A group of special military operatives are sent into an English city during a zombie outbreak in search of the scientist who created it. Unfortunately, internal conflict threatens the extraction and their survival.
Director: Chee Keong Cheung
Writers: Chee Keong Cheung, Steve Horvath, & Mark Strange
Starring: Oris Erhuero, Mark Strange, Carlos Gallardo, Katarina Leigh Waters, Michael Sheehan, & Akira Koieyama
Redcon-1 (2018) is a military action flick centered around a virus-driven zombie outbreak in England. A team of purportedly elite soldiers are tasked with entering the undead fray and returning safely with the scientist who originated the virus in tow. Of course, things go awry, and the mission results in lots of dead bodies. The film is directed by Chee Keong Cheung (Bodyguard: A New Beginning), and written by Cheung, Steve Horvath (Rise of the Gargoyles 2009), and martial artist Mark Strange (who also acts in the film.) Unfortunately for the cast and crew, Redcon-1 fails on nearly every level to engage an audience who can easily que up better undead military attempts, such as Julius Avery’s Overlord.
The problems are so numerous that only the most damaging need be mentioned to crush the film. At every turn, Redcon-1 tries to shove cinematic drama down viewers’ throats, be it through interpersonal conflict or monster-exploding gunplay, but it never evokes even the slightest bit of tension. The reason is because Redcon-1 goes out of its way to avoid even the most infinitesimal amount of character development, which results in things happening onscreen “just because.” This is especially devastating to me because the awesome Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator and former Heavy Metal Magazine head Kevin Eastman is a producer; this led me to hope there’d be something special on display, but—alas—this is not the case.
The cast has a good deal of background in the action movie game, but the acting leaves a lot to be desired. The military unit is led by Capt. Marcus Stanton, played by ex-model Oris Erhuero (Highlander: Endgame), with his primary troop members consisting of Sgt. Reeves (Carlos Gallardo of El Mariachi fame), Sgt. Paige (pro-wrestler Katarina “Kate Lea Burchill” Leigh Waters), Lt. Gonzalez (Michael Sheehan, Ripper Street series), Lt. Lau (Akira Koieyama, 47 Ronin), and Lt. Perez (co-scripter Mark Strange). Everyone does a lot of mugging, growling, and spinning around, but there’s not much else for them to work with. If there’s a single scene that attempts to break that trend, its when <spoiler ahead> Water’s character, naked from the shower, asks Sheehan’s character to shoot her, as she’s infected. There’s an honest, non-sexual tension there, which is hampered by the film’s insistence that the single female lead be the only naked person in the movie for a ludicrous reason (stuck in a prison during a zombie riot? Take a shower!)
The script is, unfortunately, the worst aspect of the film. There’s a side-plot following the military that repeatedly shows dull corridors and kills the action, and there are tons of unmotivated character choices that are beyond confusing. Strange’s character is the worst culprit in this latter area, as he’s a turncoat troublemaker that always does the wrong thing for no clear goal. One moment the viewer thinks he’s vying for command, but then he does something in the complete opposite direction that makes that motivation impossible to accept. The other characters simply flip-flop around him, and totally dispel the film’s assertion that these are expert soldiers.
In addition, there are logic problems that make immersion into the film impossible. A small drop of blood apparently turns a person into a zombie, yet the characters repeatedly splatter blood all over their faces, maws and eyes gaping like storm drains. This is taken to the nth-degree when one infected character kisses another with a small peck, and then decries that the recipient, too, is now infected. For those of us familiar with the AID’s scare of the 1980s that made the zombie films of that era so poignant, this kind of ridiculous treatment of infection serves only to set homosexual rights back several decades. While this is a bold claim to some, it serves to illustrate the film’s devastating lack of familiarity with its own genre.
The directing is frenetic but uninspired, and it isn’t helped by the insistence that the gunfights are filmed like fistfights (which, themselves, are made stronger by the martial arts prowess on display in the crew). The gun battles are too closely cropped, and rarely show each party of the battle at the same time. Instead of creating claustrophobic fear in the viewer, it instead makes one question whether the combatants are even in the same city. The technical quality of the picture and the zombie wounds are better than most indie films, and it’s clear the movie boasts a budget that would make a lot of direct-to-video shoots drool. However, it feels wasted on a film that just isn’t compelling to watch.
Overall, it’s very difficult to recommend Redcon-1 to anyone. Those wanting a taught action film will be bored with the slow-motion screams for fallen comrades that no one cares about, and those looking for zombie gore will instead get mild martial arts pugilism and average-sized bloody squibs. The cast and crew have done good work elsewhere, but Redcon-1 is a miss that suffers partially from the fact that there are better films of its ilk, and even more so because of its own missteps.