In a setup similar to Netflix’s 2020 fantasy-action romp The Old Guard, the new film from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer films) is about a secret handful of humans who effectively live forever by being reborn every time they die and at a certain point in their maturing process in a new body, they remember everything from all of their past lives, including knowledge, training and emotions. These individuals are called Infinites, and the only thing that can stop a person from reincarnating is if their soul is somehow captured by a subset of this group called Nihilists, all of whom seem to hate being able to live forever and decide that the only way to end the cycle is to destroy all life on earth, thus ending the chance for reincarnation. I mean, there’s a beautiful logic to that, I suppose.
In Infinite, Evan McCauley (Mark Wahlberg) is actually the reincarnation of an Infinite named Heinrich Treadway (played by Dylan O’Brien in a 1980s flashback in which he dies), only Evan doesn’t remember anything about his past lives. Evan has had voices in his head since he was a kid, but a steady diet of pills, plus a steel plate in his head after an accident, have managed to more or less squash the past trying to speak to him. As his true identity becomes known, he is approached by both an Infinite named Nora (Sophie Cookson) and a Nihilist named Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor), both of whom very much want him on their side.
Based on the novel The Reincarnationist Papers by D. Eric Maikranz (and adapted by Ian Shorr), Infinite is a whole lot of movie with a great deal of exposition about the history of Infinites, most of which is extraordinarily hollow, dull and failed to convince me why I should care one way or another about whether someone who isn’t me should be allowed to live forever. For what feels like half the movie, people are trying to make Evan remember who he is and convince him it’s even worth remembering, while the back half of the film is a whole lot of action (there’s action throughout—Fuqua remains a masterful action director—but it just goes on seemingly forever for the second hour).
There are a few colorful and unexpected supporting players, including comic actor Jason Mantzoukas as a fully hedonistic Infinite named The Artisan; Liz Carr as tech genius Garrick; Toby Jones as Porter; and Wallis Day as the vicious Nihilist assassin Shin. Wahlberg gets off a few stale one-liners, the violence feels extreme, and the chases and fighting are visceral, but so much of it feels familiar, and the filmmakers don’t care enough about the fantasy elements of the story to give them any thought or depth. I tend to enjoy the presence and energy Wahlberg can bring to a role, but here, he seems uninspired. And despite all of the over-explaining, I don’t feel I quite understood everything that was going on.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment about Infinite is that you won’t be able to see it on a big screen. Fuqua doesn’t always hit the mark, but his films were meant to be full-blown audio-visual experiences, and having to watch this at home was a drag. If I’m going to be assaulted by loud explosions and special effects-enhanced stunts, give me the theatrical experience every time. I’ll give points for finely crafted action sequences and a handful of bold casting choices, but beyond that, Infinite is decidedly, whole-heartedly average.
The film is now streaming on Paramount+.
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