Antoine Fuqua has been making movies for 23 years now, with his debut feature being 1998’s “The Replacement Killers” with Chow Yun Fat and Mira Sorvino. Since then he has moved onto many genres and has yet to direct a dud in between his films: “Bait”, “Training Day”, “Tears Of The Sun”, “Southpaw”, “Brooklyn’s Finest”, “Olympus Has Fallen”, “The Magnificent Seven” or “The Equalizer” films. But Fuqua’s newest film, “Infinite” is the most different thing he’s ever done and by far the most ambitious.
The road to “Infinite” is an interesting one that begins in 2009, when former software developer D. Eric Maikranz had self published his debut novel “The Reincarnationist Papers”. A fictional memoir of a man with memories of past lives who seeks to join a secret society of others like him. Maikranz gave the promise, which he had printed on the front page of his book that anyone who is able to put a copy into the pipeline at a Hollywood studio, would receive ten percent of the advance paid for turning it into a film. One day, a junior executive stumbled upon a copy at a hostel, handed it off to the powers that be and ultimately received his share ten years later.
During Thanksgiving 2010, Maikranz heard from Rafi Crohn, an assistant to a Hollywood director that expressed interest in adapting the story and after seven years, “The Reincarnationist Papers” had become “Infinite”. Starring and produced by Mark Wahlberg, “Infinite” reunites him with his fellow “Four Brothers” co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor and his “Shooter” Director Antoine Fuqua. Originally slated for theatrical release in 2020, but given the obvious hurdle studios and theaters faced amid the various lockdowns. “Infinite” was pushed to September 2021 until a decision came to move the film from theaters straight to the comfort of your own home, by way of Viacom’s premier Paramount+ streaming service.
CBS All Access, which became Paramount+ last year has made “Infinite”, its first major in-house exclusive movie to compete with the big streaming services. “Infinite” is the first streaming film of 2021 that really feels like it should’ve been experienced in theaters. There’s something about the scope of the action sequences that my 60in 4K television just couldn’t capture. “Infinite” follows Evan, a New York City guy whose mental illness and volatility have made it hard for him to land a job.
Fortunately, he’s got other skills like being able to fight like a Mark Wahlberg action hero, but he can also craft Japanese swords of impeccible quality. Evan is also a fountain of information, like a walking encyclopedia. Turns out Evan is an Infinite, who has lived multiple lives and he’s being pursued by the chief nihilist Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejifor) who thinks Evan holds The Egg, an item that could bring about the oblivion of all things.
Good thing Evan encounters fellow Infinite, a woman named Nora (Sophie Cookson), so she can help clearly explain all of this to Evan and us. She includes a bit about one of Evan’s past lives as Treadway (Dylan O’Brien from “Love & Monsters”), who used to be best mates with Bathurst before becoming mortal enemies.
Wahlberg was a last-minute choice to play Evan, as Chris Evans (Captain America) was originally set for the role. Wahlberg’s Evan is a character who is justified with jaded cynicism, coupled with the ability to remember past lives’ talents that allows him to be snarky and sarcastic, two traits that Wahlberg is best at playing. Evan is a mixture of Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne and Schwarzenegger’s Douglas Quaid from “Total Recall”.
Much like Fuqua and Denzel Washington or Peter Berg and Wahlberg. Antoine Fuqua and Wahlberg are also a perfect pair, which I always wondered why they haven’t worked together since 2007’s “Shooter”. Both of them make movies that are unabashedly for dudes and in his first all out summer action movie, Fuqua keeps the pace blistering. Wahlberg isn’t called on to do much other than to act as the tough guy, with those trademark Marky Mark bulging biceps. But as a big of a fan as I am of his, I’ll take him in any role.
Chiwetel Ejiofor goes big and chews the scenery in the role of Bathurst, a baddie who starts his days with gasoline waterboarding sessions and is armed with a special gun, called The Dethroner. A shotgun style gun that captures the lives of Infinites on computer chips for future imprisonment.
There’s a lot to take in with “Infinite”, that starts with the question, what if Marky Mark played a reincarnated Japanese blacksmith? As things unfold the screenplay doesn’t completely lose us, although they over explain things a few times too many. Antoine Fuqua moves his story smoothly around different multicultural and global environments. Despite starring the American born Wahlberg, it’s not the cast that is multinational, it’s the ideas that propel it. The picture keeps the whereabouts of the globally destructive Egg in play for most of the feature.
The major showdown for the finale, sees Wahlberg and Ejiofor having a cool and stylish mano-o-mano fight, where the visual effects are cranked up and the superhuman ways of the Infinite are tested. Fuqua and his screenwriters finds a compelling way to keep “Infinite” going for sequels or even a television show for the Paramount+ service. Antoine Fuqua isn’t known for making this genre of film, but he gives it a go in an attempt at blockbuster filmmaking and trying to give us a big summer movie.
To put it best, “Infinite” is Antoine Fuqua’s resume to get the job directing the next “Fast & The Furious” or Marvel flick. It is that mix of “Fast & The Furious” and something Christopher Nolan or James Cameron or even The Wachowskis would’ve turned into a smart, sci-fi action picture that had something profound to say. But what we got is a prime and fun summer blockbuster in the comfort of our home, that gave me exactly what I expected based off of the films trailers. Will there be any future installments or stories within the “Infinite” universe? That’s still yet to be determined. But Fuqua and his team does leave the possibilities open in a delightful way that looks to lead somewhere with some potential.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)