Antoine Fuqua directs Mark Wahlberg in a tired load of action nonsense.
The action genre has a special built-in cheat code where the movie can be so stupid that it becomes a fun experience. There’re also action films like Antoine Fuqua’s Infinite, streaming on Paramount Plus this month, which is idiotic on a level that’s so extreme it becomes a chore to watch.
Evan McCauley (played by a bored-looking Mark Wahlberg) wakes up from a “dream” involving a man in a high-speed chase. He drives his shiny red sports car over a bridge, opens the car door in midair while it’s spinning in circles, and proceeds to throw a samurai sword into the side of a construction crane. He then leaps out of the car, still spinning in midair, and safely grabs onto the samurai sword handle without breaking a sweat. Thanks to the exposition dump narration opening the film, we know this isn’t a dream but a memory from Evan’s previous life.
He’s what they call an Infinite. Someone who can remember all their past lives, including the sword fighting and gun shooting expertise they learned over the centuries. To make things sillier, this group has splintered into two camps: the bad guys are called Nihilists who want to destroy humanity for vague reasons, and the Believers who think they should use their power to make the world a better place. They’re both after a dangerous piece of machinery called “The Egg” which destroys the DNA in every living specimen, putting a stop to the whole reincarnation thing. You can call it an Egg MacGuffin.
The villain trying to get his hands on the Egg MacGuffin is the bald and bearded Theodore “Ted” Murray (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who likes to get waterboarded for funsies and carries a terrifying weapon called “The Dethroner.” It uses special bullets to extract a person’s consciousness, which he then uploads into a hard drive so they can no longer be reborn. He’s a character that allows Ejiofor to chew the scenery like he’s in a hot dog eating contest. It’s appreciated in a movie so out of control, but his over-the-top choice of vocal patterns and wild eye acting comes off more like a Raul Julia impression.
Fuqua’s made a career out of being a capable action director, but here he’s grasping at different, superior action films without getting a handle on what makes them work. There’s the “forgotten memory” aspect from the Bourne series, where Jason Bourne slowly remembers he’s an expertly trained killing machine. But instead of being ahead of the audience, here we’re already miles in front of Wahlberg’s character by the time he’s fighting off attackers with a samurai sword. We’re not experiencing the discovery with him as we do with Bourne. Instead, we’re looking at our phones, waiting for him to catch up to us.
There are also several car chase sequences that reach for the Fast and Furious level of awe-inspiring stunt work, only to fall flat by being incoherent and badly choreographed, like with a chase through a police station that makes no sense even when compared to a franchise where cars are used to steal a bank vault. Not to mention there’s an attempt to replicate the intricate assassin mythology that deepens the John Wick series, but the convoluted “Infinites” mythology concerning a centuries-long rivalry between people who are good at reincarnation, and the faux philosophy about good and evil that comes with it, is more mind-numbing than enriching. It doesn’t heighten any stakes or make us care about what happens, even though we’re constantly told that the fate of humanity is on the line.
Infinity was originally scheduled to be dumped in theaters in August of 2020, but after reshuffling due to COVID-19, it’s now being sent directly to streaming. It could be a troubling sign that a Mark Wahlberg action film directed by Antoine Fuqua can’t get on the big screen, even in the garbage time that is August, but their past collaborations were never this broken. We desperately need more original, high-concept action films, and kudos to Fuqua for attempting. But the script needed to go through a few different lifetimes before being ready for production.
Infinite is now available on Paramount+.