By being dubbed a “Sci-Fi Channel Planetary Premiere,” telefilm may scare off some viewers who interpret the moniker as left-field science fiction. But scripter D. Brent Mote has created a fast-moving thriller, backed by the action direction skills of Craig Baxley. The result is a story that rises above similar offerings of the genre and should hold viewer interest to the final beat.
When tough-as-nails private eye Joe Keyes (Michael Biehn) is asked to find a missing scientist, he steps into a web of deceit and intrigue that ultimately lands him in the middle of a pair of homicides as the prime suspect.
Add to the mix his being pursued by cops and bad guys as he protects the source of a newly discovered molecular protein that uncovers the near-term advantages of DNA manipulation,and the story has more twists and turns than Malibu Canyon.
Yet telefilm never bogs down in technical jargon, and Baxley — a second-unit director vet with strong stunt ties — keeps the action brisk and effectively germane to the story.
The search for “Deep Red”– explained by the scientist Warren Rickman’s wife, Helen (Lisa Collins), as a molecular protein machine capable of refreshing the cells of the body — pits Keyes against Dr. Thomas Newmeyer (John de Lancie) and his henchmen.
Cool, calm and calculating, Newmeyer, Rickman’s former employer, orchestrates the killings that implicate Keyes, thrusting another set of pursuers — the cops — at the low-rent shamus.
The story flies in often unexpected directions. The revelation that one of the characters has one of the deep red cells — sought by Newmeyer since it offers perpetual rejuvenation — gives the plot another twist and explains the films’s opening shot an hour after it occurs.
The city’s grit and grime are effectively captured by production designer Garreth Stover and director of photography Joao Fernandes, with the expectedfluorescent lighting and lab coats typically found in sci-fi films thankfully kept far from the production.
The only weakness is the ending, an off-into-the-sunset scene with several key characters, but it is a shortcoming easy to overlook, and opens things up for the inevitable sequel.