In sci-fi thriller BABYLON A.D., Vin Diesel's Toorop is an antihero who quotes the best of cinema's bad boys from films such as THE GODFATHER and SCARFACE. But all the tattooed muscleman really wants to do is leave poverty- and violence-ridden Russia and return to his family's home in upstate New York. However, he has been banned from his native America, so when a Russian mobster (a prosthetic-enhanced Gerard Depardieu) offers him a job and a forged passport that will take him back home, he agrees, even though the mission seems close to suicide. He takes a strangely gifted orphan named Aurora (Melanie Thierry) from a Mongolian convent to Harlem, his only help being a nun--though it is a nun played by action star Michelle Yeoh. Thugs attack them on every leg of their journey, following them as they take car, train, sub, and snowmobile to ensure Aurora's safety.
BABYLON A.D works best when it's revealing facets of its futuristic world, from the refugee-camp look of Russia to the high-tech gloss of a 22-million-people-strong New York City. Production designers Sonja Klaus and Paul Cross, as well as director Mathieu Kassovitz (GOTHIKA), deserve praise for creating settings that evoke memories of dystopian films from BLADE RUNNER to CHILDREN OF MEN. Kassovitz, who is most familiar to audiences as the object of affection in AMELIE, also adapted the script from the Maurice G. Dantec novel BABYLON BABIES with Eric Besnard. The book weighed in at over 500 pages, so there are times when it feels like something is missing in BABYLON A.D. with its brief 90-minute run time. In small roles, Depardieu and French favorite Charlotte Rampling (who plays a mysterious religious leader) provide substance and gravitas.