Why listen to me for an explanation of the bang-bang sci-fi action thriller “Infinite” when Mark Wahlberg’s Evan McCauley does it for us at the outset? In one of the more listless and uninspired narration jobs in recent movie history, Mark/Evan tells us:
“There are among us a people gifted with a perfect memory of all their past lives. They call themselves ‘Infinites.’ Among the Infinites, two groups have vied for powers. On one side, the Believers, dedicated to using their knowledge for the protection and growth of all humanity. Against them stand the Nihilists, who see this power as a curse. New technologies have given the Nihilists an opportunity to end all life on Earth, and the race is on for its control.”
Oh boy. That sounds … complicated.
From that setup, director Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “The Equalizer”) plunges us into a slick, loud, well-photographed and utterly unoriginal action sequence set in Mexico City, with speeding sports cars and hopelessly outmatched police vehicles and a helicopter swirling above and shots ringing out everywhere. It’s the cinematic equivalent of empty calories, and it sets the tone for the rest of the film. “Infinite” has some impressive set pieces combining practical effects and CGI, and the terrific cast approaches the material with grim-faced sincerity, but it’s ultimately a big bag of nonsense wrapped in glossy packaging.
Wahlberg’s Evan lives in New York City and is struggling to make ends meet, as his history of mental illness and the occasional bursts of violent temper make it nearly impossible for him to keep a steady job. Not that Evan doesn’t have mad talents. He’s a walking Wikipedia of historical and scientific knowledge and is a skilled swordsmith who can make one-of-a-kind weapons, even though he’s never had any training. Things just … come to him.
After a harrowing encounter with Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Ted, who is one of the aforementioned Nihilists and wants to destroy the planet because, well, because he’s the bad guy and we don’t need to get any deeper into his grand plan, Evan gets the scoop from Sophie Cookson’s Tammy, who explains to him he’s not crazy — he’s just the latest reincarnation of someone who has been around for centuries. THAT’S why Evan dreams in other languages, and sometimes has memory flashes from distant locales and times and feels like he’s being pulled in a million different directions. He’s an Infinite, Believer Division, with multiple past lives, and it’s up to him to lead the resistance against the evil Ted and his minions!
“Infinite” has some cool sets and some awesome futuristic weaponry, and we get entertainingly hammy supporting cameos from Toby Jones and Jason Mantzoukas as eccentric sideline players. Wahlberg does his best mini-Clint Eastwood impersonation, but seems almost as nonplussed by all the exposition as we are. For all its ambitions to be a thinking person’s action film, “Infinite” has us thinking this is a relatively dumb action film.