Crimes of the Future (2022)
Crimes of the Future (2022)

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

Release Date: June 3rd, 2022 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Cronenberg Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Don McKellar, Scott Speedman, Tanaya Beatty, Nadia Litz, Welket Bungue

 


 

I

t’s a weird, weird, weird, weird world. In the not-too-distant future (or, perhaps, hundreds of years from now), humans experiment with brand new organs, which are essentially tumorous growths – or “designer cancer.” Through the use of hormone manipulation and others sorts of genetic meddling, the arrivals – and removals – of various masses have given rise to surgical performance artists, who cut each other open in front of orgiastic crowds, keen on witnessing artistic bloodletting. Saul (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Lea Seydoux) are two of the better known performers; he involuntarily grows never-before-seen organs, while she slices him open and fiddles with his innards, all while fans with cameras desirously ogle.

“Human bodies are changing.” It’s something along the lines of evolution, but it’s also likely that it’s merely the chaos of organisms surviving in a postapocalyptic future, irreparably polluted by synthetics. Technology here doesn’t seem advanced; mechanical items are clunky, rusty, and primitive. Flies perpetually buzz around graffiti-carpeted, crumbling structures, as if society has collapsed – some time after inventing biomechanical tools that resemble video game controllers covered in gelatin. Thanks to writer/director David Cronenberg, these inventions are both organic and computerized, such as a bed and chair from LifeFormWare, which physically connect to the user and interact with their physiology; in this regard, “Crimes of the Future” is very much like “eXistenZ.”

“What was that all about?” Curiously, however, the story isn’t nearly as relatable or graspable or exciting. There’s no sense of adventure, though a murder/mystery peaks from behind filthy, decrepit corners every now and then, as a mutated rebel (Scott Speedman) hopes to expose cultural alienation, and a burgeoning organization, the National Organ Registry – headed by Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart) – intersects with a repair crew and a secretive police agency. Political factors are also present, as uncontrolled and insurrectional evolvements attract bureaucratic interference. But plenty of questions are unanswered, even as characters must continually clarify to one another various details about this particular future, to help audiences understand the premise. Reiterations tend to plague the more obvious ingredients, while pertinent topics remain ignored. At least a few one-sentence exchanges note that pain has virtually disappeared and infections have been eradicated.

The auteur at the helm certainly has a distinct style; “Crimes of the Future” is immediately identifiable as Cronenbergian. Yet in his efforts to delve into the fascinating but revolting heights of S&M in a world without pain (“surgery is the new sex”), as well as the body-horror of his brand of body modification, he’s forgotten to comment on an aberrance as much as he’s merely providing opportunities to disturb and disgust. Many scenes are so over-the-top grotesque that they’re unavoidably funny (surely there’s a level of satire here that is intentionally facetious). As he tunnels deeper into the rabbit hole of bizarreness, Cronenberg’s realm of graphic mutilations certainly becomes unique. But is it entertaining? He often seems so focused on visual freakishness that he forgets to progress the plot, which will find viewers wondering why such outrageous assaults to the senses feel meandering and slow. Sex scenes involving scalpels are positively archetypal, but some may question if they go far enough, since so many other shots of sensually invasive maneuverings into bodily orifices boast significantly greater yucks.

Most problematic, however, is the fact that this version of the future doesn’t come across as believably speculative; the extremism on display doesn’t push the boundaries of art so much as it puts the actors in awkward scenarios, in which they’re unable to fully convince that they buy into the ludicrousness of inner beauty pageants or aesthetically-pleasing autopsies. And it doesn’t help that Saul spends the entirety of the movie coughing, choking, and gurgling from a markedly phlegmy malady. By the abrupt end, this latest Cronenberg effort (his first feature-length work in approximately 8 years) is sadly more uncanny than it is amusing – a singular product the filmmaker may not be able to get away with forever, despite a devoted following from such influential pictures as “The Fly,” “Videodrome,” and “Scanners.”

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10