The premise for Redcon-1 is solid: A super soldier serum meant to mutate ordinary fighters into killing machines is carried by an escaped prisoner into the general population. It spreads as a zombie virus and gives any infected with previous combat prowess some insane undead fighting skills. An elite squad (one of whom wields dual katanas on his back) are sent into the quarantined zone to rescue the creator of the virus in the hopes of inventing a cure.
What’s promised are beatdowns and dust-ups with zombified experts in parkour and martial arts. What’s promised is a dude who punches through a wall so he can pull out of a zombie, punch it in the face, and toss it out a window. How can any of that go wrong?
You start by making it two hours long.
Director: Chee Keong Cheung
Release Date: May 7, 2019 (DVD, VOD)
There is one great scene in all of Redcon-1. The group breaks into a sort of zombie crack house where the undead watch porn, have sex, and snort lines just as they had in life. The soldiers start blasting the zombies to hell, but there are just too many to kill, and the hoard advances on them. Soon the soldiers run out of ammo, so they have to start wall-running, jump-kicking, and sword-slashing their way through. Pretty well every moment you’d want to see in the movie happens right here. This rises above the over-saturated colors, the bad speed ramping, the shaky cam, and the quick-cut editing. For a moment Redcon-1 is downright good. This lasts for about ten minutes.
And then there’s the rest of the movie.
To get through a movie as obstinately long as Redcon-1 you’ll want to drink, and a great drinking game that ensures you’ll be curled around the toilet before the credits roll is to take a shot every time you see one particular shot: A close-up of a face (usually a zombie), the camera pulses, a bullet hole appears in the forehead, and a spray of digital blood shoots out the back of the skull. That single type of kill is recycled over a dozen times. Beyond that, the film is a wasteland of melodrama where the soldiers spend more time barking at and fighting with each other than the zombies. With a skull-faced biker gang, some military double-crosses, and their own inner demons to face Redcon-1 forgets it’s even a zombie movie for long stretches.
Just about everyone dies in the first hour. The doctor is found in the first hour. The soldiers reach their evac in the first hour. Still, Redcon-1 twists its plot into a pretzel of happenstance, coincidence, and contrivance in order to justify its two-hour length–instead of just, you know, not being two hours long.
I’ve never in my life seen a movie that flashes back so often to moments I’ve already seen, sometimes as little as a few minutes ago, in fear that I’d forgotten one of its numerous plot threads–and none of the revelations (a child who carries the cure in her blood, a group of survivors facing obliteration from the corrupt military) are anything you haven’t seen or heard through decades of previous zombie movies. The only unique idea Redcon-1 had was karate zombies, and it shoved that straight to the periphery in exchange for some ponderous journey that somehow still seems to shortchange you when the credits abruptly roll. There’s a doomsday clock counting down to the destruction of the quarantined zone that never even reaches zero. This clock is called back to over and over again, and it means absolutely nothing.
I just wanted to watch people punch some zombies in the face. With bad editing and slow choreography, even the spare moments of zombie nunchuck battles and knuckle dusters aren’t all that impressive. Redcon-1‘s idea of drama are characters clutching dog tags and attempting to kill themselves. Its idea of plot is a convoluted web in which lucky coincidence and laughable leaps in logic rule the day. Its idea of a film is a two-hour slog where every reason to watch dries up halfway through and then shambles along with recycled kills and monotonous flashbacks until it just ends like a zombie mercifully shot in the head.