The future sucks yet again in sci-fi actioner “The Gene Generation.” The feature debut for writer-helmer Pearry Reginald Teo, who attracted some fan notice with prior shorts, stars Bai Ling as a kick-fighting professional assassin pulled into intrigue involving DNA manipulation technologies run amuck. Looking good on a modest budget, the pic offers more eye candy than story involvement, and the dystopian setting has a familiar B-movie feel. Still, it moves fast and will divert fantasy buffs in home formats.
Prologue has Faye Dunaway as a scientist whose breakthrough discovery can cure disease and heal wounds in seconds — but it also leads to disastrous genetic mutations that soon claim her and myriad others. (Thus, after a couple minutes, the veteran thesp becomes a disembodied voice issuing from a slithering mass of wormy tentacles.) Anyone who can gets the hell outta Olympia, leaving it the usual sci-fi urban slum of punky strippers and criminal types.
It’s the job of nail-tough Michelle (Ling) to off DNA hackers who steal other people’s identities (while infecting them with the worm-making stuff) in order to get an exit visa. When her ne’er-do-well brother (Parry Shen) steals a “transcoder” of unknown significance, both sibs are soon up to their necks in peril. Alec Newman plays a surviving do-gooder scientist who also also serves as narrator and the heroine’s potential love interest.
This is the kind of sci-fi movie whose atmosphere could be described as “Mad Max Goes to a Rave”: There’s lots of black leather, spandex, tattoos, hair gel, goth-flavored electronica, sneering, public urination/regurgitation, sudden violence and a surly dwarf or two. CGI and greenscreen f/x are decent, though most of the action is of the more cost-efficient, arse-whuppin’ kind, with Ling proving quite the lean, mean, acrobatic killing machine. (However, it’s a bit much when she simply waves her arms around to instantaneously snuff three guys holding her at gunpoint.)
Dialogue tends toward the banal, and while the characters, as written, don’t require much subtlety, Daniel Zacapa delivers a little too much bang for the buck as a loan-shark king who is not to be trifled with — we can tell from his constant, screamy tantrums.
Ultimately, “The Gene Generation” is forgettable in narrative terms. But Teo imbues it with some energy and a nice eye, with all visual design contribs making the most of a purported $2.5 million budget. He’s got a future, albeit hopefully one with better material and funding.