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As Paramount Plus (formally known as CBS All Access) attempts to establish itself as one of the premiere streaming options available today, they have begun to release blockbuster films that hope to propel them to the same stature as HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. The first marquee adventure in their repertoire is the Mark Wahlberg vehicle INFINITE. Wahlberg’s SPENSER CONFIDENTIAL was released on Netflix in March of last year and was deemed to be a streaming success, so there was every reason to believe that magic would strike for Paramount Plus as well. For the most part, even when the action star’s films don’t exactly rank highly on the artistic scale, they are at least engaging and entertaining.

In INFINITE, Wahlberg plays the tortured Evan McCauley. Despite his mysterious ability to forge swords utilizing techniques last employed centuries ago, and boasting a seemingly unbeatable trivia skillset, his life isn’t exactly easy. Forced to take anti-psychotic meds to keep his impulses and troubled mind at bay, he admirably sticks up for damsels in distress, but also has a penchant for self-harm and violence.

After a squabble with a local drug dealer, he is taken into police custody. The questioning from a bald and super-intense fella name Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is pretty straight forward at first, but then escalates quickly. As Bathurst forces Evan to play a version of Russian roulette while questioning him about ancient artifacts, it becomes painfully aparant that this is no typical detective, and something much more nefarious is afoot. Luckily, before things get really out of hand, a mysterious woman (Sophie Cookson) crashes a car through the wall of the police station and basically gives Evan the “come with me if you want to live” TERMINATOR treatment.

An absurd chase sequence predictably unfolds, overstuffed with bullet-time slo-mo shots and bloodless violence galore. Evan narrowly avoids catastrophe, and in doing so, is promptly told that he’s not schizophrenic as he feared, but instead, an immortal known as an Infinite. He is constantly reborn into a new life, and is permanently engaged in a battle of good vs. evil with another group of immortals. These villains are lead by Bathurst who is tired of living forever, and who has the lofty goal of annihilating every living thing on the planet.

It’s been a few days since I originally watched INFINITE, and while this has given me plenty of time to reflect, and maybe discover some sort of silver lining, it certainly hasn’t happened yet. It’s a PG-13 movie that really wanted to be rated-R, and always yearned to be far more clever than it could ever be. Wahlberg’s casual playfulness, which I usually find endearing and enjoyable, never rang true in the guise of Evan. More confounding, was the fact that his character was neither magnetic nor sympathetic. His backstory was so scattershot that it was impossible to care about his future. Obviously, when a character has lived for centuries, there’s a lot of ground to cover, but it’s still vital for an audience to care. I genuinely never cared. He was just sort of…there.

Without question Bathurst proved to be a far more interesting character. Though I never truly bought into his yearning for extinction, I did get a kick out of watching Ejifor play with him with such over-the-top gusto. He obviously went all in, gleefully embracing the B-grade absurdity of the production. As a result, whether he was poisoning Toby Jones with honey, or trying to chase Wahlberg down in an armored truck, he certainly never mailed it in. Whether he was bound to succeed or fail in his attempt at mass extermination feels largely inconsequential. Like a little league baseball game, in this venture, it was much more about the effort that exuded and the fun being had. In this regard, Ejifor was certainly the MVP.

I’m sure there was hope that this production would serve as the first of many installments in the INFINITE saga. The film has the wistful aspirations of “prospective franchise” written all over it, yet lacks execution needed to allow this goal to come to fruition. With lackluster action sequences, surprisingly shoddy special effects and characters so forgettable that they hardly exist, this was certainly not the auspicious cinematic breakthrough that Paramount Plus was hoping for.

(Now streaming on Paramount Plus)

Brian Miller