(Original Publication Date: May 8th, 2019) By John M Jerva
STARRING: Oris Erhuero, Carlos Gallardo, Mark Strange, Katarina Leigh Waters, Martyn Ford, Joshua Dickinson, Michael Sheehan, Akira Koieyama and Euan Macnaughton
DIRECTED BY: Chee Keong Cheung
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: After a deadly viral outbreak, an elite squad of special forces soldiers must infiltrate a quarantine zone to rescue a scientist who holds the only cure to save mankind.
THE REVIEW: Ever since I first heard about the zombie action-thriller REDCON-1 a few years back, I was immediately intrigued by the concept of the film. Yes, zombie thrillers are a dime a dozen these days and it seems like we get one B level zombie flick every week. What caught my attention with this film was the fact that the undead in this film were able to retain some resemblance of who they were and were able to fight back against our protagonists. A film where the zombies can break out martial arts moves…sign me up. The Chee Keong Cheung helmed apocalyptic thriller was released in the UK last year and word of mouth was off the hook with reviewers comparing it to a mash up of THE RAID and 28 DAYS LATER. Any genre fan would gobble that up plus you add some awesome action talent like Mark Strange and BOYKA: UNDISPUTED’S Martyn Ford and you have the making of an instant classic. REDCON-1 was finally released yesterday here in the U.S. and I immediately took advantage of it and viewed it. So, does it live up to my expectations? The answer is a resounding yes and no.
REDCON-1 tells the tale of a viral, blood borne viral infection that breaks out in London turning the inhabitants into blood thirsty creatures that are pretty bad ass. These aren’t your parents’ zombies. You know, the ones that move like sloths and are only deadly in pacts. Oh no, these zombies are fast mover bogeys that retain some of the hosts memories and if that individual knew how to fight, then watch out because the zombie version was just as lethal. Throw in the fact that they can think and strategize against their enemy and you have a whole new breed of oh shit.
To contain the outbreak, the government has quarantined a major part of the city leaving some survivors who couldn’t get out to fend for their lives on the inside. There is some hope however, as the man who was responsible for all this is still alive and located somewhere deep behind enemy lines. Enter Captain Marcus Stanton and an elite unit of kick ass soldiers including Sgt. Frederick Reeves (Gallardo), Lt. Frank Perez (Strange)and others who are given the do or die mission of entering said infected zone to rescue the high value target who might or might not have a cure for the infection. The stage is now set but these elite warriors might be up against the impossible as their enemy is the most lethal that they have ever faced.
The first half of REDCON-1 is a true blood soaked action spectacle as our heroes hit the ground running and engage the zombies within minutes. The first half an hour is relentless and even the audience is sweating from all the chaos and carnage that is on hand. Fans are treated to countless displays of firepower and fisticuffs as the soldiers carve their way through a gauntlet of death and the violence and imagery is extreme to say the least. The first half almost makes you want to watch it over again right away because so much awesomeness is on display. It’s loud, fever pitched and adrenaline soaked to say the least.
As the plot thickens we are introduced to a little girl who has been in the infected zone who attaches herself to Stanton and as it turns out, she is pretty damn special. It’s a plot device that has been used before but here, it works because the relationship between Stanton, who lost his pregnant wife right away when the outbreak occurred, and this girl is so sincere. We also learn that the outbreak was indeed man made and it was actually an experiment to create super soldiers that went terribly awry. Not a big shock there but hey, it’s a zombie action movie so just roll with it.
Unfortunately, the film is probably 25 minutes too long and it bogs down immensely and our heroes begin to show the chinks in their personalities and begin to fight one another instead of the enemy waiting in the wings. What’s even worse is there are gangs of survivors who are just as bad as the infected so the odds are certainly stacked against them. At a running time of 1 hour and 57 minutes, the second hour is sort of a mess as the film starts to go off in other directions. I commend Cheung for mixing it up a little but I guess I would have liked more of the first half. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy great plots as much as action but I just felt the latter stages were lacking.
Another drawback is that there aren’t any real likable characters in the film which makes it hard to root for anybody and the ones that are worth anything buy it all to soon. I did have a vested interest in Mark Strange’s character of Frank Perez as he starts out as an unstable and uncaring person who seems very out there but eventually redeems himself later on. Strange also has one of the best action scenes in the film as he showcases his martial arts talent by taking on a horde of zombies with just his hands and feet. It’s an awesome going down in a blaze of glory moment and it is the highlight of the film as he takes everyone on with some bombastic music playing in the background.
I will give props to the film for switching things up a little and there are shifts in alliances that are unexpected with the finale going for an over the top finish that seems sort of out of place compared to the first half of the movie. It takes a 180 and completely turns itself on its head which is both commendable and disappointing at the same time. I’m not gonna go into spoilers but hopefully, you will see what I mean when viewed.
All in all, REDCON-1 starts out as THE RAID meets 28 DAYS LATER but a long running time and unexpected switches in gear plague the second half of the film from making it a classic in its own right. I enjoyed the movie but felt that it needed more of the beginning towards the end. It delivers some pretty impressive and blood soaked zombie action but then it can’t quite figure out what type of movie it wants to be. I still recommend it as it is perfect Saturday night viewing and there is enough zombie on soldier carnage to please even the most cynical fan.
VERDICT: 3 Out of Five Stars and Worth a Watch
REDCON-1 is now available on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital