Out now in theaters and on VOD/On Demand, Dark Asset features Byron Mann as the mysterious John Doe, who is part of a secret program to create super soldiers via microchips implanted in their brains.
Mann’s John Doe is a former special forces soldier who is the latest recruit into a secret program run by Dr. Cain (Robert Patrick), who is attempting to perfect a chip that can enhance the subject’s mental acuity and tactical awareness but, more nefariously, allows Cain and the program to “suggest” things to the subjects, which the chip forces them to do. The subjects can also be terminated at will and the chip cannot be removed without causing irreparable damage to the subject’s brain. Doe escapes the facility in dramatic fashion and then meets a woman, Jane (Helena Mattsson), at a hotel bar, whom he proceeds to tell the tale of the history of the program. If the movie was more of a Universal Soldier-style movie with John escaping and trying to remember who he is while on the run, it seems like the structure is in place to support that but the movie makes the bizarre choice to go off on a bunch of tangents, with the majority of the scenes with Mann being in the bar with Jane. It would be like if in Universal Soldier, Van Damme escaped the UniSol program and then the rest of the movie was him telling the reporter character seemingly unrelated stories about other UniSol candidates. The movie also keeps going back to the same scenes over and over again, making it seem like they didn’t have enough footage and had to stretch out the opening action sequence by reusing it and adding slightly more information each time they go back to it. After the third or fourth time, it becomes eye-rolling in its absurdness and it doesn’t have what was probably the intended effect, which is to build intrigue and mystery about the microchip program and John’s plan. The amount of other characters thrown around also just makes things really confusing and messy as the movie jumps back and forth in time and tries to find a way to justify its main storytelling method and tie everything together.
Byron Mann is an incredibly charming actor and he’s the main reason the movie isn’t an absolute slog. He has some solid chemistry with Mattsson and their back-and-forth for the majority of the movie adds some levity and fun to the proceedings. Robert Patrick can do the evil scientist thing in his sleep and it kind of seems like he was or he was just not given enough meaty stuff to do in the movie, as he’s definitely been more fun and more threatening in other projects. The rest of the cast is mostly forgettable, which makes the focus on all of the other side characters besides Mann and Mattsson feel even more baffling. The action is also serviceable but not great and, as mentioned, the movie keeps returning to the same sequence multiple times instead of coming up with new sequences, which lessens the impact every time it returns to that well. There are a few good hand to hand sequences, like when John fights a few of the previous test subjects while escaping the lab, but Mann has definitely had much better and more interesting action elsewhere.
There’s the seed of a potentially cool, Universal Soldier-style movie with Byron Mann in Dark Asset but the actual movie is pretty much a convoluted mess with a baffling plot structure and repetitious pacing that brings more boredom and eye-rolling than intrigue and suspense. This is one you can skip.