Eric D. Snider

Impostor

A title card at the beginning of "Impostor" tells us that it's based on a story by "legendary futurist" Philip K. Dick, and that he wrote it in 1953. This is supposed to impress us, I think, because we're supposed to marvel at how chillingly accurate his vision was, way back in the '50s. And it's true: At that time, stupid science-fiction movies were in their infancy. How could he have known we'd have perfected the art by the year 2002???????

"Impostor" can't fairly be called a bad movie, because it hardly even tries to be a good one. Why bother giving a student an F when he sleeps through class anyway? Give him a D, and let him pass. He's not hurting anything.

It is The Future in this movie, specifically 2079. Life pretty much sucks, what with the planet Centauri being at war against us 24/7, and with the shield over Earth that keeps out the Centauris as well as most of the sunlight. People do all that futurey stuff like say "TV on" to turn the TV on, and ride in cars that fly rather than drive, and float in the air when they have sex (I'm guessing on that one, but it seems right).

Anyway, Spencer John Olham (Gary Sinise) is a brilliant scientist who becomes mistaken for a Centauri humanoid. Seems those smart aliens have figured out a way to create robot duplicates of people that are just like people, with emotions, blood, organs and everything. Virtually impossible to tell them from the real thing, until they get close to the target they've been programmed to destroy and then blow up, which I guess clues everyone in.

So some government guys, led by the dogged Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio), think Spencer is one of these humanoids, and of course part of being a humanoid is you don't remember being one, so hell, maybe he is one. He doesn't think so, though, and he's determined to prove it via some weird medical test that he and the movie choose not to explain to us, the viewers. But to do THAT, he has to get to the hospital, where his wife (Madeleine Stowe) works, and for THAT, he enlists the help of an underground freedom fighter (or something) named Cale (Mekhi Phifer).

So it's basically "The Fugitive," with a guy who swears he's innocent running from the feds while trying to gather evidence of his innocence. Except that Gary Sinise, who is normally a good actor, is no Harrison Ford in this movie, and Vincent D'Onofrio, who I can take or leave, is no Tommy Lee Jones in any scenario I can think of.

And Gary Fleder is no whoever-directed-"The Fugitive"; he's who directed "Don't Say a Word" and "Kiss the Girls" -- two reasonably good thrillers, for what they are, and each far better than the self-serious absurdity that is "Impostor." For here Fleder was faced with an unenviable task: Create a feature-length movie out of a story that would work better as a half-hour "Twilight Zone" episode, where silly last-minute twists amuse, rather than annoy, like this one does. (Indeed, "Impostor" was originally meant as one-third of a movie, along with a couple other Philip K. Dick stories.) By the time the predictable twists present themselves, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone watching who still cares. Or anyone still watching, for that matter.

Grade: D+

Rated PG-13, a harsh profanity, partial non-sexual nudity, and some violence

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