INCOMING Isn’t DIE HARD In Space, Sadly

When you put Scott Adkins in space, don’t also put him on a leash

The poster artwork for Incoming features the visage of Scott Adkins and an exploding space station. It makes one dream of the possibilities of an untethered Scott Adkins going buck wild on the bad guys and saving the world, Die Hard in space style. And while I guess it could be considered admirable that Incoming has other things on its mind and some surprises up its sleeve making it decidedly different than a Die Hard riff, things don’t really come together to make Incoming worthy of a recommendation.

There’s no use hiding my Scott Adkins super-fandom, and that fact should be noted from the top. I try my hardest, however, to give Adkins freedom to explore and expand his career and not demand anything of him as a fan beyond hard work and delivering on his innate talents. I’m always happy for him when he lands supporting or dramatic roles, for instance. And jumping into writing and producing roles on the recent Accident Man is something I cheered. Here Adkins is involved as the name above the title treatment, and part of a small ensemble. I do love a good “Adkins in space” romp, something I enjoyed with his appearances in the Metal Hurlant series. I also try to give the filmmakers behind his projects the same freedom, not necessarily needing every film Adkins appears in to be the next step in the evolution of the action film. I’ll acknowledge that “try” is the operative word in that last sentence.

Definitely not a traditional action film, Incoming is a contained space thriller with a defined and political concept that tries to explore ideas and winds up becoming flat in the process. It’s actually based on a pretty killer concept. What if the international space station was, in fact, the ultimate black site, used to secretly torture terrorists? And what if the terrorists took over and aimed the space station squarely upon Moscow, with no less than World War III in their sites? And what if Scott Adkins was on board to stop them?

This concept sounds like a ton of fun. Alas. Not every movie has to be an explosive action adventure, and a good meditation on torture and extremism is good for the soul on occasion, to be reminded of the deviance of our world leaders and the systemic crises we face. Incoming just suffers from not being a particularly incisive political thriller OR a strong sci-fi action film. It might have worked better in a world without realities like peak TV, or Black Mirror (which can introduce a reality-based near future and then blow your mind with its execution in under an hour, then do it all over again half a dozen times every season). Incoming feels like a SyFy project that never quite lives up to the political exploration that may have been on the page.

Director Eric Zaragoza has a military background (multiple tours of active duty) and this is his first film, from a script by Jorge Saralegui. Zaragoza has a vision to translate his effective military leadership tactics to tell stories cinematically. I wish him well and hope he continues to push forward. But Incoming doesn’t show a lot of visual panache. Scott Adkins’ physical presence is an irreplaceable asset to a production, and it’s therefore all the more tragic when it’s wasted. Action sequences in the film are dark and muddled, making them hard to follow. There’s only a few characters on board: bad guys all conveniently dressed in white. But even with such a limited roster of characters it’s occasionally hard to follow who is punching and kicking who. The same is true of the narrative. It’s clear that the film is trying to explore the human motivation of terrorist ideology and compare and contrast it against government sanctioned ideology like state-sponsored torture or rogue nationalism. Adkins’ character is somewhat of a wild card and the “Wolfpack” (our terrorist cell) aren’t always shown to be total monsters. So there are shades of nuance and meaning. But it’s never exciting. There are standoffs, some back and forth with our heroes from the visiting shuttle gaining some points and the escaped prisoners scoring a few back. It moves forward, but the pulse never quickens.

Incoming offers little in the way of new ideas or compelling execution. It fails to put Scott Adkins to good use even if it does keep us guessing as to his characters’ motivations. But it does HAVE ideas, and clearly attempts to share them with us through an interesting “terrorism in space” angle that could have been so much more. Those die hards who are too curious to resist (like me) should definitely check out Incoming and decide what they think themselves. Anyone outside the Scott Adkins super-fans and indie sci-fi die hards probably won’t find a lot for them in Incoming.

And I’m Out.

Incoming is available now on VOD via XLrator Media

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