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Film review: Impostor

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The new year isn't even a week old yet, and already we may have its most ironically titled movie: "Impostor."

That this dud futuristic thriller even purports to be based on a story by famed science-fiction author Philip K. Dick is an insult to his estimable legacy. (Other movie adaptations of his work, with far better results, include "Blade Runner" and "Total Recall.")

In fact, the only similarities between this film and one of Dick's many short stories and novels is the fact that both have confusing moments. However, even Dick's weakest efforts were never as predictable and boring as "Impostor."

Of course, the film's mediocrity shouldn't come as much of a surprise, considering that it was expanded from an earlier, shorter-length version, which was intended as part of an anthology movie (those plans were scrubbed when at least one of the other short films was deemed unreleasable by the studio).

The film's title refers to charges being leveled against Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise), a top weapons designer in the 21st century.

Spencer has been experiencing nagging doubts about his work and plans to discuss them with his superiors. But before he can do that, Spencer is arrested and interrogated by a military officer, Major Hathaway (Vincent D'Onofrio), who claims that the scientist has been replaced by a humanoid bomb meant to escalate the war of terror being perpetrated by invaders from the Alpha Centauri system.

Despite Spencer's claims of innocence, Hathaway plans to "deactivate" him and remove the "bomb" in his chest. But Spencer manages to get free and escapes into the wastelands.

There, he's fortunate enough to meet up with an underground dweller (Mekhi Pfifer), who may be able to help get him back to his wife (Madeleine Stowe) — the only person capable of helping him prove his innocence.

Among the film's numerous problems are its rather heavy-handed analogies to World War II events and personalities (including atomic bomb creator Robert Oppenheimer). But its biggest liability may be director Gary Fleder, who never lets his camera stay still long enough for the audience to figure out what's happening in the action scenes.

To the first-rate cast's credit, all of them try to make this hokum somewhat acceptable and still retain their dignity. But it's all for naught.

"Impostor" is rated PG-13 for violence (brawling, explosive mayhem and a stabbing), fairly graphic gore, occasional use of profanity, drug content (including hallucinations), simulated sex, a scene of torture, use of some crude slang terms and brief partial male nudity. Running time: 95 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com