My fellow film critic Trevor Anderson often complains about sci-fi films getting bogged down in their own mythology. Complex backstories meant to add richness to the world on-screen is frequently just confused exposition that overly complicates matters. So it may be refreshing that Death Squad doesn’t rely on these elements for its simple tale, but then the movie is also incomprehensible on a narrative level, visually boring, and features a cast of runaway scenery chewers.
Ryan Willburn (Stephen Baldwin) has crash landed in a radiation zone. Unbeknownst to his superiors, Willburn is actually a rebel agent working for the separatist movement led by the colorfully named, Sponge (Danny Glover). This act of defiance doesn’t go unnoticed by Colonel Asimov (Rutger Hauer), who calls in Lobo (Michael Madsen), a mercenary bounty hunter to hunt down Willburn before he retrieves classified data. Major Anderson (Daryl Hannah) is the only voice of reason as Asimov become increasingly obsessed and erratic over the capture of Willburn.
Meanwhile, the rebel is aided by a local who may or may not be an illusion. The planet’s atmosphere is so radiated that Willburn must continually take a drug to fight off the effects of dementia related to the poisonous air. It’s a touch of Pocahontas in a story that steals from the most obvious of sources.
I realize Death Squad is in the tradition of Italian exploitation cinema, where mood and atmosphere are more important than logic or linear story telling. However, the movie must at least be watchable and watching these actors roam around a factory setting in Europe is not all that exciting or involving. There is a late in the game plot twist that almost moved this into two stars territory, but even that simple development is fumbled in the seemingly incompetent hands of director Alessandro Capone.
Director: Alessandro Capone
Stars: Danny Glover, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen