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"THE OMEGA CODE"
(1999) (Casper Van Dien, Michael York) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Suspense/Thriller: A motivational speaker tries to prevent a megalomaniac from taking over the world with a deciphered bible code.
PLOT:
Dr. Gillen Lane (CASPER VAN DIEN) is a highly successful motivational speaker and mythology expert who lost his belief in God after his highly devout mother died in a car accident when he was just ten- years-old. Although he's well-known for his work, his time spent helping others has nearly ruined his marriage to wife Jennifer (DEVON ODESSA).

After being confronted by his longtime married friend, Senator Jack Thompson (GEORGE COE), Gillen decides to revamp his life and spend more time with his family including their young daughter, Maddie (AYLA KELL). Yet when he receives an invitation from billionaire philanthropist Stone Alexander (MICHAEL YORK) to join him for a week in promoting world peace, Gillen can't resist the calling and heads off for Rome.

Unbeknownst to Gillen, Alexander, who's helped the world by marketing his desalinized water and single-serving, life-sustaining wafers, is after world domination by deciphering a hidden code in the bible that contains all of human history, including the future. Having already had his right-hand man and ex- priest, Dominic (MICHAEL IRONSIDE), kill a rabbi to acquire his decoding work, Alexander is determined to conquer the world via the cryptic messages his team manages to retrieve from the code.

Gillen eventually figures this out, but then gets framed for Alexander's apparent assassination. On the run from his men and the police, Gillen, who also suffers from religious-based hallucinatory visions, gets helps from TV reporter Cassandra Barris (CATHERINE OXENBERG), as well as two prophets (JAN TRISKA and GREGORY WAGROWSKI) who are concerned with how events are unfolding.

With Alexander continuing his world domination plan, Gillen does what he can to avoid the authorities while trying to figure out how to stop the madman.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
Proving that even the most righteous of filmmakers and studios can produce dreck that's as bad, or in this case, worse than most of what the "morally bankrupt" Hollywood system often kicks out, "The Omega Code" is a film that should never have made it to the big screen.

It never would have had the folks at TBN (the Trinity Broadcasting Network), not forked over the seven million or so dollars to make it and just as much air time to spend promoting it. One would think that if such individuals were concerned enough to make what's being promoted as a morally uplifting film, they actually would have taken the time to make a good one, or even one that most would consider just mediocre.

But no, they turn out what's probably one of the worst films of the year that in the best of conditions might not have even been accepted as a straight to video release. That's not even considering the religious material that's less effective in being inspirational than what's found in studio films with religious underpinnings such as "Contact" or even "Simon Birch" and "Wide Awake."

Featuring enough stale and derivative writing, inept direction and atrocious acting to qualify as one of the "best" films that the now defunct "Mystery Science Theater 3000" TV show could have spoofed, the entire film is such an abomination that even devout TBN followers will probably have a hard time sitting through the entire thing without wincing, groaning and/or nodding off from complete boredom.

Although one could only hope that the overall, tremendously campy effect was intentionally done for comic effect, it seems highly unlikely as it appears the filmmakers had faith that they were crafting a well- made and thought-provoking thriller. Interestingly enough, for all the hubbub about the film being morally correct (no sex, nudity or swearing), it -- like the MPAA that gives all movies their ratings -- seems to think that lethal violence is okay as entertainment.

The filmmakers also don't seem to mind "borrowing" elements from other films in making this one. From the agnostic protagonist who eventually learns to have faith (just like Jodie Foster's character in "Contact") to the cracking of the bible code (done so much better in the highly imaginative and visually striking "Pi") to the spirits whisking around and killing the bad people (just as occurred in "Raiders of the Lost Ark") the film is about as original as no-name, generic pharmaceuticals.

Heck, it even goes as far as to have such "Raiders"-like spirits rear up and show their monstrous faces, and has a villain who pronounces "evolution" just like Mike Myers "Dr. Evil" character would ("evil- lution") in those "Austin Powers" flicks. Unfortunately, this isn't an intentional comedy, unless one can get a laugh out of just how bad it really is.

As directed by Robert Marcarelli ("The Emissary: A Biblical Epic," "I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore") and written by Stephan Blinn and Hollis Barton (both newcomers), the film -- despite what could have been at least a marginally interesting premise -- is about as dull and unimaginative as they come.

While we're presumably supposed to get chills from the cryptic, decoded messages that pop out of a printer periodically during the film, the effect is decidedly less impressive. Even the "suspense" scenes -- that could have infused the film with some much needed energy -- are listless and choreographed less effectively than any TV cop drama. And whenever a film uses TV news anchors/reporters to deliver character information and/or exposition instead of using a more innocuous and seamless approach, you know it's flailing about in the water. Thus, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that this one makes a dull plopping noise and then sinks rapidly to the bottom of the cinematic barrel.

It certainly doesn't help matters much that the filmmakers chose Casper Van Dien ("Tarzan and the Lost City," ‘Starship Troopers") as its central character. Supposedly playing something of a spoof of motivational gurus like Anthony Robbins, Van Dien is nothing short of stiff and uninspired in the role and clearly isn't helped any by some horribly weak script writing and associated dialogue.

Poor Michael York. Once a somewhat prominent big screen star of films such as "Logan's Run" and "The Three Musketeers," he's now following in the lines of the likes of James Caan and Jon Voight in playing the over-the-top villain whose motivations are so transparent here that it doesn't take a genius to figure out his true colors.

Meanwhile, Michael Ironside ("Total Recall," "Starship Troopers") plays his usual, intensely scowling character as the tough guy assistant, while neither Catherine Oxenburg (who played Princess Diana in the TV movie "Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After" nor Devon Odessa ("Campfire Tales") make much of an impression in their respective roles of a TV reporter and Gillen's wife.

When the best that a reviewer can muster to accurately describe a film is "What a bunch of hooey!" it should come as no surprise that this film won't be well received or remembered come Oscar nomination time. And if not for the support and promotion of the folks at TBN, it would never have seen the light of day, decent religious message or not. We barely give the absolutely awful "The Omega Code" a 1 out of 10.




Reviewed November 12, 1999 / Posted November 14, 1999


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