[Screen It]


(2021) (Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor) (PG-13)

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Action: A man learns that not only has he been reincarnated through the ages, but also that his former self hid a weapon that his adversary wanted and now still wants to use to destroy the world.

Evan McCauley (MARK WAHLBERG) is a troubled soul who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic as a teen. With a history of violence, he has a hard time landing or holding down a job, and thus gets by -- including being paid in antipsychotic medication -- by crafting specialized weapons for others, something he has an apparent innate talent for doing.

Little does he know that he's just one of several hundred so-called Infinites who've been reincarnated countless times. Yet, unlike the rest -- that are split between the Believes who want to protect and promote growth and the Nihilists who want to kill everything -- he doesn't have a memory of his past lives.

That is, at least so far, something Nora Brightman (SOPHIE COOKSON) wants to awaken in him after saving him from his age-old enemy, Bathurst (CHIWETEL EJIOFOR). It seems that in the past, Evan was Heinrich Treadway (DYLAN O'BRIEN) who managed to stop Bathurst (RUPERT FRIEND) from killing all life on Earth via a high-tech weapon that he hid before perishing.

Now the current day Bathurst wants to get his hands back on that and complete the job -- to end the cycle of reincarnation. That's something Nora and her cohorts Kovic (JÓHANNES HAUKUR JÓHANNESSON) and Trace (KAE ALEXANDER) want to prevent, thus necessitating a trip to see The Artisan (JASON MANTZOUKAS) who might be able to shock Evan's past-life memories back into his consciousness.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10

The notion of reincarnation -- where the soul continues after the biological death of the current host body and ends up in that of a newborn (or sometimes an animal) -- has been around seemingly forever, most likely from the time humans first recognized their own immortality. After all, why fear death if you're going to get another chance, or two or three or a thousand, at life?

It's an intriguing notion and something that true believers in the deja vu experience often use to explain such "I've experienced this before" moments. Of course, the true benefit of such additional chances would be learning from one's past mistakes and not making them again, but it appears -- at least based on human behavior -- that's rarely the case.

And like those return chances, reincarnation keeps coming back in works of fiction, so much so that pretty much every conceivable story twist has already been used (and which thus could lead to readers and viewers getting that deja vu feeling all over again).

Such is the case with "Infinite" where we learn -- through early voice-over narration by our protagonist (Mark Wahlberg) -- that out of the more than seven billion souls on the planet, only a select few (we later learn the actual number is around 500) have a perfect memory of all their past lives.

Those are called Infinites, and among them, there are the good Believers who want to protect and promote growth and the bad Nihilists who, well, don't. In fact, they want to kill everything and everyone and now possess a weapon -- strangely called "The Egg" -- that can make that a reality.

But before we get to Marky Mark learning how he fits into the equation, director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day," the "Equalizer" films) -- working from Ian Shorr's adaptation of D. Eric Maikranz's novel "The Reincarnationist Papers" -- offers up a poorly directed and edited action sequence set in the past and featuring the immediate predecessors (played by Dylan O'Brien and Rupert Friend) to our main characters.

We then segue to present-day New York where Wahlberg plays Evan Michaels, a schizophrenic with a history of violence who can't land or hold down a regular job and thus makes a living -- and gets paid in antipsychotic meds -- by taking advantage of his "innate" skills. After a violent run-in with some criminal types, he ends up imprisoned and questioned by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor, hamming it up with glee) who seems to know quite a bit about Evan, and his past.

Before that interrogation concludes, however, Nora (Sophie Cookson) literally drives into the facility, rescues Evan, and then gives him the low-down on what's what while taking him to the Believers' "The Hub" where he trains with Nora's cohorts (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson and Kae Alexander).

It's then and there that Evan learns that Bathurst wants to end the reincarnation cycle, not only by capturing the souls of other Infinites and keep them from being reborn, but also by using the Egg to do the same on a mass scale. The only problem with his plan is that he doesn't know the whereabouts of the Egg, which also holds true for Evan despite his former self having hidden it.

It's the usual troubled but unsuspecting hero in hiding story we've seen countless times before (Luke Skywalker, Neo, Harry Potter, and so on), complete with the villain who seems to have the upper hand, and training sequences to get the chosen one up to speed and ready to do battle and thus save the day.

The big problem -- beyond no new or interesting spin put on the familiar material -- is that we aren't given a reason to care about the protagonist or the plight of the world. I was already dis-engaged and quite bored early on in this 106-minute offering where things get more ludicrous as they unfold, but never to the point of being goofy fun (those behind the camera seem to think they're making serious sci-fi rather than camp).

If anything, it will make most viewers hope that if reincarnation exists, those who've made this will have learned from their mistakes and deliver something better, while we viewers will know better than to sit through it again. Sporting some potential that's completely squandered, "Infinite" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed June 7, 2021 / Posted June 11, 2021

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