'Switch' kills sci-fi potential with video game tactics

  • A befuddled physicist ("Beauty and the Beast" star Dan Stevens) expresses concern for his sister (Charity Wakefield) as the world comes apart in the science-fiction thriller "Kill Switch."

    A befuddled physicist ("Beauty and the Beast" star Dan Stevens) expresses concern for his sister (Charity Wakefield) as the world comes apart in the science-fiction thriller "Kill Switch."

 
 
Updated 6/16/2017 12:02 PM

"Kill Switch" throws so many provocative visuals at us -- hey, why are all the signs written backward? -- you might be asking the same question frequently posed by heroic physicist Will Porter: "What the (H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks) is going on?"

Tim Smit's low-budget, science-fiction thriller whisks us into a disorienting vortex of chronologically jumbled events involving a parallel universe and a shady corporation's catastrophic plan to create a new energy source for Earth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Beauty and the Beast" star Dan Stevens plays Porter, who, in the opening scene, impresses us as a supportive sibling to his single-mom sister Mia (Charity Wakefield). The two of them and her cuddlesome son (Kasper van Groesen) watch as a miraculous tower of pure energy surges into the sky.

Suddenly, the setting fast-forwards to a dark, chaotic scene littered with bodies. Now we see everything through Porter's eyes in a first-person perspective camera. (Think of it as "Hardcore Henry" without the cyborg.)

Porter reveals that he must hand-deliver a black box called a "redivider" to the power tower if he wants to save Earth.

But wait. Time for a flashback to explain all this.

A corporate executive named Abigail (James Bond femme fatale Bérénice Marlohe, apparently still wearing her low-cut 007 business apparel) persuades Stevens' bland physicist to work for her employer Alterplex Energy, a vaguely nefarious corporation seeking to create an alternate Earth, "Echo," then siphon off all its energy for our world.

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It doesn't go well. A big, swirling hole in the sky sucks up birds, people and objects, occasionally spitting back a few items, such as passenger train cars and ships.

Things really get bonkers when Porter runs into a former colleague (Tygo Gernandt) who gasps, "It's not possible ... I saw you die!" (Insert Porter's frequently posed question here.)

The tiresome, desensitizing first-person-shooter aesthetics in "Kill Switch" (not to be confused with Steven Seagal's 2008 thriller) diminish what modest humanity Smit's movie musters.

That, with Stevens' cipher-like physicist, creates a movie that could prompt younger viewers to subconsciously press the buttons on their imaginary game controllers.

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