Dark Asset (2023) Review
The latest film in the super soldier gone rogue genre, Dark Asset, begins quietly enough with John Doe (Byron Mann, Skyscraper, Sniper 3) sitting in a room as armed guards, technicians and scientists observe him. This allows Dr. Cain (Robert Patrick, What Josiah Saw, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) to deliver a long monologue filling us in on John and the microchip in his brain.
Perhaps realizing this isn’t going to end well for either of them John’s brain and the chip decide to go rogue, ignoring commands including the one to terminate him. Cain slips out leaving the various guards and techs to suffer John’s wrath.
Director Michael Winnick (Disquiet, Code of Honor) and co-writer Terri Farley-Teruel (The Dick, Finding McQueen) get Dark Asset off on the right foot with some decently staged if obviously low-budgeted, mayhem as John fights his way out of the facility. But then the story takes an odd turn.
Turning up at a fancy hotel John fixates on Jane (Helena Mattsson, 666 Park Avenue, Surrogates). She tries to brush him off until he offers her the Lamborghini he’s somehow acquired if she’ll listen to what he has to say. This leads to a series of setpieces related to the project and previous subjects. It also raises the question of who Jane is, and why John finds it so important to tell all of this to her.
The result is something like an anthology film as the stories of John’s predecessors are related. The stories, for the most part, have potentially interesting plots but they’re not very well developed and give us little reason to care about the characters. The result is that much of Dark Asset’s first half is taken up with unsatisfying vignettes.
Once the film gets to the point where John has been recruited into the program I was hoping it would get a bit more cohesive and interesting. And to a degree it does, but Dark Asset never manages to shake off its biggest problem. The constant interruptions, not just between stories but during them, as we come back to John and Jane sitting at their table engaging in cringe inducing attempts at cute and witty banter.
As you can imagine this kills the film’s pacing and destroys any tension or momentum the plot has managed to build up. The voiceovers during the stories aren’t quite as bad, but they’re still intrusive. If the plot could have been held together in a manner that didn’t involve the constant interruptions Dark Asset would have been a lot more watchable.
Unfortunately, it never would have been more than watchable due to a variety of other factors including a script that isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Jane’s secrets are fairly easily guessable even without a huge giveaway in Senator Benson’s (Paul Savage, Aisle Be Home for Christmas, American Tigers) dialogue.
To be fair there is more action in Dark Asset than in most films of its class, but it’s a very mixed bag. Fight choreographer Ayhan Tongadur (Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Escape Plan) and fight choreographer Daniel Locicero (The Black Phone, SEAL Team) deliver some painful looking hand to hand work. The gunplay on the other hand suffers from some very obvious CGI muzzle flashes and even worse bullet hits. It’s also the kind of film where we see bullets hit walls and tables but glass and other breakables are untouched.
If all you care about is some action and you’re not feeling fussy, Dark Asset may get you through. But for most viewers, this will feel like a bad Universal Soldier wannabe. Still better than Universal Soldier: The Return, but still substandard.
101 Films released Dark Asset to Digital Platforms in the UK on September 18th. In the US, Saban Films will release it in theaters and to VOD and Digital Platforms on September 22nd.