The Anomaly (2014)

Spot the bad guy.

Noel Clarke has something that a lot of actors would kill for. It doesn’t matter who is playing, or in what genre, you want to like him. That likability is not the sole reason he’s been able to succeed as a writer, director and performer, but it’s certainly helped. Sadly, it’s not enough to save The Anomaly from what it is, a bit of a stinker.

Which is frustrating, because at the heart of this film there is a cool idea. Clarke, who is starring and directing, plays Ryan, a PTSD sufferer who awakes in a van alongside a small boy named Alex. Things quickly begin to unravel as Alex explains that he has been kidnapped, and it becomes clear Ryan is missing several months of his life. Before he can get to the bottom of the mystery, he blacks out, only to wake up again, this time in bed with Dana (Alexis Knapp), a prostitute who hits every trope they can find. Knapp might as well have not turned up for all that they give her.

None of us knows what we’re doing here.

And that’s how the film work. Every time Ryan awakes he has just under ten minutes before he goes back under. In those ten minutes, he has to do as much as he can to figure out what the hell is happening to him. A process that is hampered by Ian Somerhalder’s Harkin (who appears to know him) and Luke Hemsworth and Ali Cook’s mysterious agents, who have their own motives.

That conceit – the ten-minute bursts of life – could make for an interesting film. Every time Ryan wakes up he is somewhere new, wearing different clothes and in a new situation. It leaves him having to adapt as quickly as he can. Unfortunately, that idea is let down by a stinker of a script. The dialogue is cringe-inducingly bad at times, and you will groan at some of the one-liners. Even Clarke can’t deliver them with something approaching conviction.

Acting with the eyebrows.

Then there’s the plot itself. Rather than a cool mystery to untangle, it quickly becomes clear we are being dropped into a mess of dodgy science and clichés. As a watcher, there are points where you end up even more confused than Ryan, as it makes leaps of logic that don’t quite seem to click. It all seems to be designed to hold things together until we can get to another fight scene. Unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed and the nicely choreographed slow-mo brawls don’t make up for the rubbish that surrounds them.

The Anomaly has the foundations of a good film. With Clarke in control and that interesting conceit, you are almost willing for it to be one. Sadly, it never gets there. It blunders along, bouncing off the walls before ultimately collapsing under the weight of its own mediocrity. It takes more than likability to save something this bad.

Verdict: Hall of Shame

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