TBS martial arts actioner “Invincible” starts strongly, promises much and delivers little. It’s a movie that markets itself as a kung-fu pic, but is so determined to be spiritually meaningful, and is so puerile in its sensibility, that lead Billy Zane is more self-help guru Tony Robbins than Bruce Lee. If the ensemble would just shut up and fight, pic would be bearable, but even when they do battle at the end it’s pretty underwhelming.
Zane play Os, a bad guy who in the opening moments gets converted to good guy when he’s touched, in by far the best-choreographed sequence, by the legendary, translucent White Warrior. Where before Os wanted to assist buddy Slate (David Field) in destroying the earth and freeing his fellow Shadowmen, now he’s so filled with love for all living things that he sets out to stop Slate.
From here, “Invincible” moves into a strange mishmash of “X-Men” and TV’s “Kung Fu” as Os recruits some superevolved humans who are predestined to do battle with Slate. Each represents an element: fire, water, air and metal. They also conveniently represent a demographic and a character stereotype. There’s Asian-American Michael Fu (Byron Mann), sexy tough gal Serena Blue (Stacy Oversier), and just plain sexy Australian Ray Jackson (Tory Kittles) (the film was shot Down Under and exec produced by Mel Gibson in collaboration with Jet Li). Finally, and most annoyingly, there’s Keith Grady (Dominic Purcell), the angry black man whose “fire” needs taming.
Each member of this invincible lot is given a stupid backstory revealed in a sequence where Slate enters their dreams in an attempt to corrupt them. And each comes across as little more than a prototype for a plastic action figure. Storywise, they have to learn to work together, under Os’ tutelage, or risk apocalypse.
Director Jefery Levy (“Inside Monkey Zetterland,” TV’s “Dark Angel”), production designer Michelle McGahey and director of photography John Stokes (who filmed the nonaction sequences) give this TBS telepic a lush, glossy look. But Levy and Zane take this all way too seriously, which keeps them from hitting the right corny notes when they’re called for in the screenplay, on which Levy collaborated with Michael Brandt and Derek Haas.
Editor Keith Salmon tries hard to keep up the energy when the script lags, which is through much of the film, but the fast-paced cutting gets tired. The biggest problem by far, though, is that the editing has to compensate for the weak action scenes. Hong Kong fight choreographer Tony Siu-Tung Ching has done great work in the past (his credits include John Woo’s “The Killer”), but he either doesn’t have enough to work with or wasn’t given enough time. There’s about a minute of fun fighting in “Invincible,” another minute of relatively bland wirework and the rest is tripe.