Review: ‘One Point O’

Dreary techno-thriller in need of an upgrade stitches together images and ideas lifted from George Orwell, "Matrix" and films by David Cronenberg, only to end up with a Frankenstein monster of a movie. Feature debut of writers-directors Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson will be coming to videostores and cable channels faster than you can say "reboot."

A dreary techno-thriller in need of an upgrade, Sundance competitor “One Point O” frantically stitches together images and ideas lifted from George Orwell, “The Matrix” and films by David Cronenberg, only to end up with a haphazard Frankenstein monster of a movie. The feature debut of writers-directors Jeff Renfroe and Marteinn Thorsson, hopelessly overstylized pic takes its sweet time to convey a banal message about the loss of privacy at the hands of technology and corporate propaganda. Pic will be coming to videostores and cable channels near you faster than you can say “reboot.”

“One Point O” was co-produced by and stars intense young actor Jeremy Sisto as Simon J, a computer programmer whose solitary existence is thrown into disarray when he begins receiving a series of anonymous packages — plain brown boxes that show up on the inside of Simon’s locked apartment door and which, when opened, are found to be empty. Even stranger, Simon finds himself besieged with the sudden urge to buy up all the containers of a certain brand of milk from his local grocery store. And he doesn’t even like milk!

So, a tired series of paranoid-conspiracy machinations is set into place to ponder whether Simon has stumbled on to some sinister, mind-control plot or is, simply, flat-out crazy.

Renfroe and Thorsson serve up one red-herring non sequitur after another, as Simon methodically interrogates the various denizens of his apartment building, any one (or perhaps every one) of whom may be out to get him. Since this is also one of those movies that equates “set in the not too distant future” with “set in a gloomy, vaguely noirish landscape where each character is more desperate and depraved than the next,” Sisto’s neighbors turn out to be a parade of end-of-their-rope wackos.

Among them: an underground club owner (snarling Bruce Payne) who is also the inventor of a virtual-reality sex game; a seemingly omniscient building superintendent (Lance Henriksen); and an effete German tinkerer (Udo Kier, vamping it to the hilt) who insists on referring to a detached robotic head as his “son.” Somehow, pic also finds room for Deborah Unger, cast as Sisto’s sort-of love interest.

Unlike Tim McCann’s fine, too-little-seen 2001 pic “Revolution #9,” in which a seemingly well-adjusted New Yorker comes to believe that a series of TV perfume commercials were speaking directly to him, “One Point O” fails to invest viewers in the plight of its central character.

Two decades ago, in “Videodrome,” Cronenberg wittily shook his finger at television, before more recently casting his net over the dis-information superhighway in “Existenz.” But in the intentionally abstracted future of Renfroe and Thorsson, there are no reference points, no real sense of what’s at stake or why viewers should care about it. Moreover, pic has nothing even approximating an adequate sense of humor about itself (even considering the flamboyant contributions of Kier and Henriksen).

Adding this turn to perfs in David Fincher’s “The Game” and last year’s Sundance entry “Fear X,” Unger has established something of a cottage industry in playing the object of desire at the center of her leading men’s potentially delusional obsessions.

Pic sports a high-end look, courtesy of cinematographer Christopher Soos and production designer Eggert Ketilsson, though the design ideas are nearly a parody of themselves: an apartment building that is all flickering bulbs and pea-soup haze and an antiseptic grocery store so white-hot with fluorescent light that it seems to have walked in from “One Hour Photo.”

One Point O

Production

An Armada Pictures Intl. presentation in association with Hakuhodo and Twin Co. of a VIP Medienfonds 2/ZentAmerica Entertainment/Armada Pictures production. Produced by R D Robb, Kyle Gates, Thomas Mai. Executive producers, Matthew Milich, Chris Sievernich, Andy Grosch, Andreas Schmid. Co-producers, Jeremy Sisto, Padaric Aubrey, Yoshimitsu Yoshitsuru, Hiro Fujisaki, Kim Hea Ok. Directed, written by Jeff Renfroe, Marteinn Thorsson.

Crew

Camera (CFI/Technicolor), Christopher Soos; editors, Troy Takaki, Daniel Sadler; music, Terry Michael Huud; production designer, Eggert Ketilsson; art directors, Ioana Corciova, Cristian Corvin; set decorator, Carmen Pasula; costume designer, Maria Valles; sound (Dolby Digital), Andrei Constantinescu; sound designer, Brad North; visual effects supervisor, Dale Tanguay; assistant directors, Ingrid Cristea, Lari Maronese; casting, Carmen Cuba. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 18, 2004. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Simon - Jeremy Sisto Trish - Deborah Unger Neighbor - Bruce Payne Nile - Eugene Byrd Alice - Ana Maria Popa Howard - Lance Henriksen Derrick - Udo Kier
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