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Mimic
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
   
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 camera angles.

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.

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