Looking less like he's trying to save the planet than like he's fighting off a really bad hangover, Vin Diesel punches, shoots but ultimately dozes his way through the sloppy sci-fi actioner "Babylon A.D." A noisier, costlier version of "Children of Men," yet lacking that film's social-political significance and jaw-dropping direction, scribe-helmer Mathieu Kassovitz's heftiest production to date may also be his least successful effort to breach Hollywood's walls as a high-budget filmmaker. Released in France before it opens Aug. 29 Stateside in a version trimmed by about 10 minutes, "Babylon" will require plenty of prayers to reach B.O. paradise.
Adapted from French writer Maurice G. Dantec's 700-plus-page "Babylon Babies," pic strips the book of its weightier material -- which includes an analysis of post-Soviet conflict strategy and a philosophical take on cybernetic bio-engineering -- and leaves only the threadbare plot.
After a (literally) eye-catching sequence that shows early signs of the CGI action to come, pic flashes back a week earlier to war-rattled "New Serbia," where gun-for-hire Toorop (Diesel) sits out the fighting in a boarded-up apartment. Dressed like a frat boy heading for an early morning class and showing just as much conviction, he barely reacts when a SWAT team busts in to bring him to Gorsky (Gerard Depardieu, sporting an unnecessary prosthetic nose), a Russian mafioso offering a sizeable payoff if Toorop delivers a special package to New York.
The package in question is a mysterious blonde nymph, Aurora (Melanie Thierry), who's been hidden away in a convent under the protection of Sister Rebecca (Michelle Yeoh). Instead of inquiring why Aurora is worth the hefty price of border smuggling, Toorop shrugs off any serious questioning, unsuccessfully tries to light a cigarette (a gag repeated throughout), and the three set off.
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