LD 50 Lethal Dose (2003) Movie Review

For about 30 minutes, one almost believed “Lethal Dose” was going to become something great. Alas, an uninteresting Act 1 and a laughably absurd (not to mention wholly clich’d) Act 3 ruined the day.

“Lethal Dose” opens with animal activist commandos breaking into an animal research facility, where one of them, Gary (Ross McCall), gets caught in a bear trap. Unable to free Gary, the group flees, leaving the poor bloke to take the fall. Flash-forward to one year later, and the group has since disbanded. That is, until an encrypted email from Gary arrives asking for help. Danny (Leo Bill), who has been visiting Gary in prison, informs the group that Gary has traded his body for experiments in exchange for a reduced sentence.

The group, still stricken by guilt one year later, eagerly reunites to rescue Gary. They also pick up two new recruits — a nitwit stoner and a crazy ex-Marine. At the remote lab where Gary is being kept, the group discovers the place abandoned, and soon finds themselves locked in a subterranean level full of labyrinth hallways and experiment chambers. They also discover that a powerful electrical force is stalking them, and it has full control of the complex…

As mentioned, there is about 30 minutes in “Lethal Dose” — specifically the middle section — where the movie excels. For 30 minutes, “Dose” is haunting and downright creepy. As the electrical force plays havoc with the would-be rescuers, turning their righteous cause into a death trap, the film couldn’t have been any better or more intense. Unfortunately this doesn’t last, resulting in 30 very dull moments to close things out. Director Simon De Selva tries mightily to salvage the film, but he’s working from an ambitious script that nevertheless loses focus.

If the lack of tension in Act 3 isn’t bad enough, McGuchan’s script even manages to throw in some choice eye rolling plot points. Take a character that the other survivors have decided (with good reason) they can’t trust. Having tied this character up so he can’t do them anymore harm, our heroes neglect to take away his knife. Seriously, folks, this is the type of screenwriting that makes you want to ask the screenwriter: “Okay, granted, you want the character to use that knife in a later scene, but did you have to bend the rules of common sense to such an extreme degree?”

At around 90 minutes, “Lethal Dose” takes a while to get going. The first 30 minutes is wasted with character development — wasted in the sense that there are simply too many characters, and spending a minute on each one doesn’t exactly qualify as “development”. By the time the group makes it to the facility, things pick up. The film hits its stride just before it nosedives into a whirlpool of cliché, pointless (and failed) attempts at manufacturing tension, and an ending that has to be seen to be believed — it’s that silly.

Leading the cast as our Fair Hair Lead is Katharine Towne, daughter of Robert, the famous Hollywood ghostwriter. Towne is exactly as she should be — pretty, blonde, and extremely bland. It’s a good thing our animal commandos have Matt (Tom Hardy, “Star Trek: Nemesis”), because the guy turns out to be some sort of master electrician. Which makes seeing him climbing scaffolding at a construction site in the beginning sort of baffling, but there you have it. The script forces the two characters into one of those quickie “I just realized we were supposed to be an item” moments, even though the two barely glanced each other’s way up to that point.

As the vengeful friend cum electrical force, Ross McCall reminds me he was so much better as the devil-may-care Liebgott in “Band of Brothers”. In any case, he’s barely in the film, showing up early in flashbacks and then later as…a voice? Mel B, aka Scary Spice of Spice Girls fame, can barely act, although her death scene was something to see. Or, actually, something to hear. “Lethal Dose” is a slick film with some decent effects. Not surprisingly, it’s most effective when it insinuates, such as Mel B’s death sequence, which we don’t see, but hear as it’s taking place.

The film’s final act is as pointless as the movie’s Ultimate Reveal, which posits Gary’s fate. Another Teen Slasher Law dictates that the Fair Hair Lead has to dispatch of the villain herself; she accomplishes this amazing (re: ludicrous) task by using her superpower. And what is our heroine’s superpower? Answer: Yoga! I absolutely and positively kid you not, ladies and gentlemen.

Simon De Selva (director) / Matthew McGuchan (screenplay)
CAST: Katharine Towne …. Helen
Melanie Brown …. Louise
Tom Hardy …. Matt
Leo Bill …. Danny
Toby Fisher …. Justin
Stephen Lord …. Spook

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