Cosmic Sin starring Bruce Willis is a shoddy sci-fi

Cosmic Sin. M, 88 minutes. One star

Unlike the act on which its name is wordplay - Original Sin - Cosmic Sin is not fun. It's a cheaply made sci-fi action flick of questionably morality that has three things in its favour in lead stars Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo and its thankfully short running time.

Across the opening credits we get a potted history of future humankind and its expansion across the galaxy. A couple of hundred years from now, mankind experiences its long-awaited first contact with an alien race.

It isn't handled diplomatically, like Kirk or Picard or Janeway would have delicately shepherded through. It happens accidentally, with two staff at a remote mining site on an even remoter planet firing their guns blindly into the dark at the rustling noises outside their campsite.

This starts a clock that the rest of the film plays against as the government back on Earth strategises its approach, but knowing that waiting for politicians to make a decision could spell disaster, the mining planet's military commander, Eron Ryle (Grillo), takes action.

Ryle pulls together a response team of specialists he is familiar with, starting with disgraced and unemployed war hero James Ford (Willis) and Ford's former girlfriend, ethnologist Dr Gross (Perrey Reeves).

Under Ford are a handful of military specialists who are all prepared to put themselves at risk should the alien race prove to be violent. It turns out the aliens are prepared to be violent, but the military crew pulled together to deal with them slowly come to ponder who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

It's hard to know where to start when deconstructing what is wrong about Cosmic Sin. I've given films zero-star reviews before, but this isn't that bad. It's about as good as the worst and most shoddily made of your favourite sci-fi television, your Stargate SG1 or Lexx or Space:1999. One of those episodes where they let the lead actor direct for the first time and it looks like the producers' kids get to do the hair and make-up as work experience.

What Cosmic Sin is, is a low-budget film that just happens to have a multi-million-dollar actor in the lead role. The film's structural issues would be more kindly viewed if you didn't feel strongly that if they had enough money to pay Willis, they had enough for a script editor or a better make-up unit.

Bruce Willis in Cosmic Sin. Picture: Rialto

Bruce Willis in Cosmic Sin. Picture: Rialto

The film's weakest point is the screenplay, full to the brim of poorly constructed stakes and unearned or lazily unexplained tensions between characters. The military characters are the least disciplined bunch ever committed to the big screen.

I do appreciate the anti-Federation approach of expat Aussie director Edward Drake and his co-writer Corey Large. It's refreshing to explore the idea that we aren't the good guys.

I can see why Willis might have enjoyed his role, similar to a number of his gruff Earth-saving roles from earlier in his career. Ford's qualifications for the job are his unflinching decisions, including the genocide of a few million colonists who rebelled against the Earth government. This is the kind of cold figure we need facing down the alien threat.

Or is it?

Film tough guy Grillo isn't so much enjoying a career resurgence as he is just working hard as he has done for many years but finally enjoying name recognition.

He seems to take the Michael Caine approach to making films: say yes to everything and hope that occasionally one of them is good or memorable.

It is nice to see Aussie Costas Mandylor, a Hollywood go-to tough guy for three decades now, doing his thing.

The set design is all blue and pink neon, the music is appropriately overwrought and the editing is occasionally intense, and as the film moves to its man vs alien showdown, it seems the filmmakers scrimped on the CGI battle effects.

Cosmic Sin left me with a feeling of nostalgia - nostalgia for the cinemas I cannot wait to reopen as I am really scraping the bottom of the streaming barrel for things to watch.

This story Shoddy sci-fi story is a stinker first appeared on The Canberra Times.