Judge Josh Rode wouldn't be at all surprised to discover his neighbor had a hidden stash of firearms.
The world is ending…got ammo?
A viral epidemic causes the quarantine of an apartment building somewhere in Argentina. Coco and his pregnant wife, Pipi, along with the other residents, take the news in stride. But as the quarantine goes on without any sign of a letup or word from the outside world, and as some peoples' supplies begin to run low, tensions and tempers begin to rise.
Perhaps this is attributing too much philosophical meaning to a film that is, at its root, a fairly standard disaster flick, but Phase 7 makes for a fantastic study in the reality of postmodern thinking. Coco simply refuses to believe that his world is crumbling outside the windows of the apartment he shares with Pipi. A huge influx of people stampedes into the store just as the couple is leaving; running and screaming and crashing cars surround them as they drive home; a neighbor is covering up his truck, which is armored and looks like something out of Mad Max as they bring their groceries upstairs. None of this commotion makes the slightest impression. News reports of world-wide devastation, gunshots and fighting in the darkened streets outside their apartment, the eventual loss of television, internet, and phone signals…none of it can convince Coco that he should take his neighbor Horatio's insistence on wearing hazmat suits and walking around armed seriously. It takes a shotgun wielding madman to finally convince him to think about protecting himself, and even then he doesn't bother to lock his front door. Eventually he is forced to concede that maybe—just perhaps—there is something serious going on.
This dichotomy between Coco's longing to believe that everything will turn out fine and the absolute reality that nothing will ever be the same gives Phase 7 an uneven narrative that is all at once amusing and frustrating. Daniel Hendler (Family Law) plays Coco with a mix of fear and blind confusion that feels quite real…and quite annoying. His steadfast refusal to accept reality keeps him from becoming someone the audience can get behind 100%. Worse, he refuses to tell Pipi anything. He enters the apartment dripping blood and claims he was fixing someone's power. When a neighbor comes knocking, he tries to get her to pretend he isn't there, but won't tell her why. If I were Pipi, I'd have shot him myself.
Speaking of Pipi, Jazmin Stuart (The Paranoids) plays her role perfectly; whether flirty or angry or gloating after winning the umpteenth game of Battleship!, she is always completely true. Just don't believe the cover; she never gets to carry a shotgun. Yayo Guridi's (Los Unicos) Horacio comes off as a sort of badass version of Wilson, the neighbor behind the fence in Home Improvement and, just like Wilson, he steals the show.
The title of the film is also the title to a videotape that Horacio keeps trying to get Coco to watch; it defines "Phase 7" as a government-released toxin designed to kill off most of the world's population to alleviate overcrowding, leaving behind a "new world order." Clips of President George H. W. Bush using that phrase are highlighted, including just before the end credits. It might be an attempt at some sort of political statement, but it feels more like someone felt there needed to be a reason for the virus, and that's what they came up with. The truth is that the film didn't really need to explain the how or why of the virus; the real antagonists of the show are humans, not infectious agents. And antagonists they are; be prepared for a surprising amount of violence, including a shotgun-to-the-head moment straight out of Psycho Kickboxer.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic picture is surprisingly clean, with reasonably sharp edges and decent color depth and balance. The Dolby 5.1 sound is adequate, with good balance, but not much action from the surrounds or the sub-woofer. The only extras are a handful of deleted scenes that are all better off on the cutting room floor.
Phase 7 is a lightly amusing yet violent study of humankind's baser nature. Watching it will make you want to slap Coco a few times, but it is, for the most part, an enjoyable film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Deleted Scenes
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