Displaced (2006)

Rating: C+

Dir: Mark Strange
Star: Malcolm Hankey, Mark Strange, Graham Brownsmith, Stephanie Fend

This is one of those films where, the more you know about the sheer effort that went into making it, the more you’ll respect it. Made on a shoestring budget, the project started all the way back in 2000 as a short film, but eventually developed into a feature. Despite the low cost, it certainly isn’t holding back on its aspirations, mixing two factions of aliens, government conspiracties and fairly non-stop action. Humanoid alien Stel (Strange) teams up with British soldier Marrettie (Hankey), seeking a file which contains information on the location where Stel’s father is being held. But the file has been stolen by renegade soldier Wilson (Brownsmith), intent on selling the extra-terrestrial knowledge it contains to the highest bidder.

It’s not often I criticize a film for having too much action, but that might be the case here. The film starts with a big action sequence, as Stel and his sister try to recover the file, and it must go on for a good 15 minutes: however, it’s rare such a sequence will work before the characters have been established. The only case that comes to mind is Jackie Chan’s Police Story, and there you were dealing with the biggest star in his country, so the audience “knew” him. Here, it’s a clumsy opening, with the action following a scene-setting monologue that was so lengthy, it had us wondering if this was a sequel. It’s a pattern the rest of the film follows too, a shame since there’s enough sly wit in the script to make me want more.

For example, when Marrettie introduces Stel to his wife, having explained he’s an alien, her reaction is to shrug and ask Stel if he’d like a cup of tea. That’s typically British, and the film could have leavened the gunplay and martial-arts a little better with this kind of invention. The action is by no means badly-staged, from a technical point of view: but, neither is it innovative or spectacular enough to merit the amount of screen-time received here. One aspect worth noting is a good number of strong female characters, notable Sienna (Fend), the assassin who is working for Martin. That’s always worthy of approval. I’ll certainly be watching to see how Strange develops down the line; for the moment, however, this is more of interest as an exercise in squeezing out every penny of production value from your budget, than as a movie in its own right.