Bruce Willis in a sci-fi action film – words that ignited cautious excitement in the heart of someone whose favourite film is Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. But where that 90s cult classic dazzled with Jean Paul Gaultier costumes, gaudy brilliance and all-in performances from the entire cast, this new film by Edward Drake (who?) is a speck of dust that I’m likely to have forgotten by the time I submit this review.
The premise is this: an alien species has made first contact with some humans stationed on a mining planet and it did not go well, so General Ryle (Frank Grillo) employs James Ford (Bruce Willis) based on his reputation of being good at genocide – his ability to dispassionately wipe out a species will hopefully prevent an interstellar war from occurring. Dr Lea Gross (Perrey Reeves or as I know her, Ari Gold’s wife) is there to lend her expertise on the subject; when she was 25 she wrote a paper stating “it is a sin against the cosmos to wipe out a civilisation” but ultimately concluding that it is a necessary evil when two alpha civilisations clash, and so ‘Operation Cosmic Sin’ is born. The doctor also happens to be Ford’s ex-wife because of course she is. This is somehow necessary to create emotional attachment to the characters and perhaps it would’ve, had Bruce Willis shown even an iota of wanting to be there.
First billing for Cosmic Sin goes to Frank Grillo and Bruce Willis and it’s clear that’s where the money went. It’s reasonable then to assume that these two will be leading the film, but Frank Grillo is literally missing for a good chunk of it and Bruce does what Bruce wants (and he doesn’t seem to want to do much at all.) He is set up as a veteran soldier consulted for his wisdom, but most of his lines are delivered with the type of energy one has on a Friday afternoon when you’ve just kind of stopped doing any work and you’re waiting for your boss to let you out early. We open with a lazy introduction reminiscent of a high school slideshow completed the night before, where text is copied from Wikipedia and images are forgotten. This ‘telling, not showing’ theme runs throughout the rest of the film, so best get used to it.
The rest of the cast is fairly important as they are the ones actually propelling the story. Adelaide Kane of Neighbours and The CW’s Reign (the most unwatchable attempt at a period piece program for anyone with a shred of respect for historical accuracy) is the undeclared hero of the story – a ‘wrench’, as she’s derogatorily referred to, who knows how to work the McGuffin of the film (a Q bomb) and who I’m sure got paid the least. I hope Kane got a free physio appointment once shooting had finished – the backache she must’ve had from carrying the film would’ve been immense. Other notable characters are Marcus Bleck played by Costas Mandylor, whom I recognised from Sex and the City as the celibate monk Samantha affectionately names ‘Friar Fuck’. He has some early scenes with Bruce Willis and his dedication to the dialogue just amplifies Brucey’s apathy. The supposed comic relief of the film is played by producer and writer Corey Large, but his ad-libbed (God, I hope it’s ad-libbed) dialogue in one scene where he tries to console a little girl is so awkward that I relished any screen time he didn’t get. Lastly we have the fruit of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s loins, Brandon Thomas Lee – a situation similar to the Lori Loughlin/Olivia Jade scenario of “my child is untalented but I am rich, see what you can do.” His character is the son of General Ryle and he is called Braxton – a fitting name for an absolute fuck-up of a child benefiting from nepotism (sorry to any Braxtons out there but your name, as you must know, is just the worst.)
Cosmic Sin does have some positives – the cantina that bookends the film has a nice set design and there are some fun references to other sci-fi films. While the music for the most part is generic B-grade movie ‘boom boom’ sounds, there is one sequence towards the end where a really interesting harmonica tune plays over a face-off between the son of mediocrity (Brandon Thomas Lee) and what looks like Sauron. It is cleverly weaved between that scene and back to its origin – a holographic country music man performing in the cantina. The sound design is also quite crunchy and that is something I always appreciate. Character-wise I’ll say this: whenever Adelaide Kane or Costas Mandylor were on-screen, the film was more interesting and believable.
Now permit me to ‘go off’; Cosmic Sin is kind of a massively unprofessional production and is far too short for the story it attempts to tell. The tone is all over the place, the effects look cheap and the costumes reminded me of those from the children’s show Parallax. For a film about aliens they are barely present and the logic behind their form is inconsistent. To get around having to spend money on how they look, the aliens ‘possess’ humans in a sort of parasitic way – we really only see sick people and a couple of cloaked leader aliens. It made me think of the Russian sci-fi flick Sputnik (2020) or even Alien-wannabe Life (2017), and how much scarier a concept it is in those films. There is far too much hammy explaining and very little showing; I’ve seen much better, lower budget sci-fi films that had to get creative with their set designs and dialogue in order to distract from most of the scenes being set indoors (Predestination and Coherence come to mind), so it can be done. And if that weren’t enough, Bruce Willis had a weird, curly eyebrow hair out of place for the ENTIRE movie – what does it say that a man’s dysfunctional eyebrows are more interesting than the plot?
I paired this film with a good, stiff Chardonnay, which allowed me to merely chuckle at the sillier parts rather than scoff out of frustration, and I would recommend the assistance of a libation should you see this in cinemas. I’ve lost all hope in Bruce Willis as an actor and he probably needs to upgrade his phone if he’s going to continue using it to deliver his performances. I give Cosmic Sin 4/10 for its use of harmonica and Adelaide Kane’s Sisyphean performance.