Malice In Wonderland
R1 - America - Magnolia Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (30th July 2010).
The Film

After seeing “Lost” (2004-2010), I’ve had a habit of trying to track down and see where the main cast members ended up in their careers just because of what a solid ensemble cast the show had over its 6 year run. After Maggie Grace left she’s done random cameos and appearances in other movies, with a terrible remake of “The Fog” in 2005 and a good performance in “Taken” (2008) as all to show for major acting work since then. So when “Malice in Wonderland” (2009) popped up in the mail, I was heartily ready to see how Maggie Grace had turned out, but by the time it was over I felt like a bearded Jack in the season 3 finale of "Lost" (“Through the Looking Glass”) yelling “We Have to Go Back!”

If you have trouble removing M’s or understanding a play on words, “Malice” is supposedly based on the Lewis Carroll novel “Alice in Wonderland” though the similarties beyond an amalgamation of vauge references end about there. Alice (Maggie Grace) is running through England’s streets at nights trying to find an address only to be hit by a cab driven by Whitey (Danny Dyer) who is late to pick up a package for a birthday party. After missing his appointment Whitey leaves the amnesiac Alice behind to track down the gift only to discover that she’s really the daughter of a billionaire offering a $10 million reward. Whitey goes on the hunt for Alice while she stumbles through a series of misadventures with a white rasta, a tea party at a mobile brothel and a grinning DJ named Chester (Gary Beadle).

For all the cover talk of a ‘modern twist’ and ‘dark side’ of wonderland, the resemblance to the original is only superficial with a few splashes of swearing and more blatant drug use than other film interpretations. What should be taken as dramatic liscensce to explore a weird world of Wonderland is just an excuse to set it in a city and involve drug dealers and bank robbers. Making Wonderland more realistic just ruins the whole point of what it represents because it takes all of the "wonder" out of it. The idea of Wonderland should be an opportunity for the fantastic and interesting, but instead “Malice” takes the opportunity to meander and drift around an adult world that doesn’t have the sort of imagination to be engaging or the intrigue to be fascinating.

And really this zero sum is a direct result of the mediocre and almost uninvolved efforts of the creative team. Director Simon Fellows makes little attempt to add bizarre visuals or odd landscapes to the film, opting for just colorful lighting and urban environments. Both of these could still work though so long as he had an interesting style of filming, take “Inland Empire” (2007) for example where it’s all shot on fairly plain cameras but has the feel of a nightmare. Fellows’ style lacks distinction or imagination much like Jayson Rothwell’s writing that just lingers in every scene, not really in a rush to do anything or move along the story, even if it seems like settings and characters speak rapidly.

Still, Maggie Grace does a fine enough job considering the limited scope of the film, bringing a little bit of her acting talents but understandably not throwing herself into the role full force considering the sub-par creativity in the film. Dyer is okay as Whitey the cabbie/eventual love interest, a turn which makes no sense, and the rest of the supporting cast tends to just hang around in their respective roles. However Beadle’s role as the DJ supposed to be the Cheshire Cat is not a bad bit of casting, he has the oddly large grin to pull it off and enough charisma to make sense of the full 2 minutes worth of screen time he gets in the film.

Overall, “Malice” is not terribly worth watching unless you really need to see Maggie Grace act in something other than “Taken,” “The Fog” or “Lost.” I could make a joke here about a rabbit hole, or a looking glass or some other movie review pun-cliché but really it’s not worth my time to make more overt references to “Alice” than “Malice” even tries to make in passing. Really “Malice” could be a release from The Asylum genre of rip-off movies designed to benefit off of an upcoming blockbuster with a not so clever attempt at masking the title with it’s direct-to-DVD goodness. The only difference is that I think I would have had more fun watching The Asylum’s take.

Video

Presented with a 2.35:1 anamorphic aspect ratio, “Malice” doesn’t really show off the world it exists in but instead suffers from some serious grain and pixilation problems that occur because of the low quality of transfer or cameras and the odd lighting schemes that the cinematographer seems to be a big fan of. Since Fellow’s artistic style is so plain, it leaves a lot to be watched for in terms of quality and just every little problem becomes pretty blatantly apparent.

Audio

The main English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has a better overall technical quality than the visuals but still has problems of it’s own. The sound tends to match up well and the levels all seem okay, but they don’t do a great job of the sound remastering and the additional sound effects added in post production. Add on top of that a fairly lackluster soundtrack with some generic action music and some bad vocal tracks to go into the soundtrack it leaves a lot to be desired.
There’s also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track, along with Spanish subtitles.

Extras

I still can’t tell if I’m surprised about the amount of special features on the disc considering it is a direct-to-DVD film or not, but really a making-of featurette, a photo gallery, plus some bonus trailers seem about standard these days.

“Making the Wonderland” featurette runs for 10 minutes and 3 seconds, and this is exactly what it says it is, the making of for the film. Speaking with crew members like Chris Ross, the director of photography, who does some technical speaking on the techniques, Maggie Grace talks about Danny Dyer’s previous movies and the responsiveness of the extras. There’s some good behind-the-scenes footage even speaking with makeup people, a few of the many producers on the film, just giving a brief look at how it all came together.

The “Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery” featurette runs for 7 minutes and 37 seconds, and is just an extended slideshow of images.

Bonus trailers on the disc include:

- “D13: Ultimatum” runs for 2 minutes and 1 second.
- “Red Cliff” runs for 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
- “The Warlords” runs for 2 minutes and 8 seconds.
- “The Eclipse” runs for 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
- “HDNet” spot runs for 1 minute and 2 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D- Video: C- Audio: C+ Extras: D+ Overall: D+

 


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