Infinite review: Mark Wahlberg relives past action movies in this soulless flick
Who wants to live forever? Immortal warriors clash in a glossy reincarnation-based movie streaming now on Paramount Plus.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
The bad guys in Mark Wahlberg's reincarnation-themed action movie Infinite want to destroy the world so they never have to relive it all again. Having seen the film, I know the feeling.
OK, so maybe that's a bit harsh. But it does seem fitting that Infinite (streaming from June 10 on Paramount Plus) skips theaters and goes straight online. The sci-fi high concept and soulless execution absolutely scream straight-to-video.
The Mark Wahlberg-headlined flick was originally delayed a couple of times by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was then announced as movie studio
's first big film to be made available on its streaming service, recently rebranded from CBS All Access to Paramount Plus. Coming soon on the platform are PAW Patrol: The Movie, released online and in theaters in August, and a streaming debut for A Quiet Place Part II, expected some time in July.
To be fair to Infinite, it does have a big-budget sheen. From a propulsive opening car chase through the streets of Mexico to a climactic stunt involving a motorbike and a cargo plane, the money's on the screen with a parade of pretty sets, glistening supercars and some spectacular action. Whenever things flag, director Antoine Fuqua isn't afraid to send an armored
barreling through a police station in a display of car-based carnage that would give the Fast and Furious crew a head rush.
That opening car chase, by the way, includes a moment where our hero kills a police car by skidding his
wheels into a pile of bricks and neatly firing a brick through the pursuing car's windshield. Yup, that's the kind of movie this is.
If that sounds kinda fun, yeah, it kinda is. There're some neat bits of fight choreography and a few suitably loopy stunts, and the core concept is pretty intriguing. The film is based on 2009 novel The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz, originally self-published with a reward promised to any reader who introduced the book to a movie producer. Its big idea is that reincarnation is real, and there are people in the world who remember their past lives.
These people, known as "infinites," string those memories into one long existence across the ages of humanity. On one side of this secret society are a bunch of chill dudes who collect knowledge and understand that existence transcends the physical form of our bodies. On the other are the nihilists, vaguely religious pervs who saw Avengers: Endgame and decided to steal both Thanos' genocidal scheme and his turn-to-ash visual effect.
Stuck in the middle is Mark Wahlberg. He's perfectly cast as a hero who wanders around asking what the hell's going on. It's not great acting, it's just that no one involved seems to know. A great deal of the film is Wahlberg standing in some glossy room looking confused while people explain things to him, and not all of the things actually lead to anything. Like, the Infinites might have superpowers or something? The movie doesn't seem sure. This is an 80-minute actioner stretched out to nearly two hours, and there still seem to be bits missing (Rupert Friend is briefly glimpsed as a baddie, suggesting that a chunk got left on the cutting room floor).
At times, the film's left hand doesn't seem to know what the right hand's doing: The script tries to build a mystery from the possibility that Wahlberg's strange visions might be a symptom of his disturbed mental health, apparently forgetting that an excruciatingly tacked-on voice-over already explained that away in the first 10 seconds.
Watching Infinite made me feel like my life was flashing before my eyes. Specifically, the part of my life last year when I sat through Netflix's similarly sort-of-sci-fi straight-to-video actioner The Old Guard. That flick also featured immortal warriors dealing with the ennui of eternal life by slicing up armies of mercenaries with swords and brawling in cargo planes.
The similarity extends right down to the presence of Chiwetel Ejiofor, who appeared in both films. Infinite kicks into a different gear whenever Ejiofor, Liz Carr and Toby Jones try to one-up each other with proper acting in scenes that actually tackle the philosophical weight of eternal life. This trio of British actors rent out levels of gravitas and gusto missing from other scenes in which Wahlberg and various interchangeable sharp-cheekboned model-looking types with vaguely defined fighting skills and no discernible personality stand around spouting exposition at each other. Seriously, some of the cars have more character than some of the people. Apart from the always watchable Jason Mantzoukas, as the obligatory comic cameo who seems to think he's in a different film than everyone else.
As with The Old Guard and other recent action films (like Netflix's Army of the Dead or Project Power, for instance), Infinite clearly has one eye on starting a franchise. But for a film about people remembering past lives, Infinite is all too forgettable.
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