Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
As I work my way through the entire Sci-Fi channel movie catalog, a task that will get much easier since at this point early in 2014 the SyFy channel has shifted their focus from crappy movies to crappy reality TV shows, I must admit expectations for writer / director David Jackson's semi-dystopian thriller 'Do or Die' were pretty low.  Created in 2003, 'Do or Die' doesn't seem to have much going for it in the way of star power or special effects, but it does have a reasonably high concept for a story and we were going to watch it eventually, so might as well get it out of the way.  Well my friends, sometimes low expectations works in our favor.  We're not saying that 'Do or Die' was a particularly good movie, falling into the slot of firmly mediocre, but mediocre when applied to the Sci-Fi original scale, actually makes 'Do or Die' a good movie.

In the near future a virus has hit the planet Earth, or at least a city on the planet Earth since this is where we will be spending all of our time, and this virus causes people to age a year in a day.  I'm not quite sure how this virus came about, and they might've told us but I obviously wasn't paying attention during that part.  I read a synopsis about a meteor hitting or something that caused the virus, but I think I would've remembered that. 

Anyway, in this messed up world we have The Infected who are born with the virus and will serve as our oppressed citizens, and we have The Cleans, who don't have the virus and are largely the oppressors.  There is no cure for this virus, but there is a treatment as created by the completely evil Dr. Ethan Grant (Nigel Bennett) who has crafted a drug called Anzinol which needs to be injected by the Infected daily, at significant cost, if they want to live.  The injection stations are actually pretty gross, being these community things that have a bloody needle which jabs the hand of the user.  I can't imagine anything less sanitary than these awful devices. 
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Today we are going to concern ourselves with two Cleans in the super bubbly Ruth Hennessey (Polly Shannon) and her husband and Anzionol production manager Jack (Anthony Lemke).  Oh snap!  Jack isn't a Clean, he's an Infected whose been using a special device which makes people look like they are clean.  Worst still, Jack has impregnated his wife, though he didn't think he could do this, which means this baby will be born infected.  By night, Jack was a terrorist securing Anzinol for his people on the outskirts in the Bluelands along with his hardcore sidekick Iona (the late Guylaine St. Onge), but today, Jack won't be helping anybody right now.

Now Ruth is in a heap of trouble.  She's being pursued by a hardcore but conflicted detective in Alan Yanin (Shawn Doyle), Her husband who lied to her is gone, she has a baby that authorities want to forcibly abort and her only help comes from the woman Iona who loved her husband before she met him.  Thing is, Ruth believes in her heart there is a cure for her baby, her dying husband told her as much, and that Dr. Grant is hiding, because everybody knows there is no profit in cure.  And now Ruth, along with the help of the doubting detective, must try to get to the bottom of this mess before it all goes to hell.  Or Dr. Grant rapes her.  Dr. Grant is really looking forward to raping her.  We did mention he was evil, right?

As we get older and as we get to the eventual end of the Film Critics United website, I've decided to stop wasting my time, meaning if a movie doesn't interest me within ten to fifteen minutes, in a good or bad way, I'll stop it and do something else.  This is something I used to never do in the past.  Much to my surprise, despite my initial concerns about 'Do or Die', I didn't turn it off.  Admittedly, 'didn't turn it off' might not be much of a compliment, but I have turned off quite a few in recent weeks but this older Sci-Fi original kept my interest.

I think most of this interest we can attribute to Directorial Competence.  It is clear early on that we are working with a smallish budget over here, considering the majority of the special effects consisted of people with blue eye shadow on their hands, but Director Jackson has a story to tell and he tells at with as little fuss as possible, relentlessly moving this movie forward.  The story was setup in a way that got me interested in the characters and their plight, these same characters were developed well enough that kept me interested in their well being, the world design looked exactly like the one we live in now, but was sold to me in a way that it least felt like it was little different, and then I was engaged enough to stick around for the reveal of the mystery of the cure, assuming there was a cure.  The resolution felt rushed, as if the filmmakers either ran out of money or time or ideas or all of the above, and couldn't properly close the story out, but all in all it wasn't that bad.

The performances were functional, Shawn Doyle either being bored or super cool, but then I remember that show he was in, 'Endgame', and he was pretty much the same in that only with a Russian accent so I guess it's just my man's style.  Polly Shannon was bubbly and cute and never seemed out of her element, and Guylane St. Onge was impressive as the hardcore rock of the resistance.  She will be missed.  And we have to get a shout out to actor Lyrig Banh who played the prototypical angry Black captain and played it well.  I mean this dude was pissed off all the time.  This is listed as his only role, and that makes me sad.  Somebody give this a guy a job.  If he is alive as well, that is.  And I don't know if that giant statue of Nigel Bennett was real or CGI, but if it was real, I hope he got to keep it after shooting was through.

All I'm saying is that 'Do or Die', whatever that title means, exceeded expectations.  Sure they might've been low, but they were exceeded nonetheless.
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