Director: Pearry Teo
Starring: Bai Ling, Alec Newman, Parry Shen
It's not easy being a fan of futuristic science fiction movies as they're so rarely done well. But as its one of my favourite genres, I can't help but be excited when something interesting is on the horizon. And this one has been on the horizon for a long time!
The trailers have been doing the rounds for well over a year now, featuring a grimy dystopian aesthetic, a story involving genetic manipulation, a pumping hard rock soundtrack, and not least a leather-clad ass-kicking Bai Ling in the title role. Expectations were high.
Michelle (Bai Ling) is a contract killer, eliminating DNA Hackers who the government wants rid of. Handy with a wide range of weapons, she's also a formidable martial artist, which is even the more amazing considering she's dressed in tight leather most of the time. Not that this guy is complaining. At all.
Unfortunately she's saddled with a shithook of a brother whose gambling problems and general lack of smarts gets them into trouble with the wrong people. When burglarising a neighbour he unwittingly steals a one-of-a-kind genetic manipulation device - and this lands them in the middle of a bad situation.
Despite the interesting cyberpunk premise of the film, the movie pretty much plays out like an action movie. Which is a lost opportunity in my opinion, because the cyberpunk genre has a lot of interesting ideas to draw upon. The Gene Generation is basically an action movie with a razor thin veneer of science to support the plot.
First time director Pearry Teo definitely has his heart in the right place, but maybe not quite the experience or the budget to pull such an ambitious idea off. The dialogue, acting, and special effects are at times pretty darn woeful, and at others surprisingly good.
A consistently good performance was given by the inimitable Bai Ling (who always brings something special to her roles), and Alec Newman was good as the genetic scientist Christian. However Parry Shen as Michelle's brother and pretty much all of the support characters really dragged the film down, not helped by some fairly inane dialogue. Giving a few of them cheap and nasty effects on their voices does nothing except add a C-movie vibe. Bad idea.
What really holds the movie together is the presence of Bai Ling. She features prominently on the cover art, and I'd say most people checking this out will be there for the ass-kicking hot asian chick factor. Well, I was anyway. And she fills that role perfectly with her tall, lithe figure and edgy looks. She has some great kill scenes, gets covered in blood (and has to take a shower to clean it off), and kicks multiple bad-guy ass with her martial arts moves.
In summary, the movie has some great scenes and ideas but also a number of factors that drag it firmly down into B-movie territory (in the bad sense of the word) and spoil what could've been a really great movie. I still enjoyed it though, and fans of Bai Ling should definitely check it out. Hopefully Mr Teo's next project will have a better budget to more fully realise some great ideas.