J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Division 19: Dull Dystopia

The future will be voyeuristic, with a taste for blood sport, but you already knew that, because you have seen The Running Man, and The 10th Victim, and Turkey Shoot, and Channeling, and Bertrand Tavernier’s infinitely superior Death Watch. Even Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant Network covered a lot of this supposedly cutting-edge material. S.A. Halewood goes back to the dystopian well, but she makes it all slower and duller throughout Division 19, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Hardin Jones is the most downloaded prisoner in the penal system, so there’s something his mother can stick up on the fridge. He went to jail to protect his hacker activist brother Nash, who is active in the underground organization, Division 19, thereby establishing the otherwise meaningless title. However, in the future prisons double as reality TV shows, to make them economically self-sufficient and to distract the masses.

However, no prisoner had ever caught on with the general public like Jones, so Nielsen, the president of the Panopticon TV network plans to build her rehabilitation Potemkin village show around him She hopes Jones will buy in, not sell-out, but instead he escapes with the help of Nash’s gang. Yet, he remains a loose cannon, going rogue, instead of serving as a revolutionary mouthpiece.

Mostly, this is a case of been there, done that, but this time around, Jones makes a problematically passive protagonist. We so get how awful it is for the convicts to be exploited and displayed, 24-7. Of course, Jones does not play that game. He is all about going off the grid, but this time, he might do whatever it takes to get Big Nielsen off his back.

Yawn. Everyone looks bored in Division 19, so we are well within our rights to feel that way too. It is doubtful there is a single original sequence in the film. Plus, Jamie Draven is just dull as dishwater as Jones. The same is true of Will Rothhaar brooding relentlessly as Nash. Alison Doody (from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is a terribly nondescript villain, but Linus Roache is even more wishy-washy as the dystopian fat cat, Charles Lynden. At least character actor Clarke Peters (Adrian shows some signs of life as Perelman, the off-the-grid guru.
When you really get down to it, there is no pressing need for any of this. It’s really all quite nondescript and forgettable. Not recommended,
Division 19 opens this Friday (4/5) in LA, at the Laemmle Music Hall.

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