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By Felix Vasquez Jr. | September 1, 2008

I almost feel bad for Vin Diesel, a genuinely nice guy who has reached the end of his rope as far as his career is concerned. These days audiences just aren’t accepting of an actor whose primary roles are actioners. No, these days you have to evolve as a performer and transform into characters for different genres or you end up on cable starring in one “Lethal Weapon” retread after another. It seems like a far-fetched concept, but consider the strength of Jason Statham’s career, a man as one note as Diesel whose remained significantly employed for years. Diesel gave an honest effort in drama and so far hasn’t quite shown that he’s up to the task of taking on serious roles.

Thus his career has turned in to a snake swallowing its own tail with Diesel headlining other pretty down on their luck stars in the restart (and remake?) “Fast and Furious,” and now “Babylon A.D.” which has aspirations to be as politically conscious as other apocalyptic films but can only shed insight in the form of “Save the Planet—what for?” Director Mathieu Kassovitz’s wannabe epic is “Children of Men” with muscles. But really it could have just been named “The Chronicles of Riddick: Babylon A.D.” and no one would have known the difference.

Diesel essentially plays Riddick but this time in the form of smuggler Toorop, a man closed off from his world, living in slums and enjoying watching the news through monitors scattered around his room. He’s a street tough who is so hardcore he beats a dealer in for selling him a faulty hand gun. He also manages to spew a ridiculous monologue to an ex-enemy while being held against his will by Mercs. These Mercs force him into smuggling a young girl named Aurora across the world to the safe haven that is now the US. This is where “Babylon A.D.” practically steals scenes from Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece, as Toorop guides her through the policed wasteland pulling her out of the way of public disorder, random explosions and odd conversations about tigers.

Kassovitz inevitably creates a conflict direction-wise, making “Babylon A.D.” a tonal nightmare. Sometimes it wants to be a dim-witted blockbuster but then Kassovitz seems anxious to inject undertones of racial injustice and animal cruelty while also never hesitating to wag his finger at us about global warming. There’s also the fact that character Aurora is one of the most grating heroines of the past three years with zero sympathetic personality traits. Michelle Yeoh has been given the shaft this Summer first in a throwaway part in “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” and now as Sister Rebekah, the guardian to Aurora, whose role is almost entirely silent in its passiveness.

“Babylon A.D.” wants to be three different films at one time but sadly never asks much from Diesel other than to grunt, stomp around, and reprise the role that made him a star. If Diesel wants to get to the next level of his career, this genre confused mess of a picture isn’t going to bring him there.

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