Neil Marshall's third film is fast paced action movie, which pays homage to the "Post Apocalypse" genre and much more. It is a text book example of an action movie in three acts. It is also pretty much the sum of its parts. The dialogue is minimalist, the acting adequate and the action fast and violent. Be warned, this film has earned it's 18 certificate for its UK release. However, none of these attributes are bad things. Doomsday makes its intention clear right from the beginning. If you want any further clues, take a look at the UK theatrical poster. The club with spikes is a fair indication that subtlety is not this movie’s strong point.
A deadly plague, known as the “Reaper Virus,” has killed hundreds of thousands and left the UK devastated. In desperation, the British Government evacuates as many survivors as it can out of the infected area, and then builds a wall, preventing the remainder from escaping. Thirty years later, with the wall still up and the victims all but forgotten, the virus appears to breaks out again. The Government decides to send a crack team of operatives, led by Major Eden Sinclair, into the hot zone behind the wall, to investigate the possibility of a cure.
Now the directors last two films, Dog Soldiers and The Descent were very well received by both the public and critics. The latter was very well written and directed and stood out compared to the usual contrived commercial studio fodder. Doomsday is a far more main stream affair and does not have the same level of tension and sophistication. It is a frenetic action film that deliberately pays tribute to such pictures as Escape From New York, The Medieval Dead and Mad Max 2. However, the story unfolds in such a fast pace and lurid fashion, it is easy to overlook the plot flaws and inherent silliness of the premise.
The first act showing the outbreak of the reaper virus, the isolation of Scotland and then the subsequent raid into the forbidden territory, is by far the most engaging. Acts two and three are a series of action sequences in two different environments. They serve to expedite and close some plot lines and whittle down the cast. The production values are good and the film is littered with visual jokes and references. Performances are exactly the kind you need in such a movie. Bob Hoskins gives it plenty of "South London", Malcolm McDowell is suitably sinister and Craig Conway is cheerfully psychotic. Rhona Mitra proves that women can happily take on the role of action hero.
Doomsday is very entertaining on a "what you see is what you get" basis. It may particularly appeal to people of the director’s age group. Those who can remember the "Post Apocalypse" direct-to-video releases that saturated the market in the eighties. The soundtrack by Tyler Bates reflects this with its use of synthesisers and songs by "Adam and the Ants" and "Frankie Goes To Hollywood". The car chases and pyrotechnics are good for the films budgetary limitations. Be warned, as I said earlier, this film is violent. Bodies are crushed, limbs hacked off and there's even cannibalism.
My only criticism relating to Doomsday is the modern, rapid fire editing, that seems to be so fashionable these days. This actually dilutes some of the action sequences, rather than enhance them, which is a shame as some of the combat scenes have been well choreographed. But apart this issue, I consider Doomsday to be a solid and affectionate tribute to the action genre of the eighties and nineties. Viewers get a professionally crafted action vehicle, with the wit and sophistication that comes from a director such as Neil Marshall.