On paper, Infinite sounds like a surefire winner. A loose adaptation of the 2009 novel The Reincarnationist Papers, written by author D. Eric Maikranz, Infinite melds Eastern beliefs of reincarnation with mind-bending Matrix-type sci-fi, the film focusing on a select group of individuals who can recall their past lives and use their memories to unlock their full potential. There’s the good side, ‘the Believers,’ who see their ability as a gift, and the evil side, ‘the Nihilists,’ who consider it a curse, the opposing factions locked in a centuries-old war. Sadly, filmmaker Antoine Fuqua, who re-teams with his Shooter (2007) star Mark Wahlberg, struggles to do anything fresh or novel with this interesting concept, instead delivering a stodgy action flick with very little under the surface.
Part The Old Guard (2020) and part The Matrix (1999), Infinite fails to match any of the works it’s imitating. Fuqua spends too much time on boring CGI-laden action and messy world-building, which makes the whole exercise feel like a wasted opportunity. Originally intended to be released theatrically in August 2020, Infinite’s been dumped on Paramount’s streaming service Paramount+, a sure sign that even with a hefty production budget, this one’s a bit of a stinker.
The movie opens in 1985 or ‘The Last Life,’ where a guy zooming around in a red Ferrari, who’s later identified as Heinrich Treadway (Dylan O’Brien), is carrying something of value known as ‘the Egg.’ After a glossy action sequence, where a bunch of Infinities are chased through the streets of Mexico City for the said item, Treadway’s comrades are blown to smithereens. Treadway, however, leaps out of his vehicle and survives, grabbing onto a crane on a bridge that’s under construction.
We then cut to New York City in ‘This Present Life,’ where we meet Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg), an average kinda guy who’s finding it hard to maintain a job because of his schizophrenia and violent tendencies. Born a little ‘different,’ Evan is plagued by strange visions, retaining odd bits of information from his dreams. Fortunately, Evan knows how to craft samurai swords, an ancient art he’s never actually learned yet has somehow mastered. After attempting to sell a hand-made katana to a gangster in exchange for antipsychotic meds to relax his mind, Evan is arrested and taken to the cop shop. There, he is interrogated by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a madman who’s trying to get information from Evan, playing Russian Roulette and even suggesting that the pair have known each other for centuries.
That’s when Nora Brightman (Sophie Cookson) bursts into the station with an armored vehicle and saves Evan (cue another chase sequence). It turns out that she’s an Infinite, a member of a secret group of immortals able to retain special skills from their former lives. Of course, Evan is an Infinite too; thus, Nora takes him to their secret hideout, The Hub, located in the mountains of Asia, where she promises to explain everything.
Once there, Nora tells Evan that she’s what’s known as a ‘Believer,’ their clandestine society made up of 500 people from across the globe. She goes on to explain that Evan hasn’t got schizophrenia as his visions are memories from his past life. You see, The Believers need Evan’s help to track down an item last seen in his possession, the Egg, a doomsday weapon their enemy Bathurst is searching for. Tired of being reborn over and over again, Bathurst wants the Egg to extinguish all life on earth, having made the weapon to close the cycle forever. Nora also informs Evan that he’s fought Bathurst before in different incarnations throughout time, with Bathurst being the leader of their rivals, the Nihilists. Although overwhelmed by the life-changing revelations, Evan agrees to join the Believers on their mission, allowing them to tap into his previous life as Treadway, the Infinite operative who was last seen with the Egg, igniting a race to find out where it’s now hidden.
Though Fuqua has had a decent track record of balancing character-driven drama with action — look at films like 2014’s The Equalizer — he seems to falter here. For a movie about immortality, Infinite does very little to unpack the subject matter, mainly the heavy burdens that’ll no doubt come with everlasting life. Honestly, I don’t see the point of it all! The script by Ian Shorr, Splinter (2008), and Todd Stein, 2:22 (2017), is way too focused on setup. It’s also fraught with gaping plot holes, the main one revolving around antagonist Bathurst. See, Bathurst has a weapon he calls The Dethroner, which, if hit by special bullets, will store an Infinite’s soul on a digital chip, in turn stopping it from jumping to another body. So, if Bathurst is that dead set on ending his reincarnation (he’s literally willing to destroy the entire world if that means preventing his eventual re-birth), why not just shoot himself with the Dethroner and be done with it? Furthermore, Fuqua is unable to tap into the story’s YA elements or make any of these characters feel remotely real. The screenplay gets melodramatic with a smoochy sub-plot about an earlier version of Nora (played by Joana Ribeiro) and her lover, Able (Tom Hughes), whom Treadway saw perish at the start of the film.
Mark Wahlberg looks bored throughout the entire movie, basically sleepwalking his way through his scenes, with Evan’s primary emotion being ‘confused.’ Fun fact: Chris Evans was initially set to play Evan, and I wonder whether that original casting would have made a major difference here. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 2012 (2009), delivers the best performance in the film as the egg-hunting baddie Bathurst, who looks as though he’s auditioning for the next Matrix trilogy (but, hey, at least he appears to be having a good time). And, while Sophie Cookson, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), certainly looks the part as the highly skilled Nora, she has the emotional depth of a neutral face emoji. Jason Mantzoukas, The House (2017), shows up as a ‘brain guy’ named Artisan, whom the team must visit in London to re-jig Evan’s memories, whilst it’s great to see Liz Carr get some work, playing a Professor X type of wheelchair-using superior known as Garrick. Toby Jones and Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson also appear as members of Nora’s group.
Fuqua cranks things into overdrive for the final act with a bunch of Fast and Furious hijinks that see our superhuman protagonist ride a motorcycle off a cliff then jump onto a plane to stop Bathurst; it’s all a bit weightless and ridiculous. This is the kind of film you’ll forget almost instantly. The only thing that’s interesting about Infinite is its potential for future installments — maybe a streaming movie or a telly series. Given that our protagonists literally jump from body to body, filmmakers are able to continue the brand with other actors and explore more stories at different points in time, i.e., an Infinite show set in the eighties with a totally new cast. There’s definitely potential here. However, given this vapid endeavor, I doubt anyone would want to re-visit this property again any time soon.
2 / 5 – Average
Reviewed by Dan Cachia (Mr. Movie)