Blimey, for a second at the start of Zone 414, I mistook Guy Pearce for Mark Wahlberg, as he stands there scowling in a tough-guy black leather jacket and pointing a gun with purpose. This film is a hollow Blade Runner copycat, set in a grungy, neon-lit futuristic world where artificial intelligence convincingly passes for human, yet people drink coffee out of polystyrene cups and use landline telephones. The script feels completely devoid of ideas about what the future of AI might look like. But what it does prove is that Pearce adds a basic layer of credibility to any film simply by showing up.
He plays former cop David Carmichael, a private investigator. You’ll know the type: ex-drinker; seen action in the army; a man of few words; harbours a dark secret. He’s been summoned by tech billionaire with a monstrous ego Marlon Veidt (played by Vikings actor Travis Fimmel underneath ridiculous ageing makeup and a scraggly white wig). Like all the villains in the movie, Fimmel goes full ham with a show of deviancy and creepy tics, more silly than scary. As Veidt, he is the creator of lifelike robots which the government permits to be trialled in Zone 414, the only district where humans and AI can interact.
The zone functions as an exclusive brothel for rich men, where the AIs are slaves and sex toys. The trouble is that Veidt’s own daughter has slipped into this dystopian swamp and disappeared. It’s Carmichael’s job to find her, assisted by gorgeous AI Jane (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz), who of course has more soul in her computerised little finger than the entire district of seedy humans. What a waste of Pearce this movie is, requiring him to chase after baddies in underground car parks and run the gamut of facial expressions from glower to grimace.
• Zone 414 is released on 4 October on digital platforms.