABYLON A.D. crept into theaters without a press screening. This never bodes well and this would-be epic lives up, or down, to that boding.
Vin Diesel stars as Toorop, a mercenary in the Russia of the not-too distant future. Not your typical mercenary, though. Sure, he’s tough, sure he’s intimidating, sure he takes no guff off anyone, but he also enjoys a good glass of wine with dinner in his hovel, and he says grace over that dinner. He’s not Russian, but having been put on a terrorist watch list, returning to America is not an option. At least not until he’s offered a job by Gorsky (a grotesque and whale-like Gerard Depardieu), deliver a young woman to New York and he will earn not only a monetary fee, but also a passport that will allow him to cross the border back into his home country. After the appropriate amount of snarling about having retired from this line of work, Toorop takes the job.
Thus ensues a 6000-mile trip through Mongolia, Siberia, and Canada with Aurora (Melanie Thierry) the wispy blonde naïf, and Sister Rebekah (Michelle Yeoh), the tough-as-nails Noelite nun who has watched over her since she was a baby. Sister Rebekah tells Toorop to watch his language, Toorop tells Sister Rebekah not to mess with him (he doesn’t use the word “mess”) and off they go. There is something odd about Aurora, aside from being an innocent, she has violent fits, and she has powerful connections, including the High Priestess (Charlotte Rampling) of the Noelites, a New Age religion pushing to become the dominant denomination worldwide.
It’s all terribly muddled, jumbled and oddly inert, considering the amount of things that explode and other things that go bang. Shoot-outs, chases, bad things that happen to bunnies and dogs notwithstanding, it has all the thrills and chills of a mud puddle and art direction to match. A chase through frozen wastes inadvertently evokes the wrong meaning of shushing. This is a derivative glimpse of a nihilistic, post-apocalyptic world full of refugees and teeming, overcrowded cities that’s been standard fare for thirty years or more. Even clever touches such as a road map that functions as a folding computer screen fails to enliven the proceedings. The pacing the leaden, the dialogue uninspired, and even Diesel, who can and does both menace and loom with a monumental sincerity, can’t save it. There isn’t a spark or a soupcon of originality in its 90-minute running time, and certainly no rhyme or reason to drag Toorop into the girl’s trip from the Mongolian convent to New York.
And then, as suddenly and as randomly as it began, BABYLON A.D. is over, leaving the audience to knit its collective brow and wonder how a film that exhibited so much sound and fury never quite got around to making its point.