Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The Omega Code

By Russell Smith

NOVEMBER 8, 1999: 

D: Robert Marcarelli; with Casper Van Dien, Michael York, Michael Ironside, Catherine Oxenberg. (PG-13, 99 min.)

The irony here is that even if Hollywood learns a marketing lesson from Gener8Xion Entertainment's startling grassroots hit it may not matter. Assuming that The Omega Code's basic premise is correct, every last producer and studio chief in L.A. will have been vaporized by the all-consuming flames of heaven before the first developmental lunch can be taken. Which may be just as well if this movie is a fair sample of what we can expect from the evangelical Christian movement's artistic wing. Though The Omega Code's producers are affiliated with a Christian cable channel called the Trinity Broadcasting Network, its prevailing sensibilities are more in line with secular figures like Irwin Allen and Aaron Spelling. Neither smart and provocative enough to inspire serious religious debate nor amateurish enough to qualify as good schlock, it's proof positive that heavy underground buzz doesn't necessarily imply merit or even intrinsic interest. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is how little it actually deals with religion per se. Instead, we're mainly treated to the slow, predictable resolution of a mundane techno-thriller plot focusing on supposedly prophetic passages encoded into the Torah and the Book of Revelations. (Michael Drosnin's bestselling book, The Bible Code and earlier writings by Hal Lindsey of The Late Great Planet Earth fame supply most of the grist for this plot device.) With both Yahweh and Satan phoning in their regrets, Armageddon's grand resolution is delegated to lesser personages. Representing Good is Starship Troopers'vinyl action figure Casper Van Dien as a motivational expert whose schtick is based on coded biblical messages. In the Evil corner is insufferable ham Michael York as a zillionaire philanthropist who turns out to be the literal Antichrist. Unlike more interesting movies about the end of days (Michael Tolkin's The Rapture is a personal favorite) searching moral and theological questions are blown off in favor of yet another dimwitted struggle for control of a physical object ­ in this case a paper scrap with a few lines of Torah code scrawled on it ­ that the villain needs to execute his plot. Add the usual hodgepodge of explosions, implausible computer behavior and klutzy dialogue ("The true nature of a man is reflected in the countenance of his wife's face") and you have what is surely the dullest movie imaginable given the subject matter. One saving grace: An unintentionally Mel Brooksesque scene in which the York's thuggish sidekick (Ironside) goes into a jealous snit over a snub by his master. "But you told me I could be the Prophet!" Ironside mewls like a four-year-old who's been denied a third box of Gummi Worms. "Okay! Okay!" you expect the frazzled Antichrist to sputter. "For cryin' out loud, you can be the friggin' Prophet, all right? Just don't make a scene in front of all Hell's minions!" More moments like this and we might've had ourselves a prime, creepo-camp party renter a la The Omen. As it is, though, I advise apocalyptically minded viewers to join me atop Mount Bonnell on Dec. 31. where, with suitcases packed and champagne cocktails in hand, we can watch the Four Horsemen top the blood-red horizon at the stroke of midnight.

1 Star

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