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The Real Imposter

01/07/2002. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Imposter in the USA - or Buy Imposter in the UK

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Gary Fleder's new film 'Imposter' poses as a thriving sci-fi adventure. Its real identity? A glossy-looking, predictable and lukewarm futuristic yarn. Frank Ochieng reports.

Date Released: 01/04/2002
Rated: PG-13 (for violence, gore, profanity, brief partial nudity)
Film Length: 93 Minutes
Produced by: Gary Sinese, Amber Steven, Daniel Lupi, Gary Fleder, Marty Katz
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Cast: Gary Sinese, Madeleine Stowe, Vincent D'Onofrio, Mekhi Phifer, Tony Shaloub
Distributor: Dimension Films

Imposter leads the pack as the first sci-fi thriller to bombard movie audiences in 2002. It also carries the distinction as being the first of indistinguishable, overwrought sci-fi adventures to invade movie theaters in the new year.

Imposter, the SciFi filmThere's one thing you can say about "Imposter" -- it does have the appropriate title. Director Gary Fleder's ill-conceived actioner flick poses as a thriving sci-fi adventure but its real identity is that of a glossy-looking, predictable lukewarm futuristic yarn.

Fleder, who helmed such kinetic but mediocre psychological thrillers such as "Kiss the Girls" and "Don't Say a Word", provides the underwhelming results for a glorified spiffy B movie.

"Imposter" is based on the late Philip K. Dick's science-fiction-related story. Somehow this flaccid and head-scratching showcase doesn't measure up to other Dick-related movie adaptations such as "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall".

"Imposter" has the vibrant style that makes for an intriguing and tense atmosphere thanks to cinematographer Robert Elswit's handywork. And the visual effects are breathtaking without a doubt.

But with an anemic storyline full of outlandish plot devices and belabored scenes that scream creative desperation, "Imposter" will probably coast along in the mind of the casual sci-fi movie enthusiast.

The so-called "imposter" in this case is scientist Spencer Olham (Gary Sinese), a 21st century scapegoat (in the year 2079 specifically) who comes to the realization that his hide is wanted by the authorities.

Apparently Olham is charged with being a replica of a real scientist whose human-like body houses a twitchy bomb. The agenda, so it seems, has Olham involved in some duplicitous scheme to get close to the Earth's number one ruler so that he can activate the explosive mechanism inside of him, therefore giving a moral victory to the enemy planet.

Major Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio) is the rabblerouser behind the theory that Olham is the walking timebomb waiting to explode. Hathaway hounds Olham about his alleged treacherous plan.

As a weapons engineer, Olham is potentially dangerous and Hathaway wants to make sure that his talents do not fall in the hands of rebellious aliens.

Olham eventually makes his clean getaway and hopes to hook up with his adoring doctor wife (Madeleine Stowe) in an effort to prove his innocence and beat the erroneous rap bestowed on him by the determined Hathaway.

And so Olham spends the better part of this farcical film ducking and dodging bullets while also getting out of contraptions that would make Batman shiver with embarrassment.

The film essentially feels like a shameless conglomeration of "The Fugitive" meets "The Running Man". As frantic as this movie would like to be, the inane proceedings taking place here feels aimless and unfocused.

"Imposter" started out as a 30-minute short story until some brilliant filmmakers figured they could stretch this one-note concept into a festive and frolicking sci-fi feature length fantasy.

However, Sinese's man-on-the-run premise doesn't sustain the choppy script and the antics of the plotline deliberately tries to make up for the filler portions of the movie's gaps. Sinese, who helped co-produce this flashy but faceless dud, has fun playing a roaming protagonist out to clear his name.

It's a cheesy role that must be a refreshing change to what Sinese is used to portraying. Fleder's meandering direction and the ludicrous screenplay certainly doesn't do justice to Dick's animated written work being adapted for the big screen.

No one will put "Imposter" in the same dubious class as the insufferable "Battlefield Earth". After all, at least it took the time to look impressive despite its occasionally laughable, conventional platitudes.

Even when your film boasts a respectable cast and a high-octane sauciness that roars, it's just not enough to disguise the formulaic obviousness.

Frank rates this film: * * stars (out of 4 stars)

Frank Ochieng

Among Frank's media-oriented ventures, he launched the fanzine The Voicemakers (1997- ). He has hosted his own cable TV shows such as Trivia Live! (Warner Cable, 1988), Time To Review (Warner Cable, 1988-89), and The Evaluators (1997-99). Ochieng has also made guest appearances on local Boston-based cable shows such as Canton Live (1987-88) and has been a fixture in the local Boston trivia club scene for 20 plus years. In addition, Ochieng appears occasionally as the film critic for WMWM 91.7 FM radio's The Juke Joint with Bob Nelson based out of Salem, Massachusetts (1991-present).

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