‘ZONE 414’ is a futuristic sci-fi thriller about a colony of very lifelike A.I. (articificial intelligence) or robots. The creator of this city of robots is Marlon Veidt (Travis Fimmel), a physically deformed, reclusive and eccentric businessman with obvious nefarious motives.
When his daughter Melissa (Holly Demaine) goes missing, Veidt gets a disgrace cop turned private investigator, David Carmichael (Guy Pearce), to search for her and bring her home. David chooses a highly advanced A.I. to work with him in looking for the missing girl.
This is Jane (Matilda Lutz, the French actress who did well in the violent thriller “Revenge”), who has known Melissa before. Jane is better than her fellow robots who are all equipped with state-of-the-art technology. The difference of Jane is that she has feelings and aspirations like a normal human being.
Together, they go around the dark place called Zone 414, an area not regulated by the government where humanoids can mingle freely with humans. They don’t know if Melissa is a runaway who’s just hiding from her dad or a crime victim captured by evil elements.
They go looking for clues to track down the missing girl. In the process, they are able to solve a mysterious crime that leads them to the true reason why the City of Robots was built.
Jane is having personal troubles as she has difficulty controlling her emotions that go haywire. She also has someone stalking her and she doesn’t know what his motives are. She and David bond well as they go around looking for the girl. Together, they discover some truths that the threatened citizens of Zone 414 aim to hide to protect the depraved secrets that they are hiding.
The movie starts really well with a scene showing Guy Pearce shooting a woman pointbland on the head. Then she peels up the scalp and reveal a gadget inside the woman’s head, showing she is a robot. But after this intriguing opening sequence, the movie quickly bogs down with its meandering storytelling.
It’s running time is just about an hour and a half but it feels longer as most scenes aimed to propel the plotline lack energy and drag out much longer than necessary. In all fairness, it’s beautifully photographed. It’s dark but the apocalyptic mood and the stylized lighting properly reflect the inner lives of its characters.
Somehow, it gives you the feeling that debuting director Andrew Baird is trying to build up his own version of Ridley Scott’s more superior “Blade Runner” in portraying a future filled with unscrupulous businessmen-inventors, world weary private eyes and good-hearted robots more well meaning than their human counterparts. The problem is he obviously has a limited budget, so he cannot go to town in exploring a new world for the screen as imaginatively as he wants. What we get is the “been there, done that” kind of feeling.
Both Guy Pearce and Matilda Lutz are given long, long lines of expository dialogue they get to talk and talk more than do actual action. Even the surprise in the ending is derivative, if you’ve seen “Chinatown”, and Guy Pearce’s character seems slow and dumb when he finally figures out what’s happening.
Lutz fares better simply because she has this alluring sensuousness (so evident in “Revenge”), that she exploits here to her great advantage. She manages to invest Jane with some captivating qualities that must not have been in the original material but which she effortlessly supplies.