Dabbling in a myriad of already weary tropes first pioneered by The Matrix trilogy, this Taiwanese sci-fi crime thriller Plurality could have put a fresh twist on big-budget Hollywood efforts, but falls flat on both the production design and the narrative front.
The young son of a city councillor is the latest victim in a string of kidnappings targeting children with disabilities or facial disfigurements, and the police become convinced that the perpetrator is one of the five passengers who have died in a mysterious bus crash. Thanks to a new technology, they are able to use the vegetative body of a criminal on death row into which to inject the brain fluids of the suspects. (These include a shady businessman, a spoiled dropout, a reticent college student, a father estranged from his daughter, and the bus driver.) As the police try to extract information from these evasive subjects, the more gruelling the interrogation becomes, the more violently the five identities wrestle for control of their corporeal host, which leads to explosive revelations and bloodshed.
The device of multiple identities within one body has a clear similarity to M Night Shyamalan’s controversial Split, but Plurality lacks the same commitment to character-building; and it doesn’t help that the film appears to be crafted around random twists rather than emotional motivation. The tension between ruthless Detective Wang (Frederick Lee) and haunted scientist Dr Shen (Sandrine Pinna) – whose own son is also abducted – is interestingly explored in the first couple of scenes, yet the film quickly ditches such promising complexity for action and chase sequences. The attempt to capture the maze-like mindscape of the prisoner, full of different personalities roaming about, is similarly anaemic with its poorly conceived design. Plurality might spiral in increasingly ludicrous directions, but the result is decidedly one-dimensional.
Plurality is released on 19 July on digital platforms.