'Undergods' a bold, bleak apocalyptic drama filled with loathsome characters
"Undergods" - ★ ★
Spanish-born writer/director Chino Moya hails from the worlds of music videos and TV commercials, and his bold, bleak, dystopian vision "Undergods" seems to confirm that with its immersive visuals and defiantly deficit narrative.
Moya fills his apocalyptic feature with stylish, striking imagery (literally, striking), lapel-grabbing moments and a suffocating atmosphere of darkness, despair and dread, accentuated by Wojciech Golczewski's throbbing, pulsating retro-'80s score.
But Moya's virtually plotless tale, laden with thin, unlikeable, even loathsome characters, wages a calculated war against all commercial cliches and conventions, sticking its finger in the eyes and ears of mainstream, shopping mall cinema.
Overlapping stories segue into stories-within-stories that then loop back on each other. You practically need a Venn diagram of the movie and characters to keep it all straight.
But with zero empathy for any of these characters, you might not bother. Two grubby, dirt-encased men named K (Johann Myers) and Z (Géza Röhrig) drive around a desolate, decaying urban landscape flooded in grays and blues while collecting dead bodies (think "Soylent Green") and capturing able-bodied men to sell into slavery for corporate exploitation.
K narrates a story about a man who says he has locked himself out of his apartment on the 11th floor. A nice couple in the high-rise, who don't realize the 11th floor is vacant, take in the stranger.
This vignette bleeds into other tales in which a husband, missing for 15 years, returns to his wife, now married to a corporate dork under the fickle thumb of his abusively self-centered supervisor.
Another ditty, about a corrupt capitalist who steals a man's moneymaking idea, is told by a loving dad to his little daughter, who comments on the movie itself, "This is a boring story!"
"Have patience," Dad says. "It hasn't finished yet."
"Undergods" doesn't really finish. It just stops.
In between K and Z's opening and closing scenes, Moya's movie -- produced by Ridley Scott -- musters a dispassionate, cautionary assessment of accelerated class warfare and unbridled capitalism in our future world.
And it feels just as empty and superficial as its characters.
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Starring: Johann Myers, Géza Röhrig, Eric Godon, Hayley Carmichael
Directed by: Chino Moya
Other: A Gravitas Ventures release. On demand. Not rated; contains crude language, nudity, violence. 92 minutes