It was only a matter of time, before our current state of the world with the Covid pandemic, would make it’s way to Hollywood. Michael Bay, the slick and bombastic action maestro of “Armageddon”, “The Rock” and “Pearl Harbor” produces the new pandemic apocalyptic thriller “Songbird”. Director Adam Mason presents us with the first movie shot in Los Angeles during the Covid-19 outbreak, which uses the virus as the launching pad for the pandemic thriller that is set in the year 2024.
Although things are much worse in the Bay produced, “Songbird” than they are currently in the world. I can say that if the numbers keep growing as they are, we soon won’t be much far off from the world that is presented in the film. “Songbird” shows the Covid-19 virus having mutated into a stronger strain called Covid-23. It has a mortality rate of 56% and has led to the government to mandate a vast majority of Americans to stay confined in their homes, while the street and cities are deserted looking as if the apocalypse was upon us. Any who are infected are rounded up and dumped in overcrowded, unsanitary and prison-like quarantine zones, known as “Q Zones” where we assume that they are likely left to die or wait for who knows how long for a cure.
If this isn’t the ideal streaming choice to watch with the whole family during lockdown. Then I don’t know what is? Gather around for a night of pure escapist entertainment folks! Considering that everyone’s daily lives have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the filmmakers behind “Songbird”, can’t resist the urge to exploit a serious disease. You wonder how exactly can they justify exploiting a pandemic that’s literally still killing people?
The film released by Chinese studio STX, was hastily put into production using strict safety protocols and shot entirely during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Having been shot in July and August 2020, with most cast members interacting with as few other actors as possible. I’m guessing director and writer Adam Mason wanted a story “ripped from the headlines” to ask the question…What if Covid never got cured? Mason and Bay present it as a post apocalyptic dystopian action thriller led by an overqualified cast of actors. Mixing the elements of “Outbreak”, “Contagion”, a little of “Children Of Men” and “28 Days Later”.
“Songbird” starts off with that apocalyptic feel in giving us snapshots of 2024 Los Angeles, abandoned and suffering through its fourth year of lockdown in the emergence of the even deadlier Covid-23 virus. Since he’s immune and has a little yellow Lance Armstrong looking bracelet to prove it. Nico (KJ Apa of “Riverdale” and “I Still Believe”) has the run of the city, working as a courier for Lester (Craig Robinson “Hot Tub Time Machine”), whose delivery company is in-demand among the populace who are at home in lock down.
Lester keeps tabs on Nico and his other couriers thanks to Afghanistan War vet Dozer (Paul Walter Hauser from “Richard Jewell”), who’s killer skilled with a drone. Dozer strikes up a virtual friendship with singer-songwriter May (the always stunning Alexandra Daddario from “Baywatch”), who had come to L.A. to pursue a music career but got stuck in town when the pandemic hit. Meanwhile sneaking out to see May at night is the wealthy but creepy William (Bradley Whitford of “The West Wing”); who is actually married to Piper (Demi Moore). The couple spend their days in lockdown selling counterfeit yellow medical bracelets for top dollar.
Nico finds himself in need of a bracelet when his girlfriend Sara (Disney vet Sofia Carson), who he met during lockdown is threatened with being taken to one of the city’s infamous quarantine zones after her grandmother, with whom she shares an apartment, dies of the virus. The Q-zones are shown from above looking like walled refugee camps, and the characters discuss them with dread, but “Songbird” doesn’t bother to explain what happens in them.
The relationships between Nico and Sara, Dozer and May or even of William and Piper, are the most interesting parts of “Songbird”. The talented cast do their best to inject humanity and empathy, as Michael Bay brings his brand of kinetic action as Nico must outsmart a hazmat suit clad representative of the Sanitation Department, led by “Armageddon” actor Peter Stormare as an evil bureaucrat.
“Songbird” director Adam Mason takes advantage of the emptiness of Los Angeles and does a worthy job of amping up the tension level as Nico desperately tries to procure an immunity bracelet for Sara in the classic race against the clock structure. Mason brings some inventive ideas to the movie, that will most likely be our way of living soon enough. Such as a dropbox located in every residence that sanitizes incoming and outgoing deliveries.
I know a lot of people will be thinking this is too soon, but the team behind “Songbird” probably think it was a creative move to be the first movie about Covid. Unfortunately they won’t be the last as Anne Hathaway has the HBO Max original film “Locked Down”, premiering January 14th. Hathaway stars in the heist film, that takes place during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
“Songbird” is a Covid-sploitation film that feels like a Hollywood gimmick towards a virus and pandemic, that ruined everyone’s year and saw many who had succumbed to the deadly virus. While most of the world is seeing a resurge in cases, this isn’t a streaming family movie night choice I’d make, as we all wait for a return to normalcy. But it’s a great pitch for those mail drop boxes.
GRADE: ★1/2 ☆☆☆☆ (1.5 out of 5)