9 July 2009 | ofumalow
A Frenchman directing mostly Germans speaking awkward phonetic English--that's just one of the problems here, but it's a big one, since so many of the actors here stiltedly handle dialogue that would be problematic under ideal circumstances. The only person here who seems to have a firm grip on what he's doing is Alan Bates, who chooses to play his media-mogul villain role for arch comedy. As a result, he seems to be in a different movie, so at least this one doesn't embarrass him like the luckless other performers.
Jennifer Beals has the right droning, narcotic quality in scenes where she's the hypnotic face/voice of sinister advertisements, but elsewhere she has to rely on her acting abilities, which are limited as usual. Jan Niklas has apparently been excellent elsewhere, but he's dreadful here as the noirishly cynical investigating hero. Andrew McCarthy has exactly one brief scene as an assassin--he does get special billing, but it's neither a cameo or supporting role, just a straight-up bit part (I hope he fired his agent after this).
Many people have said this film doesn't make much sense. and I'll have to take their word for it--it's so turgid I might well have not paying attention if/when there were elements that did somehow explain things. There's an inexplicable suicide epidemic in a faintly futuristic Berlin. Like Francois Truffault before him (in "Fahrenheit 451"), Chabrol has no particular feel for sci-fi or dystopian fantasy, despite OK production design. He doesn't even try to build suspense around the possibility of sudden violent death at any moment, and the deaths when they occur are indifferently staged.) There are ridiculous scenes in a quasi-fascist quasi-punk club where everyone dresses in designer black; they dance like performance artists trying cluelessly to imitate a mosh pit. There's also one of those hysterically pretentious sex scenes in which naked gyrations (Beals no doubt using a body double) are intercut with archival footage of nuclear explosions, war crimes, etc. Oh, the humanity. Things get even sillier when the protagonists go to a bizarre "resort"--hence the retitling "Club Extinction"--that's like Club Med meets Jonestown meets "The Prisoner."
Unfortunately, the whole film is so misconceived and lifeless there's little camp entertainment value to its mess. One among "Dr. M's" many misfortunes is that it was filmed in 1989, and the script makes much of tensions between Wall-separated East and West--but of course that division had collapsed by the time it came out.