Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Alas, Survivor is just a lame Milla Jovovich vehicle, not a Destiny’s Child biopic

The latest from director James “V For Vendetta” McTeigue is bunk of the very lowest level. (And, despite the title, not the biopic of Destiny’s Child for which the world has been clamoring.) Milla Jovovich stars as Kate Abbott, a genius foreign service officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy in London. She looks damn good riding a motorcycle, and she can smell a terrorist a mile distant. Something strikes her as especially off about Dr. Emil Balan (Roger Rees), an expert on gases (the jokes just write themselves) who’s recently applied for a visa to the United States. But many of Kate’s colleagues—who include Angela Bassett and Robert Forster, handsomely paid for their time, one hopes—think she’s overreacting.

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She’s not, of course. And Kate’s persistence soon lands her on the wrong side of the law, after a leering assassin known as the Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan) frames her for a bombing at a restaurant. (Note to self: Never order the pressed duck.) She goes on the run, both to prove her innocence and to thwart an attack on a major metropolitan city, one that promises to have many casualties.

Fans of Jovovich’s Resident Evil series know the pleasures inherent in watching her sprint hither and yon. That’s about the only thrill provided by Survivor: Jovovich is clearly having a blast tearing through back alleys, navigating abandoned subway tunnels, and ducking bullets of all calibers as she shows these city-destroying subversives who’s boss. Her enthusiasm isn’t infectious, however.

Despite the story’s globe-hopping nature, from a prologue in Kandahar to a New Year’s Eve finale in Times Square, the film always feels like it’s taking place on cheap, breakaway sets or in front of a head-to-toe green screen. There’s a helicopter crash early on that looks like a rejected Asylum studio effect, and later, McTeigue has the gall to include actual footage of the 9/11 attacks (Kate lost several of her friends in the World Trade Center), cheaply and insultingly straining for topical relevance.

Dylan McDermott tries to give some spark to the material as Kate’s direct superior, smitten both professionally and personally with his angular operative. (James Bond and M, they’re not.) Brosnan glowers his way through every scene (his anger doesn’t seem to be entirely character-related), while the rest of the cast merely shows up to toss off some exposition or scold others for breaking protocol. There’s never any doubt that Kate will triumph, nor that professionally trained hit men will consistently miss their target if it’s narratively convenient. Expect to see this tripe in the Target discount bin in no time.

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