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Ghosts of Mars

movie review out of 4

*Also starring: Jason Statham, Clea Duvall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Cetrone, Duane Davis, Lobo Sebastian, Liam Waite

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Susan Granger read the review no stars
3.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie review
4.  Mark OHara read the review ---
5.  Edward Johnson-Ott read the review no stars

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

GHOSTS OF MARS by John Carpenter, one of the B-movie kings, is a horror movie set on the red planet in the year 2176. Don't worry, you'll feel right at home since it is a retro future in which flashlights and many other technologies haven't advanced at all in almost two centuries. The movie's unluckily possessed humans, a group of miners, look like members of the heavy metal band KISS. They run around like cave men, yell like wild animals and decorate their bodies through massive self-mutilation.

Those going in hopes of the over-the-top fun of Carpenter's last picture, VAMPIRES, will leave disappointed. Here the action is merely ridiculous without the energetic fun of VAMPIRES. Still, after a lifeless first act, the movie does pick up the pace in the middle. The ending, however, doesn't hang together. The result is an uneven movie that's much less hit than miss.

The story concerns the train transportation of a notorious criminal named James "Desolation" Williams. As Desolation, Ice Cube's lack of acting talent turns into an asset, making his stilted dialog come across as campy wit. Natasha Henstridge, from the SPECIES series, is the movie's leading character, Melanie Ballard, the second in command of the police force that has come to retrieve Desolation. Pam Grier plays the detail's commander.

When they arrive at the mining camp where Desolation is being held, it's almost a ghost town, thanks to the destruction caused by the aforementioned miners. It seems that something deep within the planet has been unleashed and has inhabited their bodies.

The movie is as dead as an asteroid until Ballard and Desolation become caustic comrades in the battle against the heavy metallers. The barbs they trade put enough needed life into the movie to make you hope that it will finally take off, but it never achieves lift-off. Although some of the drug usage in the story looks a bit too inviting, one scene could serve as an excellent public service announcement against drugs. It is a sickly funny scene that becomes one of the more memorable incidents in a movie whose memory has a half-life measured in minutes.

"Maybe I'd sleep with you if you were the last man on earth," Ballard tells one of her men (Jason Statham), who keeps hitting on her, "but we're not on earth." It is a joke in which you know the punch line before it's delivered. Most of the movie is like that.

GHOSTS OF MARS at least has the good sense to run only 1:38. It is rated R for "strong violence/gore, language and some drug content" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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