Strong Yet Not: Our Review of ‘Radius’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - December 03, 2017
Strong Yet Not: Our Review of ‘Radius’

Speculative fiction doesn’t have to be big, it can be small. It can use natural settings and as few characters as possible. This movie really just has two. Well really, a third character (Naziriy Demkowicz) doesn’t count because he pops in at Radius‘s halfway mark. Other minor characters conveniently die while the lead character survives a car accident, not knowing who he is. He holes up in a farmhouse as he tries to remember his identity.

The Canadian writer-director team Caroline Labreche and Stevee Leonard is behind the film. And it lets this man walk around and discover things. Both he and the film ask what’s wrong with everyone. But before any of that, he checks if he has any ID. His finds out that he is a landscaper with the name of Liam Hartwell (Diego Klattenhoff). Liam turns on the news, which warn of both an airborne virus or a terrorist act.

The victims’ eyes become white before they drop to the ground which, by the way, is a decent effect. And this virus not only affects people but animals too. It shows crows having the same haunting eyes as the people falling to their deaths. These signs make him try to communicate how dangerous things are to those who are still alive. He does this without knowing specifically why others have died. The film could have gone anywhere but the path it chooses limits its success.

That’s when Liam eventually figures out that’s he’s what’s wrong with the world around him. He has a curse, that everyone around him dies, which, same. This is when the film is at its best. Because this is when Klattenhoff having to use his instincts both as a character and an actor. However, it’s as if the film’s first half sticks to a world building phase. It also doesn’t move beyond it quickly enough, and the amnesia part of its plot contributes to this. It doesn’t help that another amnesiac joins Liam.

She’s a woman who introduces herself to him as a Jane Doe (Charlotte Sullivan). She at first just wants to talk to Liam even when he sees himself as a danger to everyone. Jane’s entrance to the film changes its dynamic. She turns out to have been in the same car accident as Liam. She chooses to find him. To her, he’s better than dealing with a social worker who won’t be helpful in finding out who she is. She also turns out to be the only person immune to his death curse.

If anything, Liam realizes that she’s the one person who can stop him from killing others with his presence. He proposes that they have to be together in order for everyone around him to stay alive. Meanwhile, the film has flashbacks to both help them and us figure out who they are. They find a black circle in a clearing, the flashbacks showing a cosmic event connects them. It’s one of the film’s few CGI moments and when Liam got his killer powers. While all of that is happening the news assumes that Liam is a terrorist keeping Jane hostage.

Sullivan’s talents outdoes Klattenhoff’s, beginning by exuding a femme fatale air to Jane. It helps that she has the script’s best lines. There are also times when she, as Jane, says things while obviously restraining other thoughts from Liam. She also doesn’t make Jane a totally helpless character. However, Jane can use that helplessness as a weapon when she sees fit. And she nails the complex feelings that come with the plot twist. Klattenhoff, on the other hand, is good only during the film’s opening minutes.

Klattenhoff often gets TV roles as the jock brother type, but Liam requires certain intensity. It makes me wonder what his co-stars in these other shows would have done with the role. He chooses to play Liam with a stoic masculinity that seems counter intuitive in this case. I’m not suggesting for outright flailing, but other male actors this year have chosen defenselessness towards an unstoppable power. Even his line readings don’t land well. What started out as a good premise ends up failing because of some of its parts.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.