Cronenberg’s cringeworthy story and “artsy” direction focuses more on visual shock instead of an engaging plot.

Crimes of the Future is writer/director David Cronenberg’s (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence) return to the science fiction/horror genre he helped establish, his first since 1999’s eXistenZ. While it shares the same title as a film he released in 1970, it’s not a remake and tells a completely different story.

Set in a future where humans are experiencing an increased rate of evolution, Crimes of the Future is a body horror film that follows a celebrity performance artist – who publicly showcases the removal of new organs from his body – as he tries to uncover information about a secret group of evolved humans who have adapted to eating plastic. If that sounds absurd just reading it, it’s even more bizarre – and less entertaining – watching it unfold on screen.

Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and Caprice (Léa Seydoux) are a performance artist couple who take advantage of Saul’s ability to constantly develop new organs – a disorder they call “accelerated evolution syndrome” – by surgically removing them in front of a live audience. In a world where the majority of people no longer feel pain due to changes in human evolution, this performance art fits in with a society/culture that now replaces the usual acts of pleasure with cutting up their bodies without the need of anesthetic.

A bureaucrat called Timlin (Kristen Stewart) who works at the National Organ Registry – and who is a fan of Saul’s work – sums up this reality best when she says “surgery is the new sex”.

Unknown to Caprice and the rest of the world is that Saul is working undercover for the authorities. He’s helping Detective Cope (Welket Bungué) gather information about a group of evolved humans, led by Lang Dotrice (Scott Speedman), who eat plastic instead of normal food and who have the corpse of a child with special biological properties. By using his ability to move through the performance art world, Saul goes on a visually and sociologically disturbing journey that raises more questions than answers. It’s a frustrating story that ultimately has no payoff.

I’m a big fan of Viggo Mortensen so it was quite a shock to find him in such a terrible role in an even more terrible story – especially given his track record working with David Cronenberg on numerous films that I really enjoyed. The only reason I didn’t walk out of the cinema is because I thought there would be a massive payoff once the credits rolled. I was wrong.

The film focuses so much on the graphic nature of body horror that it turns its actors into spectacles instead of believable or plausible characters. Mortensen and Seydoux give as best as can be expected given the absurdity of the story and stylistic choices made by Cronenberg. Unfortunately it’s such a ridiculous execution of an interesting premise that despite Mortensen’s and Seydoux’s best efforts, and despite the graphic visuals that will disturb some audiences, these are among the most laughable performances they’ve ever given – and it’s not meant to be a comedy.

Whether it’s Mortensen’s “Batman voice” coupled with his black Sith robe, or Seydoux’s arousal at having her chest cut into with a biomechanical scalpel or performing oral sex on an open cavity on stomach organs, none of it ever feels authentic where I can suspend disbelief and be drawn into the absurd futuristic world Cronenberg has created. In fact, none of the actors are believable in any sense of the word and their performances just feel like art for the sake of being artsy. I was embarrassed for the entire cast.

David Cronenberg has written and directed one of the most cringeworthy films I’ve seen in a long time. The premise for this world are actually quite interesting as there are strong themes and ideas surrounding human evolution, particularly the adaptation of the human body to the polluted and damaged world we humans have created.

However, he’s saddled them with a story more focused on providing excuses to showcase unnecessary nudity and graphic surgery instead of telling a compelling narrative that might keep an audience engaged long enough to think about the themes he might be trying to convey. Any serious message about our damaged world is lost amongst self indulgent art wank.

Crimes of the Future is a woeful, self indulgent film I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I wanted to walk out several times, not because I was offended or shocked by the graphic nature of the visuals, but because I was agitated with the ridiculous story and embarrassed for the actors of whom I’m a fan of. With a world that’s extremely hard to suspend disbelief (I don’t believe human beings would carve each other up en masse instead of enjoying traditional sex because they no longer feel pain), I found it impossible to be engaged in the journey and spent a good amount of time wondering how on Earth the filmmakers managed to get funding for this piece of crap.

  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Release Date: June 3, 2022
  • Distributor: Neon

Originally published on June 22, 2022 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/crimes-of-the-future-2022/