Synopsis: A young man must cope with involuntary telepathy, a potion-induced transformation, teleporting agents and a clone reincarnation, all while dodging an evil corporation that wants to harvest his brain for knowledge.
You can’t fault the makers of Polypore for their vision and ambition when it comes to the scope of their movie. Trotting from New York to Tokyo, Vienna, Barcelona, Paris and back again to tell the story of an evil corporation hell bent on harnessing and weaponsing the telekinetic properties of a mythical mushroom, the visual product that Jesse Barack and co got from their budget is nothing short of breath taking. With the identify of the main protagonist morphing throughout the movie it plays like Better Off Ted filtered through Lost Highway.
The issue is the movie suffers from two major flaws; a crisis of identity; and student movie level acting. It’s a combination of these two elements that ultimately undo much of the excellent visual effect work and distract from a story that had real potential.
Polypore sits in that genre of sci-fi reserved for the likes of Primer and Pi. Indeed it’s subject matter is in a similar vein to both of them by exploring the further reaches of our minds capability and shady organisations who may want to harness that capability for nefarious gains. The reason Primer and Pi succeeded was understanding the limitations of it’s actors and reducing the amount of acting they actually do. In fact, arguably in Primer, there is little acting as much of the science is real and described by someone who understands it. It feels at times that the actors in Polypore were given too much latitude to act and their limits are quickly reached, which drew me away from the story.
Similarly Primer and Pi told incredibly complicated stories in what were ultimately claustrophobic and intimate spaces. They were dark stories with little room for humour. Polypore seems to struggle with whether it is a black comedy, straight up parody, sci-fi action adventure or all three. One particularly misguided scene involving a cameo from B-movie legend Lloyd Kauffman getting into a discussion with a henchman about his expenses claims. There is also a terrible use of a caricatured right-wing talk show host in the last 10 minutes that felt equally out of place.
That’s not to say there isn’t a good movie behind the distractions. And for such a young director Jesse Barack shows unflinching ambition to drag his crew halfway across the world and employs some impressive CGI on such a small budget. But it feels like he needed to determine what story he wanted to tell in what style and stay the course. It’s a story that could have benefited from a smaller, darker narrative focussed on one or two locations. Unfortunately by spreading his cast and story too far and wide Barack’s story gets lost in all the travel.
Conclusion: Big ambition let down by a lack of focus on tone and delivery
Cast: Jeffery Bielat, Chen Tang, Jonathan Thomson, Jesse Barack