- A moody, introspective meditation on feelings, war and the meaning of humanity
- A stylish, stylized visual exercise in light, shadow, color and geometry
- An action movie introducing the martial art of "gun kata" - hand-to-handgun combat achieving a maximum kill rate while avoiding return fire
In the Future, war, crime and aggression are eliminated by periodic doses of a mood-deadening drug, enforced by the Tetragrammaton. Christian Bale is a high-grade cleric of the Tetragrammaton who spends his time finding people who have stopped taking the drug and killing them with flamethrowers and gun kata. Since they have "feelings", these outlaws collect pretty and sentimental objects, like family photos or the Mona Lisa. These also get the flamethrower treatment.
Then one day, Bale fails to take his dose.
The plot is not an original one - see 1984, V for Vendetta, etc. The question is - how well is it carried out? Well, Ms. Spenser gave up on this instantly for the silly dichotomy between war and violence vs. medicated soul death. Neither human nature nor psychopharmacology work like that.
I'm a little more forgiving. I think Christian Bale does a fine job at showing no feelings whatsoever, and looks good in a high-collared frockcoat. The visual language isn't subtle (desaturated color when our hero is drugged, a warmer palette when he is "feeling", for example), but is well executed.
The action is great. There are gunfights, sword melees and a lovely setpiece with handguns at pointblank range. Each combatant must get his gun in position and fire, while trying to knock the opponents gun off target. My only complaint, there is not enough of it. More gun kata.
Director Wimmer used his gun kata ideas more extensively in Ultraviolet, a weaker movie, I think, but perhaps a more fun one.