The Journey: Absolution / Absolution (1997) -½
There are some things for which there simply is no explanation. The Journey: Absolution is one of them. Normally, I let my thoughts about a movie ferment for a day or two before I sit down to write a review, but in this case, that would be unwise. If I were to go to sleep without writing about this movie, I would awaken convinced that I had simply dreamed the whole thing. I mean, in the real world, they don’t make movies this bad, right?
Sure they do. This one begins with much of life on Earth being destroyed when one of the crappiest CGI asteroids I’ve ever seen smacks into the planet. A few minutes of stock disaster footage follows, and then a caption tells us that it is “30 years later.” We now join a strapping young Latino lad with the somewhat credibility-defying name of Ryan Murphy (Mario Lopez from “Saved by the Bell”) on his helicopter ride to the Fullman Academy, a sort of futuristic military school. Fullman is presided over by Sergeant Bradley (Richard Greico of “21 Jump Street,” a man whose career crashed and burned faster than that of any young rising star I’ve ever seen), a sadistic megalomaniac of the sort that always runs military schools in shitty movies. Murphy isn’t really a new cadet. In the great Shock Corridor tradition, he’s come to the academy to ferret out wrongdoing, particularly wrongdoing related to the disappearance of a friend of his whose name I don’t remember, played by Justin Walker from the 1996 remake of Humanoids from the Deep. Given the sort of movie we’re dealing with here, there can be no question but that Bradley is somehow behind the malfeasance, but the reason why comes completely out of left field. Walker, you see, was imprisoned in Fullman’s brig because he discovered that Bradley is really an alien from a dying planet (some traditions will be with us forever) whose people want to colonize Earth. They were the ones that sent that asteroid 30 years back, in an effort to make Earth more hospitable to them by reducing the human population and dropping global temperatures to a level more compatible with the aliens’ physiology— they seem to like it around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason the aliens have placed their agent on Earth at the head of a military school is that the arrangement provides Bradley with the raw material for creating an elite team of biologically enhanced soldiers to protect the interstellar matter transporter the aliens will use to effect their full-scale invasion. The invasion can occur only during a narrow window of opportunity in which Earth and the aliens’ homeworld are in the proper alignment, which is approaching fast, leaving Bradley with very little time to deal with Murphy and the nuisance he creates at Fullman. The final confrontation pits Bradley and his “Z-Team” against Murphy, Walker, and an orphaned teenage girl named Allison (Jaime Pressly, of Poison Ivy: The New Seduction) whom the cadets like to smuggle into the academy so that they’ll have somebody to fuck other than each other. Guess who wins.
There’s a whole lot of bad on display here, but I think the most striking thing about The Journey: Absolution is the fact that the movie is more than two thirds over before any indication surfaces that there might be some kind of plot driving it. Seriously, I had absolutely no idea what this movie could have been about until well past the 60-minute mark. The second most striking thing about the film is the strong homoerotic current that flows through it. Nearly every one of the actors looks like the models from the old “physique” magazines of the 1950’s, and all of them spend most of their screen time dressed in nothing but skin-tight white boxer shorts and combat boots. And most importantly, they’re all constantly wrestling and grappling with each other.
As for the rest of the bad, well, that’s quite a list there. The usual complaints about acting certainly apply (watch in amazement as Richard Greico shamelessly apes John Travolta’s standard nutty bad guy shtick), as do those regarding dialogue, character development, and technical matters (set design, special effects, etc.). There’s no sign of directorial discipline, either. Take, for example, the sex scene between Murphy and Allison, which seems to go on forever to no good purpose— God knows actual eroticism seems not to have been a consideration here! (Note, by the way, that the sex follows immediately after a conversation in which the participating characters establish quite clearly that they are not going to have sex!) And there’s a string of fight scenes later on that are just as flabby. Then we have the title, which relates to nothing in the movie in any meaningful way— the story involves neither a journey (unless you count that helicopter flight in the second scene) nor an absolution (unless you count the disillusionment of one of Murphy’s roommates— a marginal character, really— and his subsequent betrayal of Bradley).
I really don’t understand how movies like this get made. I mean, somebody has to have read the script before deciding to fund The Journey: Absolution, and when they did so they can’t possibly have failed to notice that the first two thirds contain nothing that could honestly be called a story— just a meandering, hour-long beefcake parade. And they also can’t possibly have failed to notice that, when the story finally does rear its ugly head, it makes next to no sense. And yet that somebody thought it was a good idea to put up the money needed to get this turkey into production. Sure, Greico never quite became the big shot everybody seemed to think he was going to become back in the late 80’s, but he’s got enough name recognition that he can’t be all that cheap, and his casting as Bradley has to have added a good couple tens of thousands of dollars to the movie’s budget. With the kind of money trading hands that invariably does so when modern movies are made, it’s an absolute wonder than anyone was willing to gamble on The Journey: Absolution, even for direct-to-video/cable release. I give up— you figure it out.