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Crimes of the Future Review

June 3, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Crimes of the Future - Photo Still Neon Image Credit: NEON
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Crimes of the Future Review  

Directed By: David Cronenberg
Written By: David Cronenberg
Runtime: 107 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated R for strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity and some language

Viggo Mortensen – Saul Tenser
Léa Seydoux – Caprice
Kristen Stewart – Timlin
Scott Speedman – Lang Daughtery
Welket Bungué – Detective Cope
Don McKellar – Wippet
Tanaya Beatty – Berst
Nadia Litz – Router
Yorgos Pirpassopoulos – Doctor Nasatir

Auteur filmmaker David Cronenberg returns to the realm of science fiction with the mind-bending, body-altering feature, Crimes of the Future. Fresh off its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, it’s nice to see Cronenberg return to a genre he helped define throughout the decades.

Crimes of the Future is Cronenberg presenting his unique house blend of sci-fi. However, he is not completely successful in weaving a compelling plot surrounding celebrity performance artist, Saul Tenser (Mortensen), and his partner Caprice (Seydoux). Humanity appears to be at a tipping point in evolution. Human pain receptors appear to have dulled. Select humans, such as Saul Tenser, are undergoing rabid mutations, where their bodies are developing new, seemingly vestigial organs.

Tenser and Caprice, as underground performance artists, have made the removal of the new organs into a career. Of course, the emergence of these newly evolved humans is making those in power uneasy. Tenser and Caprice avoid suspicion by openly documenting his activities with the government-sanctioned National Organ Registry under the oversight of investigators Timlin (Stewart) and Wippet (McKellar). Tenser, himself at odds with the changes in his body, acts as an informant to Detective Cope (Bungué), who heads the New Vice Unit, a police organization that monitors the activities of the newly evolving humans.

To label Crimes of the Future body horror would be a misnomer. There are scenes of unsettling, disturbing imagery, especially in the opening scene, but the rest of the film is not aiming to thrill and horrify. At times, Crimes of the Future is a few steps away from being full-on, kinky body modification erotica.

From a visual standpoint, the film has a lot going for it. Cronenberg and cinematographer Douglas Koch lens and light up scenes in an enthralling way. Shots resemble a dark, moody indie graphic novel. Saul Tenser usually dresses in a cloak and shroud. In some scenes, he skulks and crouches in the shadows like an avant-garde, alternative version of a masked comic book vigilante.

Cronenberg also reteams with his longtime collaborator, production designer Carol Spier, for this film. The sci-fi setting and technology they have opted for here will be familiar to viewers who have already seen Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, with its biotechnology. The technology at work in Crimes of the Future appears to be a stopgap as humanity is undergoing a significant change.

Performance-wise, Léa Seydoux has the best role as Saul Tenser’s partner Caprice. She is a former trauma surgeon, so she is well equipped on how to assist Tenser with his work. They have a fascinating relationship dynamic. There is mutual love there, but there is also a sense of ambition since Caprice desires to take a more prominent role as a performance artist.

Kristen Stewart is sadly wasted as the National Organ Registry investigator, Timlin. She appears to be little more than a groupie and fangirl to Saul Tenser’s work. Her character has a perfunctory role in the plot. Her work colleague, Wippet (McKellar), is far more intriguing. He works for the National Organ Registry, but he also appears to be moonlighting some off-the-books work for aspiring organ performance artists and their “Inner Beauty Pageant.”

Viggo Mortensen’s performance as Saul Denser is solidly decent. Mortensen is committed and believable in the sense of a man whose body is undergoing rabid mutations and changes. He has a certain aloofness that is absorbing to watch.

The main throughline of Crimes of the Future involves the dead son of Lang Daughtery. He appears to be an activist hoping for Saul and Caprice’s assistance to use his son’s corpse for a performance to make a statement.

The film has a good cast, unique production design, nice cinematography, and a compelling score by composer Howard Shore. Crimes of the Future has an interesting setup and premise. The building blocks are there, but the plot is not. The script is akin to a sci-fi short story that was not fully fleshed out for a cohesive cinematic narrative. At times, the exploits of Saul Tenser and Caprice get rather vignette-ish.

The film builds in some intrigue with these various parties, but the plot always seems stuck in first gear. Cronenberg presents thought-provoking themes and ideas about human evolution and the root cause of the changes, but they are lacking in development. Elsewhere, snippets of Cronenberg’s dialogue are delivered in a hackneyed manner.

More to the point, the film does not even have a third act. There is a great deal of wheel-spinning until it simply ends. The ending to Crimes of the Future is compelling, but the trip to get there is not.

The final score: review Average
The 411
David Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future has a lot of neat ideas and a fascinating premise. However, as a story, it's decidedly lacking and under-developed. The film has a rather underwhelming plot that's woefully under-developed, more like a short story that was not developed into a fully realized film. Visually, there is some good direction, bells, and whistles, but the overall plot leaves a lot to be desired.