By Rob Blackwelder
Underneath it's 1970s bargain-basement filmmaking, its simplistic establishing, its vacuous lead performances, its cheesy dialogue and its monochromatic Adidas tracksuits, "Clonus" (aka "Parts: The Clonus Horror") tries to make an interesting socio-political statement about the inflated promise of the American Dream.
A sci-fi thriller about a colony of unknowing clones living in a remote facility who live under the scrutiny of guards and doctors, they live in hope of being deemed worthy to "go to America," a place they've been told is paradise. But one copy (Timothy Donnelly) discovers he exists only as spare parts for a wealthy counterpart in the real world, and the movie becomes a low-budget action-adventure as he breaks out of his comfortable prison seeking answers.
Somehow he turns up in a scruffy part of downtown Los Angeles without passing through the suburbs (one of many plot holes), conveniently befriends a retired journalist who could blow the whole conspiracy wide open, and soon learns his original conveniently lives just a few miles away -- and is suspiciously unaware his genes have been Xeroxed.
If you're the type who would wonder why the clone-makers would teach even a few of their copies to read and write -- or anything else that might lead to them thinking and reasoning -- you're too smart for "Clonus." Following its own flawed logic, the last 10 minutes of the movie is an almost non-stop riot of unintentional laughs.
But the sci-fi concepts at its core were decades ahead of their time (as evidenced by 2005's "The Island," a huge-budget summer action flick that bears enough of a resemblance to have triggered a lawsuit), and the film's flawed but earnest observations about the entrenched myths of American class structure and the pursuit of the good life are more relevant than ever.
A few strong supporting performances (including Peter Graves as a dangerously corrupt politician in on the secret cloning) also help prop up the picture, making it slightly better than "so bad it's good."
*1/2 out of ****
(90m | R)
The original theatrical trailer, a product of its time period if there ever was one, succeeds in making the movie look better than it is. The interview and commentary track with the director are snoozers.
SOUND & PICTURE
1.66:1 ratio (16x9 enhanced)
New transfer from the original negative is giving this movie more TLC than it's worth, but I'm not complaining. Original mono soundtrack is clean.
DVD RATING: **