We’ve all met that guy who seems directionless. Lost. He’s always hurting for cash, late on his rent. You don’t know how he makes his money when he has it, but when it appears you get the sense he didn’t get it in the most ethical of ways. This is the kind of guy who might be good for a laugh, but he never seems to get close to anyone. Nothing really matters to him.
You’ve met that guy, right?
Now imagine the reason he’s like this isn’t born from his personality, but because he’s clairvoyant. Now there’s an intriguing idea.
In VOLITION, James (Adrian Glynn McMorran) is an aimless man with a unique problem. Instead of perceiving time moment-by-moment, he is cursed with the ability to see flashes of the future. But don’t think that makes him special. In his words, all this means is that “this lousy life has played out before,” and he’s “stuck watching the rerun.”
While others may have used this power to change the world, James is content to win big gambling and to help small-time crooks smooth out their operations. So when Ray (John Cassini) offers James $100,000 to help him figure out the best way to smuggle diamonds to their new owner, James quickly says yes.
What seems like easy money turns lethal, however, when James gets a flash of his own impending death. Now James is forced to disregard his belief that nothing can be changed in the attempt to rewrite the “rerun.” Can James discover the identity of his future attacker before it’s too late?
The first act of VOLITION plays nicely. We meet James, get to know his lightly nefarious ways, and even get a glimpse of potential romance. But everything changes at the forty-minute mark. Just when you think you know what the film’s about, Smith flips the story on its head with a dramatic twist that’s startling. Suddenly you’re in a new film; it’s exciting.
However, changing the direction of your film midstream is a double-edged sword. Though the film mostly sticks the landing, it’s not without a wobble or two.
Technically the picture is terrific. Cinematographer Byron Kopman delivers beautifully dark images – complete with hazy flashbacks – that ground the film’s more fanciful elements nicely. The cast is equally great. Adrian Glynn McMorran, styled in a way that recalls a young Jack Nicholson, carries the movie with ease; while John Cassini, Frank Cassini, and Aleks Paunovic give memorable character performances.
But things falter a bit when it comes to the execution of the genre twist. The first act gives us a good blend of gritty world and gallows humor – after all even the doomed are allowed lighter moments. However, when James’s situation is revealed to be more complicated than first thought, the movie’s tone shifts dramatically. It’s a good idea, but Smith doubles down on the seriousness of the film and things get off balance.
To be clear, this is a dramatic film, and flat out comedy would have been out of place. But the final fifty minutes deliver the same extremely sober quality without variation. An audience needs that variation to allow them to know when the stakes have been raised. Without it, each scene starts to have the same weight, which can quickly turn everything into white noise.
Tonal differences aside, VOLITION is a fine film, and I’m looking forward to what’s next for the creators. If you like your sci-fi grounded, gritty, and shocking, make sure to check it out.
VOLITION will be available Apple TV, Prime Video & other digital platforms on July 10, 2020.