This postapocalyptic action thriller that posits a United States where nearly everyone has nearly been wiped out by the Delta variant of Covid-19 apparently went into post-production in December 2020. Presumably, they finished shooting just as the variant was emerging but before the vaccine went into wide distribution. At least that would explain why it feels so weirdly dated, even though it’s set in the future. In this version of America, things have got so out of control society has completely broken down. Who knows, maybe it’s not dated but predictive?
Anyway, in this bleak alternative reality, life is even worse than the one we’re in now. A young woman named Sarah (Ruby Modine) and her brother Guy (Tom Pecinka) are on the run, hoping to escape a gang of armed hunters or “land pirates”, led by a survivor called Aaron (John Malkovich, no less), who believe Sarah is immune to the disease and therefore could be a guinea pig for those searching for a cure. Sadly, Guy doesn’t make it but Sarah finds her way to his friend Ben (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a former FBI agent who is the survivalist of the title. Ben is holed up on his family farm where he’s afflicted by flashbacks to the time he came home to stay with his gambling addict father, Heath (Julian Sands), and the two reflected on their shared, troubled past. But when Aaron and his cohort of disposable land pirates show up, Ben is compelled to fight them off with the precious few bullets he has left.
Weirdly enough, director Jon Keeyes’ last film, Rogue Hostage, also featured Malkovich and revolved around a siege, albeit at a grocery store in the present day. This is certainly more ambitious in scope and yet far less satisfying. The head of steam Keeyes endeavours to build up gets drained away by the endless barely relevant flashbacks. The palette of sludge and gravel doesn’t help and the performances represent no one’s best here, although it’s nice to see Rhys Meyers back in action after some decidedly low-profile movie roles.
The Survivalist is released on 11 October on digital platforms.