Displaced

| October 19, 2007

Ambitious is a word that one could use to describe Displaced. Perhaps a bit too ambitious.
The first actor that we hear speak is Ian McKellen, who performs the opening narrative/backstory. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this benchmark of quality will be found throughout the film. Either McKellen is related to someone involved in this production of they’ve got incriminating photos of him, because I can find no other reasoning behind his short (a minute at best) contribution to Displaced.
The plot of Displaced is as difficult to follow closely as the actors’ dialogue can be to understand at times. I understand my racial handicap of being American, but many of the British accents coupled with the film’s sounds were muddled to the point that I was truly wishing for closed captioning to help me out. Thank goodness for McKellen’s narrative (a soundboothed recording of the accomplished actor was crystal clear). At least the onset of Displaced was easily decipherable.
We learn that Earth has been closely viewed by two alien races–Mercer and the Kise–for quite some time. Although both have sworn not to interfere with the humans, the Mercer (who appear to be some alienesque take on ‘Those We Do Not Speak of’ from The Village), have apparently been trading information with greedy earthlings in exchange for humans to perform experiments on. The Kais leader, Arakawa, suspecting fowl play, journeys to Earth and is captured and imprisoned by CORE–a paramilitary group that apparently works closely with the Mercer.
The funny thing is, that this introduction to the film, although somewhat hokey, was actually intriguing in a Sci-Fi Channel original picture sort of way. There were some decent special effects and a bit of decent action as the back-story was told. The Mercer were intriguing as mysteriously cloaked figures making secret deals with greedy businessmen while cutting up, torturing and stuffing other humans into freezers. We also learn during this interval that the imprisoned Arakawa has children–a son and daughter–who are planning to break him out of prison. All in all, the makings of an interesting little sci-fi flick. Too bad it didn’t shape up quite that way.
We are immediately brought to a military compound that has been infiltrated by two Class Fours (a name that CORE members refer to the aliens as). Apparently, these are Arakawa’s children and they have come to retrieve a set of documents that will pinpoint their father’s location. Members of CORE are dispatched throughout the compound to take the two aliens out, and of course it’s not as simple as one would think. It’s an action-packed sequence with some fairly good martial arts orchestrated by Stell [Mark Strange] coupled with an overkill of character introductions.
We are presented with various characters in the middle of this mad action sequence and are confused as to who they are and what they represent in the larger scope. Have you ever had the impression while watching something that it had to be a sequel to something else because you simply felt that there was a lot of information that hadn’t been supplied? Such was the case with my viewing of Displaced. In most films, you can pinpoint the main and supporting characters right off, but Displaced seems to throw them at you from all directions and assumes that you know what is happening and with whom. Characters that you thought would be imperative to the film will simply disappear later, and the lack of background on many leaves them one dimensional.
Sifting hrough this vomiting up of characters in the midst of the action, there are really only four that are of any importance:

  1. Merrettie [Malcolm Hankey] is the kindhearted soldier who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s the loveable hero who you just know will do the right thing.
  2. Stell [Mark Strange] is the humanoid alien looking to rescue his father at all costs. When in doubt, Stell will glower and use his martial arts skills.
  3. Wilson [Graham Brownsmith] is a CORE officer who can’t seem to please his superiors and plans on stealing the coveted document and selling it on the black market. He’s the sneaky opportunist.
  4. Radius (also Mark Strange] is a CORE assassin. Clad in all black, complete with a black ski mask and matching sunglasses (goggles would’ve looked tougher) he reminded me of my favorite GI Joe character, Snake Eyes. Radius is the man. The coldblooded assassin who never utters a word and never fails a mission.

There is much that one could say deconstructing each scene in this plot, but the general gist of it is as follows: the document that Stell is seeking to rescue his father also happens to have the secrets for advanced energy production. While Wilson tries to sell it to the highest bidder on the black market, Stell and Merrettie hunt him down at the same time that CORE (and more importantly, Radius) try to find and permanently subdue their AWOL officer.
Overdrawn fight sequences abound. The old clichandeacute;s of hand-to-hand fights in films ring true at every turn. When eight armed guys surround Stell or Radius, you know that they will somehow take them all out in a flurry of kicks, punches and quick camera cuts. There are those typical scenes were a soldier would rather fight someone with kicks and punches when they have a loaded gun at their side. When Radius is holding up a shield to protect his torso while thirty guys are shooting at him, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Why didn’t anyone aim for his legs?”
A film that I initially thought was going to be about aliens infiltrating earth with spaceships and special effects (regardless of being good or bad) quickly digressed to a tight-budgeted and overtly confusing martial arts movie. In fact, forget the Mercer (the bad aliens). They will be mentioned perhaps once or twice again, but that’s it. You will never see them outside of the few scenes in the film’s intro and writer director Martin Holland won’t bother to mention them again. And forget Arakawa (or have you already?). He’s in the movie less than the Mercer. Unfortunately, the Sci Fi aspect of Displaced appears to be nothing more than a hook to showcase the excess of characters and overdrawn fight sequences.
There’s no real sense of resolution to Displaced excepting the fact that it was finally over for the viewer. I was told that Displaced was originally a short film, and it seemed to naturally progress into the full length feature that it is now. Perhaps as a short film, Holland would have only kept characters, fights, and plotlines that were imperative to the storyline.
It simply seems as if Displaced can’t decide what it wants to be, and worst of all, whatever plotline this film appeared to start with, got completely lost along the way.
Or maybe it was just Displaced.

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