Judging from the likes of “Dog Soldiers” and “The Descent”, writer-director Neil Marshall has an affinity towards examining the interplay between Darwinian survival and the crumbling of humanity in times of extreme stress. His latest bundle of dystopic dreams, “Doomsday,” marches onward under this thematic banner. It is the year 2035 and the British Isles is in shambles. Decades of domestic insecurity and the fallout of attempts to contain a Reaper Virus inside Scotland have battered and drained the United Kingdom of its glory and global strength.
Government and law enforcement agencies spend their time cracking down on drug trafficking and discover that urban decay is the last of their problems—the Reaper is back. Furthermore, although Scotland had been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, the virus hadn’t killed all those people left to die. Satellite photos reveal evidence of life. The Department of Domestic Security instructs Chief Nelson (Bob Hoskins) to select a leader for a team of military personnel to be sent into Scotland to bring back either a survivor or any documents from a Dr. Kane’s (Malcolm McDowell) lab that might yield a vaccine. Nelson appoints Sergeant Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra). Saved from the chaotic clutches of the disease-stricken zone when she was a little girl, she has grown up without a mother and has nothing to lose. Sinclair and her comrades (including the versatile Adrian Lester) venture into Scotland in two armored tanks, heading either towards a job completed or to their deaths.
Once the characters are inside, “Doomsday” curves its narrative course. Instead of serving up a compost heap of “Resident Evil” legs and “28 Days Later” arms, Marshall’s film adds a few helpings of “Mad Max,” “Gladiator”, “Timeline,” and a spritz of “The Village”. Sergeant Eden’s team finds survivors all right; it’s just unfortunate (though sociologically inevitable) that they’ve lost touch with modern society. Social disorder and desperation force one group to adopt a leather-and-tattoo, “badass” cannibalistic lifestyle, while the other group retreats from the manic streets of Glasgow into the country and sets up a medieval existence—knights, a stone castle, jousting matches and all.
After the cannibal brigade shows its face, “Doomsday” becomes a blood-sport fest (even when the film cuts back to a London hanging by a scrap of civility—the Reaper Virus slows down for nobody). The running, punching, biting, rolling, and impaling don’t cease until the final action sequence (probably ninety-eight minutes into the 105-minute-long film). The plot events and the portrayal of the violence breathe with an absurd, campy quality that leaves “Doomsday” as a strangely funny “ha-ha.” There is a very brief scene comprised of an automatic rifle and a bunny rabbit that will likely traumatize lepus-loving viewers, but by the chase sequence involving the punked-out savages’ cars and Sergeant Eden’s Aston Martin, you’ll be laughing a great deal more than cringing.
If you’re sick of action films featuring Amazonian protagonists—played by Milla Jovovich or Angelina Jolie—with an axe to grind, “Doomsday” is for you. Rhona Mitra might strike you as ordinary, but her underwhelming presence enables Marshall’s work to envelope the senses. “Doomsday” isn’t quite memorable or enthralling enough for three stars, but as a guilty pleasure, it’s spectacularly entertaining—-two-and-a-half twinkles should be fair.