'Future World': Film Review

George Miller should sue for plagiarism.

James Franco co-directs and stars in this postapocalyptic sci-fi thriller also featuring Milla Jovovich, Snoop Dogg and Lucy Liu.

In his film The Disaster Artist, James Franco uncannily channeled the physical and vocal mannerisms of the legendarily egregious filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. For his newest effort, which he co-directed and stars in, Franco has apparently decided to channel Wiseau's complete lack of talent as well. A low-rent, postapocalyptic sci-fi tale that doesn't succeed as either homage or parody of such obvious inspirations as the Mad Max series, Future World proves as original as its title. The film certainly represents a stylistic departure for Franco, who has previously shown a penchant for ambitious literary adaptations (Faulkner, Steinbeck, etc.) rather than the sort of B-movies normally seen on late-night cable.

Although top-billed, Franco actually has more of a supporting role in the film co-directed with frequent collaborator Bruce Thierry Cheung. Sporting rotting-out teeth, the actor plays Warlord, the sort of villainous psycho who activates a beautiful female android, Ash (Suki Waterhouse), for the purpose of making her his personal assassin and sex slave. The main character is actually Prince (Jeffrey Wahlberg, Mark's nephew, demonstrating that the apple can fall very far from the tree), who teams up with Ash to journey through the desert in the hope of procuring a miracle drug that will save his dying mother, Queen (Lucy Liu). Said drug is apparently located in a place called Paradise Beach, run by a woman known as Drug Lord (Milla Jovovich). Apparently, names are taken very literally in the future.

Along the way they're pursued by the vicious Warlord, his henchman Tattooed Face (Cliff "Method Man" Smith) and a gang of dirt bike-riding toughs who look like they've attended too many George Miller film retrospectives. Despite their travails, Prince and his robot companion find the time to talk about philosophical issues, including the definition of a soul. He also wonders why she's working against Warlord, who programmed her.

"Why aren't you listening to him?" Prince asks. "Maybe I'm malfunctioning," Ash replies. You have to give the screenplay credit for conciseness. That pretty much sums up the whole first season of HBO's Westworld in one line.

The endless chases and fight sequences quickly prove as monotonous as the electronic music score by Toydrum which sounds like it was composed on one. The target male audience will be relieved to learn, at least, that strip clubs are still around in the postapocalypse. The film features one such establishment named Love Town, whose proprietor, naturally going by the name Love Lord, is played by Snoop Dogg. Because you really don't want a future without Snoop Dogg. The rapper delivers the film's most entertaining performance, but, then again, he faced minimal competition. The strippers and prostitutes are controlled by electronic shocks delivered by collars around their necks, making one hope that Franco completed this film before he faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

Production companies: AMBI Group, Black Sparrow Films, Dark Rabbit Productions, Premiere Pictures
Distributor: Lionsgate Premiere
Cast: James Franco, Suki Waterhouse, Jeffrey Wahlberg, Margarita Levieva, Snoop Dogg, George Lewis Jr., Cliff "Method Man" Smith, Lucy Liu, Milla Jovovich
Directors: James Franco, Bruce Thierry Cheung
Screenwriters: Bruce Thierry Cheung, Jeremy Craig Cheung, Jay Davis
Producers: Scott Reed, Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, Vince Jolivette, Jay Davis
Executive producers: Julien Favre, Jason Garrett, Wayne Marc Godfrey, Martin Guigui, Robert Jones, Jean-Alexandre Luciani, Luca Matrundola
Director of photography: Peter Zeitlinger
Production designer: Eve McCarney
Editors: Alex Freitas, William Paley
Composer: Toydrum
Costume designer: David Page, Jonny Pray
Casting: Cynthia Huffman

Rated R, 90 minutes