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Doomsday (2008)

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

D: Neil Marshall. Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Adrian Lester, David O'Hara, Chris Conway, Lee-Anne Liebenberg, Malcom McDowell. 109 mins. (rated)/113 mins. (unrated) (Universal Studios) 7/08

In 2008, the Reaper Virus sweeps through Glasgow, Scotland, striking down more than half the population in a matter of months. U.K. authorities erect a 30-foot wall around the city and deem the quarantined zone a no man's land. No one gets out of the hot zone and no one gets in. Twenty-seven years later, the Reaper Virus reappears. Department of Domestic Security supercop Major Eden Sinclair (Mitra) is given 46 hours to go into the hot zone with a group of soldiers to find Dr. Marcus Kane (McDowell), the only man who could have possibly found a cure for the virus. (British Intelligence recently discovered proof of survivors in the hot zone.) Once inside the post-apocalyptic ruins, Sinclair and her team experience a series of '80s action-movie set pieces that pits them against an army of punk-rock cannibals led by Sol (Conway), a battle to the death at an Old World castle/former tourist attraction, and an exciting, thrill-a-second race-to-the-wall climax with enough vehicular manslaughter to make Mad Max wince. Marshall's fuel-injected homage to John Carpenter's 1981 Escape from New York (VS #50) and George Miller's 1982 The Road Warrior (VS #33) is possibly the greatest post-apoc rip-off flick ever made. (There are also nods to 28 Days Later [VS #49], Raiders of the Lost Ark [1981] and The Last Boy Scout [1991], as well as many others. In his nod to Walter Hill's The Warriors [VS #57], one of the Baseball Furies can clearly be seen in the crowd of punks.) Marshall is having fun, restaging scenes from some of his favorite action flicks and adding his own touch along the way. (Sinclair wears a patch over one eye like Escape's Snake Plissken but it conceals a fake eye that she can take out and use as a recon camera when needed.) Two characters are named after Carpenter and Miller. Conway is absolutely perfect as Sol, the leader of the cannibal gang. Recalling Escape's The Duke, Sol performs on stage for his minions to the tune of the Fine Young Cannibals' "Good Thing" (from their 1989 album The Raw and The Cooked). Stunt-actress Liebenberg as his main squeeze Viper makes for a perfect psycho femme. Alexander Siddig as Prime Minister Hatcher and O'Hara as his second-in-command are excellently slimy as the authority figures who orchestrate all the major decisions for the dying populace. A fantastic soundtrack accompanies the nonstop action, while Tyler Bates' score is very Carpenteresque. Doomsday performed poorly during its Stateside theatrical run; people seemed to stay away for some odd reason. I found it a near-perfect replica of my beloved but much-maligned '80s subgenre of after-the-bomb action flicks, most of which came out of Italy back in the day. (I guess if it had just been another retread/remake, people would have come out in droves.) The unrated disc includes the theatrical version as well as commentary, trailer and a couple behind-the-scenes featurettes. Dust off your leather biker pants, cut your hair into a Mohawk and strap in for this relentless action treat.

~ Rob Freese