Tom Doty Times Columnist

September 20, 2013

“Aliens” meets “Scanners,” with a tad of “Total Recall,” in this sci-fi thriller that sends a team of Australian commandos into a secret government lab, where a security breach has created a unique and deadly environment.

You have to love a film that hits the ground running. This one opens with an excellent scene that finds two people hiding out in an air duct. A security team below hears them and they fire into the vent, riddling a man with bullets, while his female companion scurries away about as fast as one can when squeezed into a shaft.

Next, we jump aboard a flight, as a team of soldiers is mustered to respond to this emergency. We learn that the facility is a research and containment center, joint funded by the United States, and referred to as the Australian version of “Area 51.” We also find out that it is funded by the military (never a good thing in one of these flicks) and that they are to kill any prisoners they find while liberating the scientists.

Inmates always get a lousy shake when it comes to volunteering for experiments in these flicks. Remember how Rosey Grier got suckered in that situation when he woke up and found out he was sharing a body with Ray Milland in ‘The Thing with Two Heads”?

The team is led by the rugged Romeo, who, true to his name, cries love when he disobeys orders to kill the first prisoner they find, Eve. It isn’t that she is a beautiful, young blonde in tattered clothes that saves her from Romeo. It is the fact that he claims she is his wife, even though Eve appears not to remember a thing. It could be the huge surgical scar on her head, but there is no time to discuss matter with Romeo’s trigger happy team. Turns out, there is an armed ape in the tunnels, so processing the multiple stimuli here will have to wait.

Armed ape? It is never explained, but my think is the lab rents space from that Acme company that supplies the “Wyle E. Coyote” with his traps.

Eventually, they come across some scientists. They rescue the eggheads but soon learn that these guys were up to no good. Surprise 101. Turns out, they were operating on people to enhance their psychic abilities and fashion them into secret weapons. The scientists claim Eve is such an experiment and that she is capable of killing them all. So is the facility, which goes into self-destruct mode and begins broadcasting that everyone has 15 minutes to leave the building before it blows up like Elvis during the 1970s.

What follows is a race to the surface, but not before Romeo learns he has been used and now he is no longer necessary. Eve, on the other hand, has a lot of revenge to lay down, and she aims to escape and unleash some righteous fury. Only one person is getting out of this alive.

Pretty good stuff here, except the first 30 minutes seems to have been lifted straight from “Aliens.” Even the dripping water in the tunnels is borrowed from the first “Alien” flick.

That said, there are some great moments here for sci-fi fans. Look closely at Eve’s uniform and you’ll notice the code “THX1138” — the title of George Lucas’ first film. The final nod to fans is a flashback sequence that reveals where Eve got her extra brain tissue, and it is an excellent reveal that shows these guys watched “The X-Files,” too, before embarking on this film.

A little derivative, but highly entertaining grindhouse from the land down under.

Best line: “Accident? Stubbing your toe is an accident. This is a disaster.”

2012, rated R.