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Mutant Species Reviews

This PREDATOR imitation botches an opportunity for arresting sci-fi, veering from a vigorous action audience-pounder into a latent retread of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Exceptionally strong production values are nullified by poor acting and by direction that has the professional soullessness of TV car commercials. When a rocket carrying toxic waste into outer space misfires, a special forces squad is called in to clean up the spill. Unknown to the task force, they have been set up by a crazed bio-design proponent, Frost (Powers Boothe), for a one-way trip to field test a new genetic warfare creation. Obeying orders to absorb the rocket cargo (a mutant DNA strain that transform ordinary men into killing machines) squad leader Hollinger (Leo Rossi) is genetically turned into a fiend who machine guns his own men. As best buddy Trotter (Ted Prior) outwits the mutating soldier and survives the massacre, Hollinger metamorphisizes into the Great White Hunter of Frost's dreams. Discredited by patriotic General Devro (Wilford Brimley), who's vehemently opposed to Frost's devaluing of human life, Frost deviously works to keep his monster-combatant alive while seeking to eliminate witnesses with the Prometheus Plan, in which the crash site environs would be scorched by fire. With the aid of farmer Carol Anne (Denise Crosby) and her quick-witted teenaged brother Jordie (Grant Gelt), Trotter evades the rampaging mutant and Frost's loyal troops. As the monster picks off soldiers with enviable dispatch and regenerates itself after their pitiful strafings, Trotter and Jordie must trick the creature after it kidnaps Carol Anne. In the end, the new super-soldier Hollinger allows himself to be blown up after Trotter manages to reason with what's left of the mutant's human side. As the Prometheus Plan obliterates the monster's killing fields, Trotter, Carol Anne, and Jordie escape and survive to testify against Frost's insane bio-scheme. While it's conceivable that the Pentagon might develop an unstoppable, artificially molded grunt, it's hard to buy this film's premise that they would do so with such risk of public exposure. That concept is only one of several hard candy balls of exposition apt to get lodged in the throats of even the most cooperative genre devotees. As nonsensical escapism buttressed by specially effective carnage, MUTANT SPECIES initially holds promise. In stumbling over its fantasy terrain, however, it becomes a mutation of a different color, not the antimilitary blast it tries to be but a fatally confused sci-fi revamp of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. Marring an already structurally challenged screenplay is what could be called the Star Intrusion Factor. Obviously, Boothe and Brimley were hired only for marquee value, and their scenes carry the irrelevant air of excess dramatic baggage. It's not that they don't help inch the plot along, it's that their scenes are clumsily dropped into the ongoing narrative, serving only as interruptions. Not that MUTANT SPECIES couldn't use some entertaining interruptions. Miscast as the Marine-android, high-strung wise guy Rossi captures neither the cocky demeanor of a born soldier nor the pathos of a frightened man surrendering his humanity to duty. And there is no more ludicrous scene of recent vintage than the pep talk Trotter gives his old-pal-turned-monster about behaving like a true blue Uncle Sammy boy. Looking like a refugee from THE NEVERENDING STORY, the Hollinger-creature blubbers his way into the annals of monster movie camp. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity.)