The “space / future prison” genre has a long and honourable history. Well, okay, neither of those things are true, but there are certainly plenty of them. From the classic “Escape From New York”, to 1990’s “Moon 44”, to “Alien 3”, both “Fortress” movies, 1997’s “Moonbase”, “Assault On Dome 4”, then getting further down the quality scale to “Starfire Mutiny” and “Total Reality” (there are plenty of others), audiences have been delighted by the implausibility of sending your worst criminals into space when it would be a great deal cheaper and easier to put them in a vault at the bottom of the ocean, or something, for 40 years.
The latest addition is “Incoming”, which first piqued my interest due to its casting of Scott Adkins. Adkins is B-movie royalty – you might recognise him from small roles in “Doctor Strange” and the second “Expendables”, but although his filmography sounds like some cruel joke – things you’ve never heard of called “Wolf Warrior 2”, “American Assassin” and “Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear” – he’s one of the greatest modern on-screen martial artists and is a surprisingly strong actor.
“Incoming” is about terrorism, in a way, but a terrorism completely devoid of any motive, political or otherwise. The Wolfpack, a group mostly comprised of Eastern European men solely because it was filmed in Serbia and that’s what the producers had access to, blow up Big Ben in London, and the first scene is a man in an empty apartment, save for a laptop he’s watching the news on, get arrested.
Five years later! And we’re at the International Space Station, which has been repurposed as a prison for the six members of the Wolfpack they’ve been able to catch. Argun (Vahidin Prelic, doing surprisingly well for his second language) is being tortured by Kingsley (Lukas Loughran), and Kingsley is one of those monsters who seems to quite enjoy his work. The government-approved torture is being done to find out who the Alpha of the Wolfpack is, although it being five years might indicate to some that the torture isn’t working. Whatever!
Into this happy scene comes a pair of CIA agents – one, a doctor, coming to check them out, Stone (Michelle Lehane); the other, an accountant, just one who happens to be ripped and mean-as-hell-looking, Reiser (Adkins). There’s a pilot who flirts with Stone a little, Bridges (Aaron McClusker) and the other five terrorists, of course.
I’ll give the movie credit for being against torture, by no means a given in the world of 2018. We get the line “the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply in space”, which was good enough to put in the trailer, and we get a decent argument against it from Stone, too. But then, she’s tricked by Argun and inadvertently lets the terrorists out, and it’s torture-crazed terrorists versus a woefully underprepared foursome for the last two-thirds.
The “incoming” of the title refers to the terrorists’ plan to point the International Space Station at Moscow and use it as a giant bomb, but it just acts as the race-against-time thing the good guys have to stop and doesn’t particularly factor into things. Well, I say good guys, as there’s definitely some layers to the non-terrorists on board.
There are some nice touches, such as when the terrorists find the room they’ve been tortured in for the last five years and, even though they’re in control, seem unsure about entering; Adkins gives a decent performance too. The sets use their cheapness to their advantage, as it sort of looks like what the ISS would look like if it was largely ignored for five years. Okay, there’s a bit where they carry in the supplies for the prisoners, huge boxes labelled “Beans” with a picture of beans on it, and it’s very obviously an empty box, but no-one’s perfect.
ASIDE: I do like how they get round not being able to afford the zero-gravity effect, by saying “by the way, we’re using this super-good new gravity technology on everything these days”. Good save, movie!
I’d suggest the main problem with “Incoming” is the lack of a reason for why anyone does anything. The terrorists want to blow up Moscow…why, exactly? Why have they done any of this? And when the twist, such as it is, happens, unless you’re paying absolute and complete attention to the dialogue, the reason for their behavior would be a complete mystery to you.
Hiring Scott Adkins for your movie but only giving him two short fight scenes is like hiring Fred Astaire and only bothering to have him do a vague bit of soft-shoe in the background. But, of course, he makes the most of it, and the fights, as well as being brutal, actually tell a story and help advance the movie.
It’s a tense thriller with not an ounce of fat on its bones – while it may be curiously scripted at times, I’d suggest the action of it means it’s worth your while.
Rating: thumbs in the middle