Movies about “the one” — a relative nobody who realizes they’re actually the only person capable of stopping a threat, defeating a villain, or saving the world — had a good run from The Matrix (1999) through numerous YA adventures in the two decades since. They’ve tapered off some in recent years, and I’d like to think it’s because people have realized how uninteresting the concept tends to be, especially when “the one” in question is just another boring white dude. Turns out that not everyone got that memo, though, as Antoine Fuqua‘s latest action movie, Infinite, is yet another story about an average guy who discovers he’s actually pretty goddamn special.
That’s bad enough, but it gets worse. The guy is brought to very tepid life by a bored and more than a little smug Mark Wahlberg.
A car chase (ostensibly around 1970, but no one’s buying that) sees a man named Treadway (Dylan O’Brien) being pursued by some very determined people. It ends poorly for him, but the chase continues half a century later when Evan (Wahlberg) catches the attention of those same people. He’s a diagnosed schizophrenic using medications to control his hallucinations, but he’s tipped to the truth after coming face to face with Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in a police station’s interrogation room — a room that’s been visibly soundproofed, a room from where you can still hear cars outside — and then rescued by Nora (Sophie Cookson).
It seems Evan is an Infinite — someone who’s reincarnated throughout time and able to remember their past lives and skills. Nora is a Believer, an Infinite who sees this as a gift and an opportunity, but Bathurst is a Nihilist, one who is tired of life and only wants to see the world burn. When Evan was Treadway he hid a life-ending object called the Egg, and the Nihilists want to use it to destroy every living thing on the planet. Uh oh. Good thing Evan is also, like, the best Infinite who ever lived. Or something.
Infinite, written by Ian Shorr and adapted from the novel The Reincarnationist Papers, is a big disappointment. Fuqua and Wahlberg have both proven themselves elsewhere, but here their overall disinterest is almost palpable as the former auditions for a Fast & Furious gig while the latter sleepwalks through the entire film. There are small glimpses of what could have been, courtesy more often than not of a game supporting cast, but as it stands the film is endlessly dumb, poorly realized, and unable to have fun with itself.
Wahlberg is the immediate issue in both his presence and his performance. From the dull drone of his voiceover to his lifeless onscreen delivery, it feels as if he’s trapped in a role he either doesn’t want or doesn’t understand. While known for action films he’s actually found real success showing off his comedic side in legitimate gems like Pain & Gain (2013), 2 Guns (2013), and The Other Guys (2010), but rather than have similar fun here he plays the character straight to detrimental effect. Without his comedic skills we’re left with a smug, egotistical Wahlberg persona, and his pairing with “the one” concept makes for an unlikable protagonist whose endless superiority is difficult to find entertaining.
The script is also seemingly unsure what story it’s trying to tell. The Egg MacGuffin is like any other “world-ending” weapon in movies in that we know its pursuit won’t end in its use — as that would end the film — and instead Infinite puts forth the idea of human betterment with Evan as the poster child. He’s it to the point where most of the other Believers are useless fodder easily gunned down by the murderous Nihilists. It grows hazy from there, though, as what starts as human skills being perfected and remembered across the centuries eventually finds Evan touched by nods of The Matrix as his relation to physics becomes unglued. It’s goofy nonsense that aims for thrills but instead delivers subpar CG effects and repetitive action including *three* separate instances of surprise sniping through windows. Strands of Highlander (1986) rear their head too as we discover that an Infinite can only be “stopped” by a blow to the head in the form of a bullet that… uploads their mind to a digital prison in the cloud?
With a dull lead, uninspired action (outside of that opening car chase), and a story that fails to embrace its own absurdity, viewers are forced to look to the supporting players for brief moments of joy. To that end it’s Ejiofor who not only understands exactly what kind of movie he’s in but who works to make his over the top enthusiasm infectious. His delivery and expressions go big, and that’s even before he puts on VR goggles and gloves to animatedly control a squadron of high-tech attack drones like he’s Elmer Fudd conducting The Flying Dutchman. Jason Mantzoukas earns a smile or two as a hedonistic scientist (?) who uses Alexa in his high-tech pad, and Toby Jones gets to utter “blah blah blah” as a summation of the film’s plot and his role in it.
None of them are enough to save Infinite, though, from either its excesses or its doldrums. Evan is as uninteresting and bland as any “one” who’s gone before, and with too much of the focus on him we’re left far more curious about other characters and elements. More of the supporting players, more details on the reincarnated lives, more information on the Believers’ hidden fortress that ultimately is nether hidden nor a fortress — hell, anything beyond Wahlberg learning that he’s awesome, super-skilled, and unbeatable — and this could have been a big slice of fun instead of a big piece of…