Endangered Species (2003)

Don't know who this bloke is, but he's not in this movie

Don’t know who this bloke is, but he’s not in this movie

John Rhys-Davies is a first-ballot ISCFC Hall of Famer, without a doubt. As well as entertaining us for all the good seasons of “Sliders”, he’s done sterling work in a number of Asylum movies, something called “Lord of the Rings” (too big-budget for us) and , if you look at his IMDB credits, what looks like every sci-fi or horror movie of the last twenty years. He’s clearly a guy who loves working, and while that brings honourable failures and enormous successes, sometimes it leaves us with “what the hell were you going for?” choices, like “Endangered Species”. But more on him later.

One thing you could not accuse this movie of is originality. Take a smidgeon of “Predator 2”, a hefty bit of “The Hidden”, and a storyline which has occurred in pretty much every sci-fi TV series ever, and you’ve got this. An alien is on earth, hunting and skinning us; because we’re a protected nature reserve, in intergalactic terms, a “park ranger” is sent down to stop the poaching. The “ranger” is Arnold Vosloo, star of almost as many genre things as Rhys-Davies, and of course the cops think he’s the bad guy at first, but eventually it all gets sorted and they help each other track down the effectively indestructible alien hunter. That cop? Eric Roberts, who perhaps lost the same bet the rest of the cast of this did, which led to him agreeing to be in it. Still, he gets a nice sex scene or two, and his wife is very attractive, so perhaps that was it. Do actors even think that way? “Well, I’m not getting paid very much, but I do get to see that person naked”.

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A lot of this film’s really odd feel comes from its location. It was filmed in Lithuania and zero attempt is made to make it look anything like the USA. The lack of road signs, actual signs, advertising billboards or anything like that makes it feel like a really old computer game, where all they could manage was vague shapes of buildings and roads. Most of the murders take place in health spas and gyms, and they’re always on ugly streets with bad lighting – unlike just about every gym ever, but never mind.

John Rhys-Davies is the comic relief in this, which is a weird bit of casting. He runs after bad guys, swearing the entire time, and partakes in banter with his fellow cops, perhaps the worst most stilted banter in movie history. He does get a great line in, though, while toying with an alien gun – “I may not be from the University of scientific smartarses”, delivered with way more gravitas than it deserves. He’s great, as always, but it’s properly bizarre casting.

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Everything feels off. Not just the casting (for example, the cop’s tech guy is Al Sapienza, who only really plays villains), not just the locations, not just the banter, but everything. Too many boobs on display, cop cars made of petrol and dynamite, that incredibly annoying siren in the seemingly never-ending car chase in the last two-thirds of the movie, the family subplot which might as well just be a black screen with the word “FILLER” on it, and the boring inevitability of it all.

One last thing – the invincible alien trope. Both Vosloo and the hunter are completely indestructible, and not just because of the leather jackets they both wear. The hunter takes a couple of shots to the skull and laughs it off. Now, the comparison is made that they are to us, as we are to apes. If an ape threw a rock at my head, it would hurt like hell, but they can take an automatic rifle to the dome and not lose a step? Boo, I say to you. I hate the invincible alien trope.

Anyway, if you’re a mad Eric Roberts or JRD completist, pop this on, by all means. But otherwise just watch “The Hidden”, as it’s much better.

Rating: thumbs down

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