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STUDIO: Vivendi Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
- Behind-the-scenes featurette
- Deleted scenes
It’s 28 Days Later…with parkour cannibals.
Director Mark McQueen, Danny Dyer, Craig Fairbrass, MyAnna Buring, Jaime Murray, Shane Taylor, Bart Ruspoli, Craig Conway, Lisa McAllister, Alistair Petrie
A plague breaks out in London when 29,999 participants of a pharmaceutical company’s new performance boosting drug trial have an adverse reaction to it and are turned into hyper-strong and fast feral cannibals. They quickly run rampant across the city infecting and eating others. The only hope for a possible cure lies in the DNA of the only one of the 30,000, a woman named Angela Mills (Buring), who is immune to the drug. Cole (Fairbrass), a mercenary for the pharmaceutical company, is dispatched to find her and get her off the island and into a mainland lab ASAP. However, in addition to the thousands of cannibals standing between him and Angela, are his own personal demons.
Devil’s Playground is very much a takeoff of 28 Days Later, including several shots of an abandoned London. I say takeoff rather than ripoff because although it follows much of the same story – about a rage-inducing cannibal virus in London – director Mark McQueen handles the all-too-familiar story in a brisk and energetic fashion, with plenty of great practical makeup effects for his creatures and good action. His cannibals (they’re described as zombies, but zombies never moved like this), are pretty much like 28 Days Later’s rage virus-infected, except that the drug in this film, called RAK-259, turns them into, of all things, raging cannibals that have a penchant for parkour (i.e. freerunning). The cannibals in this film are super fast and strong, and aren’t easily taken out, even with multiple hits to the head. And they’re seemingly as concerned with scoring that perfect vault off of a wall or off a ledge as they are with their closest meal. The parkour element to the cannibals is hokey, but I admit that it’s at least something different, whereas much of the story isn’t. I found myself not really minding the silliness of it all that much.
The story centers around Cole, portrayed by Fairbrass, who always appears to me to be Vinnie Jones’ bigger, meaner brother. He’s a mercenary for the pharmaceutical company, Nu-Gen, who is having a crisis of commitment to his often dirty job (let’s say he’s killed a few people…more than a few people). Nu-Gen, under the aegis of asshole CEO, Peter White (Salmon), developed Rak-259 and tested it on 30,000 Brits in a clinical trial, which is ludicrous, considering that a trial of that size would proceed without a much smaller initial trial beforehand. Nevertheless, it does, and people begin having severe reactions to the drug, and eventually start turning into the super cannibals and are marked by dark veins all over their bodies and generally ill temperament. Despite his intention to get out of the mercenary game, Cole is tasked by White to find the only person to not be affected by the drug, Angela Mills. Unfortunately, when the first cannibal goes apeshit, Cole gets bitten. Only a counteracting drug will keep the infection at bay. Nevertheless, Cole only has 18 hours to find Angela Mills.
Meanwhile, Angela and her friend, Lavinia (Murray), plan to join up with Angela’s brother, Matt (Ruspoli), who is a first responder with the River Thames Marine Support Unit, and who has a plan to get them to the mainland with a helicopter. But they have to get across town in order to escape. Also, Angela’s ex, Joe (Dyer) is a cop who’s about to go on trial for his shooting a 14-year-old kid while in the line of duty. He holes up at his friend Andy’s (Petrie) garage, where Angela, Lavinia, Cole and another couple, Steve (Conway), an American, and Kate (McAllister) also find themselves. From there, the group must work their way across town to the rendezvous, even though internal differences, particularly Steve and Kate’s frequent cowardice, make that difficult. But Cole is determined to fulfill his last mission before the infection takes him over.
Performances generally are fine. I’ve always liked Fairbrass and as someone who frequently plays the heavy in films, he acquits his lead role nicely. He’s a suitable enough badass who’s nonetheless not invincible, yet determined. Sean Pertwee unfortunately only puts in a minor cameo. His presence is always welcome, as is Colin Salmon’s, whose uberprick White fulfills the asshole quota for this film and a couple of others. Devil’s Playground’s story is little more than a riff of Danny Boyle’s great film, as well as similar films like Resident Evil. But McQueen and company do a good job with it, mostly by ratcheting up the cannibals, and it’s a pretty good, if overly familiar, film.
Devil’s Playground premiered on VOD and DVD on October 11th.
The video looks good, with some sharply contrasting colors and vibrant night shots. The dialogue is often too low. though. In terms of special features, there’s fifteen-minute behind-the-scenes and four minutes of deleted scenes.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars