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Invincible (2022) Review

Invincible was directed by Daniel Zirilli (Renegades, The Best Man), written by Zirilli, Robert David De Lay (Steel Goddesses), and Johnny Strong (Get Carter, Daylight’s End), and stars Strong, Marko Zaror (Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone, Fist of the Condor), Jason Archilla (Till You’re Loved, Caffeinated), Vladimir Kulich (Crackerjack, The Debt Collector), Jude S. Walko (The Incantation, The Lazarus Papers), Paul Kennedy (Mandrake, Chancer), May Myat Noe (Yuri, The Haunting of Hell Hole Mine), Sally Kirkland (80 for Brady, The Way We Were), and Michael Pare (Mayday, Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar). It’s about the head of security for a nanotechnology company tracking down and confronting their marauding mistake of a super-soldier.

The Plot: Not exactly something completely different but far enough removed from anything recently released; the idea that Zirilli, De Lay, and Strong had the potential to played with serious stakes, but the illogic that drives the plot throttles its possibilities.

Special forces and billionaires tend not to mix well, and when Cortez (Zaror) and his men are ambushed and torn to shreds while on a mission in Thailand doing who knows what, this trend continues. Their superior, Colonel Taylor (Kulich), reaches out to tech mogul and nanotech proponent Teska’s (Kennedy, doing his best John Rhys-Davies) company to try and save the wounded men’s lives. Cortez pulls through thanks to the work of Dr. Quade (Kirkland), but Invincible is a movie of formulaic parts, so it doesn’t take long for the now super soldier to lose it and for the movie to avoid justifying it.

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With the crazed and impenetrable man on the loose, Teska sends out his head of security, Cam (Strong) to bring him back. To even the stakes, Cam’s first encounter with Cortez ends with a broken back for the protagonist, who’s rescued by local friend Mike (Archilla), who soon tags along, and given the same injection of super-whatever serum. Invincible has trouble with its plot, as it wastes time sending the CEO home to fellow company man Trevor (Pare), worrying about the optics of the corporation, and Cortez’s kidnapping of Cam’s estranged wife Michelle (Noe) instead of thinking up a logical way to put down an unkillable antagonist.

Movies like Universal Soldier and the majority of its sequels aren’t known for their stories, nor will be for Invincible, which has trouble clearing the lowest of narrative bars because of its nonexistent detailing and inconsequential filler.

The Characters: A trio of writers should be able to come up with at least one sound character, but this never happens. Even the ancillary usage of stock characters is avoided here, with character actors a poor substitute for real writing.

Cam, despite being played by Strong – a reliable actor, is devoid of personality. He barely gets any dialogue for the first half hour, and the little that comes after doesn’t do much shading. Cam isn’t much for friendship, but he works hard for the money he earns, even though he’s clearly skeptical of the project he’s invested in. Invincible offers him Michelle in an attempt to give him a personable side, but she doesn’t fill the void, as her shoehorned presence only makes Cam feel even less like a character.

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Cortez somehow gets even less definition, with his introduction only conveying that he’s the leader of the team in Thailand. Zirilli, De Lay, and Strong don’t even bother with a rank until the movie is almost over. His memory had seemingly been lost during the nanotechnology injection, leaving him apprehensive about killing at first, but soon this is lost in the mix, leaving him to become an entirely blank slate.

Teska (I wonder who that name alludes to) isn’t around for much of Invincible, but he’s earnest for the time he is. Genuine belief in his project has brought him to Taylor, a clearly bad guy, but when a person has the kind of money that Teska has, it typically affects their rational thought process. Despite this, it’s still hard to believe that no one else saw straight through Taylor’s veneer to notice the one-note malevolence he’s barely hiding. At least he has a note, whereas everyone else doesn’t. They’re not just invincible, they’re impenetrable.

The Action: Low-budget action movies have their own set of auteurs, ones who bring a certain slickness or style, or brutality to their setpieces. While the stars are certainly capable of kinetic entertainment, Invincible has a hard time living up to them.

Fight choreographer Ron Smoorenburg (English Dogs in Bangkok, War) does a solid job at creating melee scenes, which are the highlight of the film, but they’re few and far between. Teasing the inevitable one on one fight is done respectfully, with Cam saving his boss by using a broken bottle on some hitmen and wrangling one who’s much bigger than himself, and Cortez pummeling through a tunnel of guards to escape his confinement serving as the prelude. However, gunfights and downtime soon become the norm for a lot of the runtime.

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Said gunfights are unanimously bad, with static frames failing to energize these underwhelming moments. Cortez’s time on the battlefield is the closest Invincible comes to a competent shootout, but when the highlight is seeing a maximum of four people in the shot, running and shooting with little impact, that’s faint praise. Most engagements start and end with Cortez being found by someone who then pulls a gun on him, gets one shot off, and gets shot themselves. Rinse and repeat.

While Strong has been trained in judo, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, and jeet kun doe, and Zaror in taekwondo, judo, and karate, the fights between their respective characters are too short to be fulfilling. At one point, Cam runs into Cortez, gets thrown through a door, and the scene just ends. The finale is equally trim, though it at least gives a better showing for the audience as the rivals whale on each other until a deus ex machina shuts the proceedings down. Reheated novelty is present, but too much of the action comes in short bursts.

The Technics: Zirilli is a director who favors quantity over quality, and this outing is as bland as everything else he’s put out before it. Some of the cast and crew work to make something out of next to nothing, but there’s little that can be done under his order.

Post-production changes and additions to Invincible are almost entirely abysmal. Large chunks of dialogue are clearly dubbed in, sometimes desynchronized from the characters’ lips, and the sound design is desperately lacking in punch – especially the fights between Cam and Cortez – which should be the best. Editing during several scenes jars the senses, and the majority of the blood spilled is subpar CGI. What sticks out as a positive is the score by Johnny Strong himself, which almost squeezes some life out of the dry film it’s stuck in, and the healing effects that the augmented characters display.

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More active choices like Wych Kaosayananda’s (One Night in Bangkok, Paradise Z) cinematography are unremarkable, as the movie’s Thai filming locations do the heavy lifting while the DoP does little to set each scene apart visually. Some of the sets are passable, but aren’t wildly out of the ordinary, making every extended shot drag just a little bit longer than they actually do. Even at 92 minutes in total, every line of dialogue that belongs to anyone but Strong is either terribly articulated or terribly boring.

A seemingly unkillable premise is wasted in Zirilli’s hands. Invincible’s best parts all come from Strong and Zaror, with dreadful dialogue, little action, and shoddy production facets joining together in an accomplished effort to make the title a metaphorical misnomer.

Invincible is available on Digital Platforms from Lionsgate. If you’re looking for something similar, but hopefully better, FilmTagger can offer up some suggestions.

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