Preview: Mutant Chronicles, Sci-Fi Shlock Starring ... John Malkovich?

Preview Mutant Chronicles

At first look, Mutant Chronicles seems pretty run of the mill: a low-budge sci-fi movie based on a role-playing game. But then look at the cast . Thomas Jane ? He might not be a household name, but he can actually act -- watch him in Boogie Nights , especially his deleted scenes. He was even decent in the next-to-last Punisher bomb. Still, nothing we haven't seen before, a mid-level actor taking a bad action film to pay the rent. Ron Perlman , of Hellboy and The City of Lost Children ? Come on, he won a Golden Globe! But fine, he usually has to pile on the prosthetics to get a role, and here he's going Full Perlman.

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But John Malkovich ? Dangerous Liaisons John Malkovich? Being John Malkovich John Malkovich? He's been nominated for two Oscars, and is on pretty much everyone's short list of the best actors around. And even with names like those, Mutant Chronicles is going straight to video-on-demand on March 27 -- not even DVD! -- with a limited theatrical release a month later.

Loosely based on the pen-and-paper RPG, the movie's set in a steam-punky 28th century, and earth is dominated by four warring corporations. When an ancient seal is broken in the fighting, an army of 'NecroMutants' is unleashed and overruns humanity. When the survivors are about to abandon the planet, a priest (that'd be Perlman) sets up an A-Team-style commando force to go after the machine that's churning out mutants. It even sounds like an old-fashioned RPG, with a monk and a soldier and a woman with a sword (do they get +1 hotness for Devon Aoki ?). And that's probably not a good thing.

Visually it looks a bit like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow , heavy on the blue screen and almost black and white, and it relies so much on almost total darkness that you have to think the effects probably aren't up to par.

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It's already been screened in Europe, and the response has been pretty poor. But could it be a case of being so bad it's good? Do Perlman and Malkovich know something we don't, that they're in on the ground floor of a cult classic-to-be? Maybe it's the next Showgirls , with more stuff blowing up.

Sci-fi mutant-killing warrior-monk fans can hope. But remember, Sir Ben Kingsley was in Uwe Boll 's atrocious video-game movie BloodRayne . And it's no cult classic.