If you follow the gloomy long-running series known as the news over the past 12 months, you will likely find Freddie Hutton-Mills and Bart Ruspoli’s Genesis rich for political pickings. Class wars, chemical attacks, killer robots – they all appear here. The murderous machine in this case, however, is no self-driving taxi. Instead, it is the android ABEL (Chiké Okonkwo) who has been created by Dr. Eve Grabriel (Olivia Grant) as humanity’s last hope. ABEL is tasked with collecting food rations to save the underground complex known as Eden, but quickly gets other ideas.
There are more biblical references that you can shake a sacred text at here. The main idea is that ABEL is the product of mankind’s failures and represents their punishment. The problem is it never gets to explore this interesting idea in enough detail, because the film gets distracted by its numerous sub-plots. These mostly involve Paul Brooks (John Hannah) trying to keep his fellow oppressed citizens from holding an all-out riot. Hannah is one of the good things to be had here – someone who is easy to sympathise with and the only real ‘hero’ of the story. His troubles, however, detract from the main story which, halfway through in particular, feels a little bit shelved.
Maybe this is for the best. ABEL is rather dull – more automated traffic warden than Robocop. Okonkwo does his best but is given barely anything to work with, his early interactions with Dr. Gabriel being the only flashes of something that goes beyond blank stares. His creator, on the other hand, is far more fleshed out. Gabriel’s reaction to a sort-of big revelation is pulled off beautifully by Grant; her eyes are full of tragedy and sadness even if on the outside she seems remarkably calm.
This is when Genesis starts to get distinct Blade Runner vibes and is also when it is most watchable. Either side of this moment features some general scene-setting or paranoia boiling over. Tension is used instead of all-out action, but it is hardly on a knife-edge. You never experience the furore that Hutton-Mills and Ruspoli try to whip you into. Its political commentary would feel more significant were it not for the certain engineering marvel who is meant to be centre stage. It's engaging, but with misguided priorities.
Genesis often feels like a badly-stitched collage of other sci-fi movies, and while that can often still make for decent entertainment for anyone who likes that kind of thing, Grant and Hannah aside, this is an unremarkable effort.
GENESIS / RATING:15 / DIRECTORS: FREDDIE HUTTON-MILLS & BART RUSPOLI / SCREENPLAY: FREDDIE HUTTON-MILLS & BART RUSPOLI / STARRING: OLIVIA GRANT, CHIKÉ OKONKWO, JOHN HANNAH, WARREN BROWN, ED STOPPARD / RELEASE DATE: JULY 16TH 2018