In 2060, Earth begins intergalactic travel and trade with other planets across the galaxy. While most of the universe get on with humans, the Sharak-Ti proves quite hostile. As tensions mount, the alien race manipulates DNA to create a biological weapon (Devanny Pinn) to use against the Earthlings. News of the weapon reaches President Ellen Henricksen (Vivica A. Fox), so an in an effort to steal the creature and save humanity she enlists the help of Adam Ryker (Stink Fisher).
Ryker and his elite teams proved themselves valuable in other missions and battles against the Sharak-Ti. Although Ryker is reluctant, the offer is too good to pass up. After assembling his team, including ‘Slaughterhouse’ Stephenson (Antoine Lanier), ‘Four-Eyes’ Shift (John T. Woods), ‘Degenerate’ Jones (Jason McNeil), and Noob (Brandyn T. Williams), they portal jump to the disabled spacecraft carrying the alien weapon.
The supposed abandoned ship is crawling with another mercenary group whose sights are also on the dangerous crossbreed Sharak-Ti. Even more dangerous than the firefight Ryker and his team find themselves in the middle of, is that the Sharak-Ti weapon is awake and crawling around the ship. Can they stop the mercenaries and save all of humankind from extinction?
Thus goes the plot of Crossbreed, a decidedly retro and fun sci-fi action flick. The 1990s were awash in low budget science fiction that traded in high concepts and production designs that looked like the crew went to a Home Depot, bought anything shiny and chrome and then affixed blinking lights to them. Films such as Nemesis (of which there are five films in that franchise now) or Stuart Gordon’s brilliant Fortress instantly sprang to mind while watching this Brandon Slagle directed film.
“… the alien race manipulates DNA to create a biological weapon to use against the Earthlings.”
The script by Slagle and Robert Thompson, offers up a fascinating universe to play around in, with cool tech and interesting alien races. The plot, when boiled down to its bare bones, is nothing new, with this being somewhat reminiscent of a handful of starfaring fetch quests. However, the Sharak-Ti war is explored well, allowing for the stakes to be felt by the audience.
The movie is also quite efficient at setting up the characters, including the man who has hired the other mercenary team. That man is Miller played by a fun Mu-Shaka Benson. His motivations are not the most complex but his reasoning is laid out clearly and he is a formidable threat.
Liberally sprinkled throughout the screenplay are moments of sheer levity. Occasionally these take the form of good-natured ribbing amongst the core group, such as Noob’s protests over being called Noob. Or this exchange-
“An alien lifeform. What kind?”
“…you’ll know it’s an alien because it is the only alien in their laboratory.”
It is delivered dryly, which adds an extra stinging barb of amusement to it.
There are a few crude jokes at hand as well, and they tend to be rather amusing. Degenerate is the main culprit behind them as if it’d be a surprise that someone nicknamed as such is lewd. Then there are all the direct nostalgic references made, traditionally of something released between the late 1980s and mid-‘90s.
As a director, Slagle juggles the hefty amount of characters well and keeps the energy moving from the get-go. The opening dogfight is admittedly loaded with dodgy computer-generated effects. It sees the camera whipping and zooming past the ships as they fire at one another, creating a kinetic vibe early on. The creature’s awakening with its shadow-laced set and grotesque imagery, do not land as smoothly as the action pieces.
“…everything takes a backseat to the real stars…the costume and set designs.”
It is not that those few sequences don’t entirely work on their own, it is more that they don’t mesh well with the action-oriented sections. Since those action moments are the majority of the movie, it is not a smooth transition. But, the ensuing shootout against the mercenaries is well shot and enjoyable; as are all of the action beats, which there are plenty. Crossbreed moves at a breakneck pace and the action is staged well, as to remain excited throughout the brisk 80 or so minute runtime.
The cast all do a credible job with Devanny Pinn’s impressive physicality being of particular note. She’s the alien weapon and truly conveys an inhuman monster in her mannerisms. Stink Fisher’s performance is another standout. He comes across as both a caring, thoughtful person, as demonstrated by an early scene involving a waitress at his cafe, and an intense man on a mission who should not be trifled with. He handles the action well and is having fun.
However, everything takes a backseat to the real stars of Crossbreed, the costume and set designs. Costume designer Kaytee Papusza, along with the props teams, crafted some admittedly goofy, yet cool looking set pieces. Degenerate wears a computer relay over his left eye, and its circuitry (or at least, I presume it is all part of the same piece) covers a decent section of the right side of his face. It is silly, yet adds to an overall vibe of enjoyment.
A lot of Crossbreed relies on props, costumes, and practical effects to sell its futuristic setting. However, there are shots that use CGI. While the ships and stations look cool enough, they lack for detail. Thus they all look smooth and rubbery, not really like metal at all. Of special note, Leigh Scott worked on the visual effects with Reno Williams, and I’m just super happy to see Scott working. That man has created some of the purest fun b-movies in modern history. So nice to see him bringing that same magic to movies he is not helming.
Crossbreed could have aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in 1999 and felt right at home and I mean that in the best possible way. If those sorts of titles, which are not everyone’s cup of tea, speak to you, then rest assured that this film understands what makes those low budget, high concept movies work and goes all in for an enjoyable, swiftly paced ride.
Finally, for the record, I bloody well love Timecop.
Crossbreed (2019) Directed by Brandon Slagle. Written by Brandon Slagle, Robert Thompson. Starring Stink Fisher, Devanny Pinn, Vivica A. Fox, Daniel Baldwin, Antoine Lanier, John T. Woods, Jason McNeil, Brandyn T. Williams, Mu-Shaka Benson.
9 out of 10 Gummi Bears