David Hewlett has built a solid career as a performer. We’ve seen him in a few serious gems, including Cube, Splice, Haunter, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and popular sci-fi series’Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis and SGU Stargate Universe. He’s extremely solid in front of the camera. Debug, the third project that he’s written and directed, will hopefully serve as a reminder that sometimes it’s best to stick with what you’re proven to be skilled at and avoid the call to step outside of the good old comfort zone.
It isn’t that Debug is a horrible film, as it isn’t, but it is a really, really murky picture, to be kind. The story basically (I say basically because half of the damn flick feels so rough around the edges and unpolished that it becomes very easy to lose track of what the hell is going on, or why it’s going on) follows a half dozen convicts with computer skills. For some odd reason they board an abandoned spaceship to… clean up… corrupt programs… or… something like that? I’m not really sure, to be honest, and I’m not sureafter two viewings. It goes to show you how unclear the film really is. But, that’s just me digressing. On this strange ship we soon learn that our hacking criminals are the target of a rogue security program. The program aims to slaughter the humans (I’m still uncertain of the motivation behind this, as well), and when it aims, it finds the mark. One by one these characters are killed off in a variety of ways, most of which seem strange and contrived (at one point a female prisoner decides she’s going to bathe… or swim in a strange little pool/tub thing… all the while she’s supposed to be marching through a “job”, if any of that makes even a hint of sense to you), a few of which are impressively brutal (keep an eye out for a gnarly head-squash scene). Eventually only a pair of prisoners exist to attempt combating the program, until one of these prisoners launches a program of her own, creating a cyber version of herself to oust the program, which occasionally manifests itself in human form.
Sound weird? It is. It doesn’t make much sense, it isn’t easy to follow and it’s anchored by scratch-your-head moments that feel as if they were created for the sole purpose of filling three acts of film rather than telling a quality story. Half of the things that happen in Debug seem completely out of place and awkward. It isn’t what can be called a success by any real stretch of the imagination. I’ll reiterate: David Hewlett is an awesome actor. Writer? Director? Maybe not so much.
Despite the fact that there really isn’t much to work with here, we see some spirited performances from a handful of young talent and a veteran or so. Jason Momoa fills in as Iam, the evil, murderous program, and despite the fact the entire character feels like an afterthought, you can see that he has a little fun in the few moments he can. Adrian Holmes is an officer of some sort (it’s never really clarified) and he shows dedication to the role as Iam quickly turns him into a rampaging beast with a heavy dose of psychotropic drugs. Jeananne Goossen tackles the role of Kaida, the heroine who has a history that should probably be compelling and engaging (it isn’t, because like the rest of the film that’s a very hazy area of the script), and while she’s a little rough around the edges, you can see that she’s got genuine talent to apply to other future projects. The rest of the ensemble come across as a little wishy-washy. They’re not great performers, but they’re not terrible performers. For a film like this it could be said that they’re a sufficient lot.
Debug feels like it wants to a modern age, techie mashup of both Cube and Event Horizon. But the magic that separated Cube and Event Horizon from the rest of the pack is nowhere to be found in Debug. It isn’t frightening in any way, and the jumbled story completely prevents the viewer from ever becoming remotely near engaged. There are a few qualities within the aesthetic element of the film (there’s a cool color contrast between the orange jump suits the criminals wear and the bright blue lights that line some of the corridors within the ship, and as previously noted there’s a fun kill or two waiting to be seen), but in the grand scheme of things Debug looks more like a slightly flashy SyFy Original than a truly respectable motion picture. To sum it all up for you,Debug is more confusing than anything else, and subsequently annoying rather than truly entertaining. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself killing the power on your DVD player by the mid-point of the flick.
Debug is more confusing than anything else, and subsequently annoying rather than truly entertaining. Don't be surprised if you find yourself killing the power on your DVD player by the mid-point of the flick.