“DEBUG” (DVD Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Trevor Parker
Out of all the iconic sci-fi cinema from which to draw inspiration for a modern take, it’s hard to choose a more solid basis than Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The premise of lonely spacefarers trapped in a floating tin can controlled by an unpredictable, vindictive computer is an enduringly horrifying one, and something the modest new excursion DEBUG (on DVD from Ketchup Entertainment) employs to mostly engrossing effect.
Six prisoners, all having been convicted of various cyber-crimes, are shuttled out to an abandoned freighter drifting on the galaxy’s edge. They’re tasked with tapping into the ship’s computer mainframe and wiping away any residual programming that may have gone delinquent. Iam (Jason Momoa) happens to be one of said programs—a sentient presence who has seized control of the freighter and its functions, and who has been waiting patiently for a new batch of unsuspecting guests to break up the lonely tedium of outer space…
In far too many cases of promising minibudget sci-fi films, the proceedings wobble under an excess of expository techno-jargon dialogue, or simply crash-land due to overly ambitious, highfalutin concepts. This is not at all the case with DEBUG; it’s unapologetic space schlock determined to entertain with action over ideas. Writer/director David Hewlett, probably best known for playing the lead role on TV’s STARGATE: ATLANTIS series (see interview here), keeps the pace tight and packs the voyage with plenty of exploitation goodies, among them the sex-and-drugs-equals-death arithmetic of slasher fare, gross-outs (that sewage swim…), a pair of startling gore moments (won’t spoil them here) and a dash of deft fight choreography, while also ensuring that the secondary female convicts all invariably end up in their underwear (even star Jeananne Goossen is tasked to display a distracting amount of cleavage throughout).
Hewlett wisely pulls a Rolodex card from his acting days, recruiting former STARGATE co-star Jason Momoa (GAME OF THRONES, CONAN) to appear as the computerized antagonist Iam. Momoa’s screen time is somewhat limited (despite what the DEBUG key art might lead you to believe), but he does run with every minute provided to him, elevating a rote villain role with his rumbling baritone and formidable physicality—not to mention the best eyebrows working in film today. The DVD extras package consists solely of a behind-the-scenes featurette that looks like it was shot in an hour between takes, though it does allow an excited Hewlett the opportunity to exercise his considerable onscreen charm in discussing the details of his movie.
The downside of leaning on such a familiar framework means DEBUG feels…well, familiar. From the “haunted house” spaceship setup to the blinding-white, dentist’s-office-esque production design, to battling computer programs manifesting themselves as sleek martial-arts experts, there is a dearth of fresh thought on board DEBUG. Those looking for brainier, challenging sci-fi may want to hold off on this one. That said, Hewlett’s film certainly has its horrific heart in the right place; the quick pace, slasher-movie riffing and charismatic Momoa moments make DEBUG a smooth watch for the average Fango fan.