Proving that there’s more to action filmmaking than vigor and imagination, The Descent writer/director Neil Marshall wrangles innumerable genre mash-ups — Escape From New York vs. 28 Days Later, Excalibur vs. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and, most spectacularly, Moulin Rouge Beyond Thunderdome — and rides herd over a stable of seriocomic exploitation-film elements (including one shot where a cute bunny rabbit is blown to bloody smithereens and an early scene in which a nude bather responds to a home invasion by whipping out the shotgun stashed behind the tub) without managing to break into a full gallop.
Rhona Mitra does her best to cross Kurt Russell and Milla Jovovich as tough-chick hero Eden Sinclair, but she’s a little too dour and unflappable for her own good. When a long-dormant virus breaks out in London, Sinclair heads for quarantined Scotland, ravaged by plague and walled off from the rest of the U.K for 35 years. Craven government officials hope the notorious mad-scientist type holed up somewhere inside (Malcolm McDowell) has developed a cure. One of the villains (Craig Conway) looks like Keith Flint from The Prodigy, and the other is, well, Malcolm McDowell, and they’re fine as far as they go, but the supporting characters are as thinly conceived as the protagonist. I was really rooting for this to take off during the big action set piece, scored with “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, but while you can always see what Marshall is going for, the material on screen never plays with the energy and audacity that you know he intended. Alas,the general feeling of been-there-done-that is overwhelming.