EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|AVALON (director: Mamori Oshii ; screenwriter: Kazunori Ito; cinematographer: Grzegorz Kedzierski; music: Kenji Kawai; cast: Malgorzata Foremniak (Ash), Dariusz Biskupski (Bishop), Bartek Swiderski (Stunner), Jerzy Gudejko (Murphy), Wladyslaw Kowalski (Game Master); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Atsushi Kubo; Miramax; 2001-Japan-in Polish with English subtitles)|
techno thriller is more boring than thrilling."
by Dennis Schwartz
Japanese animator Mamori Oshii ("Ghost in the
Shell"/"Assault Girls"/"Angel's Egg") helms one of his
rare live-action films. Kazunori Ito pens this
lethal near-futuristic military video gamer sci-fi
film, that was shot in the bleak war-torn landscape of
Poland with an all Polish cast (the language spoken is
Polish) while the film crew are all Asians. The techno
thriller is more boring than thrilling and its pacing
is listless, though its visuals are stunning, its CG
special effects are indeed special, its high-concept
philosophical ideas are mildly engaging and its stolen
concepts from The Matrix are somewhat enticing (even
if not original).
reality gaming is illegal in this nameless Eastern
bloc country, but is pursued by desperate youth,
mostly in teams, as they are looking for an escape
from their grim reality. The war game was founded by
the "Nine Sisters" and is named Avalon, after the
legendary ancient island from the Arthurian myths.
It's played in a cyberpunk wasteland. One of the
best at it is the
fierce loner woman warrior Ash (Malgorzata
Foremniak), living alone with her pet dog, who is
ready to advance onto the next solo level. After Ash
learns from former
team member, Stunner (Bartek Swiderski), that former
game master Murphy (Jerzy Gudejko) went solo and
vanished to become 'unreturned', brain-dead and
comatose in a hospital. Nevertheless the brave
warrior seeks out that Class A spot despite her one
flaw that she is rumored to have pushed the 'reset'
button--a gamer no-no. As the neutral game
master (Wladyslaw Kowalski)
explains, once admitted access to Special A there's
no exit--you either win or lose. How Ash advances to
that level of higher consciousness keeps us in
suspense until the climax.
My problem is that I never cared about the
outcome, as I found the whole gaming film experience
a bit of a drag. I was also dismayed by its
unfinished ending, where its thematic message is
spelled out to mean 'reality is what we choose to
believe.' I thought that was hardly earth-shattering
REVIEWED ON 6/18/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ