Antoine Fuqua's a consistent filmmaker who's made an inconsistent movie with the Mark Wahlberg sci-fi/action vehicle "Infinite."
Director Antoine Fuqua is a consistent filmmaker – never great, but consistently good. He feels like the diet soda or light beer version of Tony Scott.
Much like Scott, Fuqua consistently works with the same actors – four movies with Denzel Washington (another Scott connection!), four movies with Ethan Hawke (including the upcoming “The Guilty”), one movie with Jake Gyllenhaal with another on the way (the aforementioned “The Guilty”), one movie and an impending Amazon Prime television series “The Terminal List” with Chris Pratt.
Also like Scott, Fuqua consistently works with the same crew – composer Harry Gregson-Williams (four movies), cinematographer Mauro Fiore (six movies) and editor Conrad Buff (six movies). Humorously enough, Gregson-Williams also scored seven Scott movies.
“Infinite” (now streaming on Paramount+) is the second pairing between Fuqua and Mark Wahlberg 14 years after shooting “Shooter.” Rumor has it the duo was peeved when the flick was jettisoned to the fledgling streamer as opposed to getting a theatrical release. They should probably be thankful. The movie adds inconsistency to Fuqua’s consistent filmography. It’s among the worst things he’s made alongside the likes of “King Arthur,” “The Replacement Killers” and “Tears of the Sun” (the absolute nadir of Fuqua’s career).
Wahlberg stars as Evan McCauley, a supposedly schizophrenic man with a sordid past. Quizzically, he can forge samurai swords like he’s Hattori Hanzō (who’s actually namechecked here), which he barters to drug dealer O-Dog (Nabil Elouahabi) for pills so as to keep doctors out of the mix. As it turns out, Evan’s the latest incarnation of a soul that’s been around for centuries.
The soul’s previous vessel was Heinrich Treadway (Dylan O’Brien), who opens the picture driving a cherry red Ferrari through a Mexico City-set car chase (a highlight of the movie despite the presence of a cheesily-rendered phantom brick that finds its way through not one but two police cruiser windshields). Heinrich and by extension Evan are Infinites, i.e. people who have the ability to remember their past lives. Heinrich fully realized his abilities; Evan has yet to. The Infinites are broken into two factions: Believers (folks looking to use their accumulated knowledge to better humanity) and Nihilists (folks who are sick of being reincarnated and wish to end humanity as a result). Every time the Nihilists are namechecked I kept thinking, “We believe in nothing, Lebowski. Nothing …”
The Believers are led by Porter (Toby Jones); the Nihilists by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Bathurst brandishes a “Dethroner gun,” which indefinitely uploads an Infinite’s memories to a wall of hard drives. If Bathurst is so damned miserable why doesn’t he just up and murder-suicide himself and his whole damned squad? Alas Bathurst is no Chris Benoit, so he opts instead to procure a world-ending, egg-shaped artifact. An Egg McGuffin is apropos for this fast food filmmaking.
Believers Nora (Sophie Cookson of the “Kingsman” franchise) and guyliner-sporting party animal Artisan (ace comedic character actor Jason Mantzoukas) aid Evan in unlocking his powers and keeping The Egg (not a big green one) outta Bathurst’s clutches.
“Infinite” is a mishmash of other, better movies (“Highlander,” “The Matrix,” “The Old Guard” – the last of which also co-starred Ejiofor). The first half of it is hella boring aside from the Mexico City car chase. (I actually fell asleep for 15 minutes at the 45-minute mark and had to rewind.) The picture picks up its pace in the back half, but it’s still dumber than dumb. The script by Ian Shorr (based on D. Erik Maikranz’s 2009 self-published novel “The Reincartionist Papers”) is nonsensical. The material might’ve been elevated if Wahlberg weren’t miscast and Ejiofor weren’t so obnoxiously over-the-top. O’Brien, Cookson (who actually gets the best action beat) and Mantzoukas come across better, but should’ve been given more to do.
Chris Evans was initially cast as Evan and would’ve been a better fit for the role IMHO, though the film itself likely wouldn’t have been good for his career. Wahlberg’s incessant narration makes Harrison Ford’s voiceover in “Blade Runner” seem like the height of oration. It sounds a good deal like the interviews Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler gave in the documentary-within-a-movie in “Boogie Nights.” I buy Wahlberg as a 1970s porn star, a dim soldier (“Three Kings”), a foul-mouthed Boston cop (“The Departed”) or a hardscrabble boxer (“The Fighter”). I don’t buy him as Evan McCauley – even if Wahlberg’s decent with the action despite looking absolutely ridiculous sporting a samurai sword. The only time I believed Wahlberg as Evan was when he exclaimed, “I don’t even know what that means!” Having Wahlberg and O’Brien switch roles might’ve also worked – it could’ve been an action hero passing of the torch of sorts.
There’s a moment where Jones’ Porter – strangely spewing honey from the mouth – asserts, “Blah, blah, blah … faith!” That’s “Infinite” in a nutshell – very little rah rah and plenty of blah blah. Audiences would be better served by watching/revisiting “Shooter” or “The Old Guard.” I have faith in Fuqua and Wahlberg. I don’t have faith in “Infinite” as it’s inconsistent.