The concept for Division 19 is both timely and very cool. We’re in the near future and an enterprising prison boss has thought of a way of making the prisons, and prisoners, pay for themselves.
That woman is Neilsen, Alison Doody (“A View To A Kill”, “Indian Jones And The Last Crusade”), and her grand idea is to turn prisons into a round-the-clock, more violent version, of Big Brother.
Users can watch the prisoners 24/7 online, including watching them beat seven bells out of each other. The big draw here being Hardin Jones, Jamie Draven (“Billy Elliot”, “Badland”), the ruggedly handsome prisoner who, we’re told, is drugged to his eyeballs yet manages to win every fight.
With over 70 million viewers, none of which you ever see, advertising isn’t far behind and the population lap-up everything Hardin does, from books to playlist, jeans to drinks; he touches it, they buy it.
So far, so simple, but it’s at this point that writer/director S.A. Halewood (“Bigga Than Ben”, “One More Kiss”) begins to throw all manner of things into the mix.
There’s a brother whose part of a group that lives off the grid, not chipped or under constant surveillance like the rest of the population, a kind of Anonymous but without the masks.
They break Hardin out of jail, but he manages to evade them and ends up in a hippy-esq commune with more people who live off the grid. This, despite us being told that anonymity is a crime and that it’s virtually impossible to do so in this future. Seems pretty easy to be honest.
Division 19 is a traditional sci-fi movie, i.e. it’s one of those that you don’t always know what’s going on and, if you can manage it, it takes a few views to completely get your head around it.
The trouble is, the story doesn’t warrant how difficult Halewood has made it. It is, as I said earlier, a really good and timely concept, but, as with a lot of these sorts of films, it is constrained by the budget, which was still a healthy $2 million.
The computer graphics of the floating machinery, keeping an eye on the population, ensuring they adhere to the rules, isn’t too bad. The locations, the film was mostly shot in Detroit, means the streets are empty and there’s plenty of old, empty buildings, so that all fits.
But there’s a lack of these millions and millions of people apparently watching this all take place, there’s a relatively small cast, even the background cast are sadly lacking, and once Hardin has been broken out of jail by his brother, who he hasn’t seen for years, they just abandon him with a “good luck”.
Division 19 is a nifty, high-concept sci-fi movie that has a lot of potential. It has a timely message and it feels like something that isn’t a million miles away from where some countries are going.
But it feels overly complex and can drag at times which means you tune-out, making the already mind-bending sci-fi even more difficult to follow. I’ve no doubt some of you will love Division 19, it’s message of going against the establishment and all that, whilst others will see it as a missed opportunity. I’m in the latter camp.