S.I.N. TheoryReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 02/16/13 17:54:31
SCREENED AT THE 2013 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FEST: If the initials in "S.I.N. Theory" stand for anything specific, I don't believe it is revealed in the movie, which is too bad. They imply material that's more salacious and exciting than what's on screen, and the movie could have used a dash of sleaze to distract from its silly, dull attempt at a sci-fi thriller story.Dr. Michael Leimann (Jeremy Larter), we're told, is a brilliant mathematician. He teaches at a Toronto university where top students David (Farid Yazdani) and Evelyn (Allison Dawn Doiron) seem fond of him, but his real passion is a side project: An algorithm that can, with sufficient input, predict the actions of an individual, given enough input. Working on that got him fired, but with Evelyn's help, he completes it in his spare time - not only putting him on the to-do list of a hitman (Stephen Jacob Hogan), but also alerting him that Evelyn will die in two days.
Can we make it a rule that, before doing a film or other story that involves mathematically predicting the future in this way, the people involved should read Isaac Asimov's original Foundation trilogy? It's admittedly a big splash of cold water on the plot device, but sixty-odd years later, the idea that you can't apply the Seldon Plan to a single human being only fits what we know about math and human behavior better. Even if writer/director Richie Mitchell doesn't actually reference Asimov's "psychohistory" anywhere, he still seems to have some knowledge of the general principles, as they make their way into the dialogue, even though Michael's prediction algorithm works in opposition to them.
Admittedly, bad science and math doesn't bother many - but if a movie is going to have this sort of bad science, shouldn't it at least get some use out of it? Beyond vaguely setting up a bit of a time limit with Evelyn's predicted death, the ability to predict the future is not used in any interesting way. There's no predictions gone wrong because of incomplete information (and looking at the end, there damn well should have been!), no elaborate chase scenes or confrontations that occur in ways that would be impossibly convenient if not for the ability to predict events so precisely, no philosophizing on what this means for free will or figuring out how to beat the system. Just as soon as the computer program Leimann wrote would start to prove useful, it's made inaccessible, thus becoming a simple MacGuffin. Heck, that Michael and Evelyn may be getting inappropriately close for a professor and student (until this week) doesn't really contribute to the plot, and what could have been an interesting mystyer becomes a conservation-of-characters coincidence. It's like a concerted effort is made, as the film goes along, to remove every element that could make it individual and exciting and just make it a fight over who gets to keep a USB drive that could have anything on it.
With so little to work with, there's not much the cast can do to salvage things. Jeremy Larter is your average professor in early middle age, focused and a bit arrogant but still too much a conventional lead to actually let it rip with any sort of entertaining eccentricity. Allison Dawn Doiron at least makes a bit of an effort; there's a worried wiseass behind the glasses meant to signal that this pretty girl belongs in advanced math classes. Stephen Jacob Hogan occasionally seems to be playing against type as a nondescript (but sort of friendly-looking) assassin, but not much comes of it.
Mitchell opts to shoot the movie in black and white, and while it's not enough to give things the shadowy noir vibe he may be looking for, it's still a nice look. The movie is fairly short - 74 minutes - but still manages to drag at a few points. Some of them are particularly egregious, like when Leimann learns that Evelyn will die in two days - and then does pretty much nothing in the next few scenes, the sort of frustrating, why-are-you-doing-this? sequence that makes every other decision in the movie seem more questionable.The whole thing is a mess, really - vague villains, generic protagonists, and a seeming inability to harness the capabilities of what's on hand. There's room and apparent capability for many involved to improve, and this the sort of failure that winds up more bland than laughable, but it's still a failure.
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