|Man's worst friend, the roach,
is the baddie in Mimic. Keep your insecticide handy because these
six-foot critters resemble humans and they're not as easy to eradicate
as their smaller cousins.
The movie opens with a cockroach-transmitted plaque, the "Strickler"
disease, which is killing off Manhattan's child population. Enter
Dr Susan Tyler (Mighty Aphrodite Oscar winner, Mira Sorvino), a bug-mad
scientist who teams up with Dr Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam from Emma)
of the Centre for Disease Control.
Together they do a little genetic splicing with
the common cockroaches's DNA and create a "Judas Breed".
The Judas speeds up the metabolism of the "Strickler"
roaches and causes them to starve to death. The Judas kills off
the virus and all the little kids are saved thanks to the Franken-couple.
Meanwhile their Judases are supposed to die off in 160 days, but
as Tyler's mentor Dr Gates (F Murray Abraham) says, "Evolution
has a way of keeping things alive." This is where the film's
moral subtext comes into play: when man attempts to play God, the
results are disastrous. (There's some pretty heavy-handed Christian
iconography in the film).
Three years later and the roaches have warped a 1000 generations
of evolution to set up a colony in the subways and sewers of Manhattan.
They've become highly adapted to their environment and are now six-foot
flying cockroaches who can mimic their predators - man. With lungs
and human innards, they stalk subways and devour the, scripted-as-disposable,
homeless people that inhabit this subterrean world. And no one whose
seen these critters so far has lived to tell the tale. Usually Hollywood's
commandment of thou-shalt-not-kill-off-cute-kids is ignored when
it comes to marking up the death toll. Chuy (Alexander Goodwin)
is the one exception to this.
Chuy is an autistic child who is pretty nifty at playing the sppons,
an old Celtic tradition of tapping the back of two spoons together
rhythmically. He is able to instantly mimic the rhythm of footsteps
with his spoons. Aside from this, he also has a knack for remembering
the size and make of everyone's footwear - believable since his kindly
grandfather (Giancarlo Giannini) is a shoeshine man who sets up shop
in a subway station. The innocent Chuy refers to the nocturnal creatures
he has seen as "Mr Funnyshoes" and follows them to their
hideout. Thanks to his ability to replicate their roach rhythms, he
is able to avoid the fate that those who went before him suffered.
Eventually our scientist couple of Tyler and Mann go underground too,
to search out their Judas bugs and set their genetic mis-engineering
to rights, aided by Mann's assistant (Josh Brolin) and a transit blues-belting
cop (Charles S Dutton). Brolin's lines are well-scripted with a tinge
of cynicism that the audience will enjoy. The scene where he has to
collect samples of roach excrement that hang like putrid stalactites
is especially memorable. Dutton does his character justice without
bugging his eyes and screaming. When things start to go wrong, you
get the sense that he is really frightened of the Judas Breed. In
one fantastic scene, the group is trapped in a subway car besieged
by the mutant roaches. Bug expert Tyler, saves the day by spreading
goo from an eradicated mutant on their bodies hoping that the bugs
will mistake their prey for other cockroaches. Watch for the impressive
Attempts to add depth to the movie's issues and characters mean that
it appears as if it's going to offer you lots to chew on, which makes
it a shame that once the setting is the roaches' underground lair,
the film disregards some of its initial promise and becomes a join-the-dots,
man-versus-monster flick, complete with an all too tidy ending.
However, Mimic is worth seeing if only for its special effects and
cinematography - not to mention the presence of the beautiful Sorvino.
Added to this fact that this is the first foray into American cinema
for Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro (the maker of the cult-favourite
Chronos), which perhaps makes Mimic's bugging shortcomings forgivable.