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Dust of War
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by Jay Seaver

"Your standard post-apocalyptic desert wasteland."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: Even if this hadn't been a festival screening with a cast member on hand to confirm that it was more or less the case, I would have suspected that writer/director Andrew Knightlinger didn't have any specific sort of Apocalypse in mind for his post-apocalyptic action movie. It goes through certain motions ably enough, but is mostly memorable for some recognizable faces in secondary roles.

Things start out in fairly standard fashion - the whole world appears to be a desert (an alien invasion the cause this time around) with scattered villages, warlords, etc. Wanderer Abel (Steven Luke) is captured by General Chizum (Bates Wilder) and thrown in a cage with Ton Dixie (Gary Graham) and Ellie (Jordan McFadden), among others. But that's where he needs to be, as he and Tom are on a mission to rescue Ellie, since she's important to the aliens and human resistance for some reason or other.

They get out, of course, making their way to a village where Tom's friend Crispus (Tiny Todd) is the leader, and Chizum gives chase... And then the filmmakers pretty much run out of story. This isn't entirely unusual, but it seems rather flagrant here, with characters turning around to attack Chizum without even a second of debating over how the mission was to get Ellie to someplace away from Chizum, and they're about to do the opposite of that. Not that they have exactly been specific about what Ellie's deal is; the characters have called her a "harbinger", which means prophecy, which generally means "just because".

It would be nice if the movie was packed with so much action that there was no time to stop and ponder why all this was going on, but that is not quite the case. There's still a fair amount going on, though, although in the early going there are a lot of old chestnuts like crossing a minefield and stepping on one of the things or demonstrations of how Chizum is one of those who feels that terminating underperforming henchmen is more important than preserving bullets in a world with little apparent manufacturing capacity. As the movie moves into the home stretch, it gets a little more ambitious, with Knightlinger and his cast (working with minimal doubling) throwing themselves into it. You've also got to respect a crew that commits to an Indiana Jones-style car chase. It may not be the biggest one you'll see, but it's clear and looks relatively fast and dangerous, and that is the name of the game.

The cast plays that game well enough four this movie, although there's no doubt that they could be better. Steven Luke, for instance, manages to convey that Abel has been worn down by the world he lives in while still seeming kind of tough, but he never sells the audience on his being an exceptional warrior, even if the dialog makes the attempt. It allows Gary Graham to firmly grab co-lead status just by putting some energy into the kind of silly lines Knightlinger gives him (Tony Todd may receive top billing, but that speaks more to his agent's negotiating skills than what he does after his late appearance; Doug Jones earns an "and" credit for being fine in a similarly minor role). Jordan McFadden does well enough in a role that won't let her be anything specific, and Bates Wilder at least grunts and growls with enthusiasm as Chizum.

Wilder was at the screening and mentioned that Knightlinger does have ideas for where he'd take a sequel based on what we see in the last scene, but why? As much as he does squeeze a few good action beats out of a generic scenario, and how some of the actors who would return are fairly capable, there is nothing specific enough about this movie to make the audience want more. Or, really, even this much, when there's likely plenty of more creative things on the VOD menu.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26297&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/12/14 00:47:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/09/14 Bill Four is a number. Spelling 101 The cast plays that game well enough four this movie 1 stars
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  DVD: 17-Mar-2015



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