The challenge with any genre film is to avoid bouncing from trope to trope. Add in banal dialog, flat performances, and an incoherent plot and you have the makings of a very definite B-movie. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the latest sci-fi action thriller Enhanced. Director James Mark comes from a background as a stuntman so it’s no surprise that the film bounces from fight to fight with some semi-coherent exposition between. You don’t have to guess when there’s a dramatic action scene coming up, because every single time the music changes to 80’s action drama. Once the fight’s over, the music switches right back to the ambient background.
The story: There’s a shadowy government research lab that has created enhanced humans who can fire up the ole’ glowing blue eyes and gain super strength. Problem is, the mutants have long since escaped the lab and are now hidden as regular citizens. For reasons that aren’t clear, the research lab and its military colleagues seem unable to track down the enhanced. They can, however, hire a specialized private military organization to track, disable and return them to the labs.
Tough guy George Shepherd (George Tchortov) is the head of this military unit, with his team of straight-out-of-central-casting soldiers. They utilize various unexplained devices to track down the wayward mutants. Don’t be surprised if you get confused about who’s who, though, because just about every single male actor in the film has the same short hair, close-trimmed beard, and mustache, wool beanie, and macho swagger. Maybe the facial hair was in their contract?
The first enhanced man they capture is Joseph (Patrick Sabongui), and it takes a half-dozen soldiers and their glowing blue cattle prods to overcome him. These mutants are tough! Just a few miles away Anna (Alanna Bale) is finishing up a car repair job at the tiny garage where she works. Three thugs come in and start beating up her boss, which causes her to see red. Uh, blue. Yes, she’s also enhanced. It ends badly for the bad guys, but Anna knows it’s time to split. George and his team show up, just as Anna jumps in her van and takes off into the boondocks.
Another rumble later, George and Anna realize how cruel the lab directors have been in creating the enhanced humans. George is shocked; it’s quite different from what he’s been told and causes him to rethink his participation in rounding up the enhanced. It’s also very reminiscent of the origin story of Eleven in Stranger Things, but that’s perhaps the writer finding inspiration from a popular series. When David (Chris Mark) shows up things really go sideways; turns out that he’s a super mutant, his back story is quite different from the others and he’s trouble for regular people and enhanced both.
If you’re familiar with genre tropes, you can probably already figure out the rest of the story, and probably even visualize the action sequences and fights. It’s all been done before and assembled in a different order in Heroes, Scanners, X-Men, and dozens of other films. Mad scientists, evil government agencies, innocent children as lab rats, it’s all classic paranoid action cinema.
To be fair, though, Enhanced was watchable. Indeed, it’s almost a good B action film. If they could have just excelled in one area, either less reliance on tropes, better performances, a more coherent story, or a logical, narrative timeline. Indeed, it took almost an hour for any backstory to be revealed, so much that I began to wonder if Enhanced was originally intended to be the premiere episode of a limited series. It wasn’t, the production rep assured me, and had always been written for a cinematic release. Sometimes complex can be too complex for a script, suffice to say.
Do I recommend Enhanced? It’s a film that will inevitably land in the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu action library, so if you go in expecting some good action sequences wrapped around a daft and banal story, you might just be ready to enjoy Enhanced.
Dad At The Movies Note: This is a “PG” sci-fi action with lots of fights and people tossed around, but not much to prevent teens who love the genre from watching it. More mature tweens will probably enjoy it too, but younger than that, it’s probably just going to prove too incoherent to be fun.