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Infinite review: Mark Wahlberg’s sci-fi adventure is a waste of good lives

There’s plenty of pedigree behind Infinite, the sci-fi thriller from Training Day director Antoine Fuqua that casts two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg as a diagnosed schizophrenic who discovers that his hallucinations are actually the memories and accumulated experiences of past lives.

The film pits Wahlberg’s character against a similarly reincarnating — but fully aware — villain played by Oscar-nominated 12 Years A Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor, and was produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who famously shepherded both The Matrix and Transformers franchises to the screen. The movie’s concept is also pretty slick, with two factions of characters who wield a wide array of abilities, expertise, and wealth gained from their past lives battling it out across the globe — one trying to protect humanity while the other tries to end their infinite reincarnation by wiping out all life on Earth.

Early reports on screenwriter Ian Shorr’s script, adapted from D. Eric Maikranz’s 2009 novel The Reincarnationist Papers, described the film’s vibe as “Wanted meets The Matrix.” Collectively, all of those elements set a fairly high bar for Infinite, so it’s unfortunate that all of those impressive qualities are wasted on a thoroughly disappointing film.

Chaos over character

Right from its opening scene, which features a wildly destructive high-speed car chase that would’ve felt right at home in a Fast and Furious sequel or one of the aforementioned Transformers movies, Infinite seems intent on dispensing with any of the more cerebral aspects of its characters’ lore and going all-in on physics-defying, maximum carnage spectacle. We’re given a glimpse of the most recent final moments of the main characters, essentially superhero secret agents capable of pulling off unbelievable feats with cars, guns, and inexplicably (at that point) a samurai sword while being pursued by legions of faceless villains and disposable law enforcement.

It’s the sort of scene that plays perfectly fine in countless big-budget action and sci-fi franchises, but Infinite falls back on it over and over throughout its 106-minute running time, often at the expense of any character development or narrative work that would make the stakes in the frantic sequences feel consequential. Scenes like this work in franchises like The Fast and the Furious and Transformers because you care (at least a little bit) what happens to the characters. Infinite, however, never bothers to try making its characters interesting, let alone relatable.

Shortly after we’re introduced to Wahlberg’s character and his uncertain psychological state, the film puts him at the center of yet another ridiculously chaotic car chase — this time featuring two armored vehicles plowing through a crowded metropolis intended to be Manhattan — and from that point on, the action sequences blur together in a near-constant frenzy of explosions and destruction for the remainder of the film. Neither Wahlberg’s character nor his supporting cast of “Infinites” (the name given to the film’s reincarnating characters) are given any development beyond what’s necessary to put them in place for the next death-defying set piece, making the film feel less like an unfolding story and more like a movie mayhem sizzle reel.

Infinite | Official Trailer | Paramount+

Wasted potential

Although the film puts carnage over character development at nearly every opportunity, Infinite does manage to hint at what it could have been just enough to make you frustrated with the film it ended up being.

A scene in which Ejiofor’s character tortures another “Infinite” played by Emmy-nominated veteran actor Toby Jones is one of the film’s most fun to watch, and amazingly, it doesn’t even involve a single explosion. Both actors chew up the scenery as they engage in a bit of over-the-top verbal sparring, and the short scene ends up delivering more entertainment value than much of the 100 minutes of footage surrounding it.

Comedic actor Jason Mantzoukas (The League, The Dictator) also does an admirable job of adding some levity to the film’s cast, but his otherwise fun performance is ultimately overshadowed by the movie’s desire for a constant stream of high-speed pursuits, gun battles, and other effects-driven action sequences.

Is it over yet?

Given the bona fides of the film’s cast and creative team, it seemed reasonable to expect an entertaining adventure from Infinite — and at worst, dumb fun — but the final product underwhelms at even the low end of expectations.

With a story more meager and patched together than any of di Bonaventura or Wahlberg’s Transformers films, and lacking any of the dramatic weight of Fuqua or Ejiofor’s prior projects, Infinite is a disappointment across the board — and makes a strong case for being one of its cast members’ and director’s worst films. That it’s filled with characters who pride themselves on using their vast archive of memories (while offering few examples of doing so in the film) makes it even more annoying that the film ends up being so forgettable.

Sure, Ejiofor’s villainous character is intended to be evil for wanting to bring an early end to Infinite‘s tale of death and rebirth, but after sitting through nearly two hours of unoriginal action scenes in Infinite without any semblance a story to stitch them together, he might have been on to something.

Antoine Fuqua and Mark Wahlberg’s Infinite is available now on the Paramount+ streaming service.

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