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Review: Fear the walking undead of studio castoff 'Patient Zero'

Review: Fear the walking undead of studio castoff 'Patient Zero'
Matt Smith and Natalie Dormer in the movie "Patient Zero." (Chris Raphael)

Likable actors including Matt Smith (sporting a jarring Midwest American accent) and Natalie Dormer (sounding like she stepped directly off the set of “Game of Thrones”) inject what little life there is in “Patient Zero,” a post-apocalyptic pandemic movie that's more grade-Z than “World War Z.”

Originally scheduled for release in 2016 by Sony’s Screen Gems and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, whose 2007 drama “The Counterfeiters” won the foreign language Oscar, the film’s troubled trajectory to video-on-demand fodder is far more intriguing than anything that actually wound up on screen.

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As the movie opens, an advanced form of rabies has spread like wildfire across the globe, and faster than you can say "The Walking Dead," the survivors have holed up in a militarized bunker, desperately hoping to find a cure by locating the titular patient who started the whole mess.

Amid the buckets of blood, by-the-numbers action sequences and perfunctory love triangle subplot, it falls to Stanley Tucci (appearing in an extended cameo, and surely earning a disproportionately large paycheck) to lay out the story's clumsy thesis statement: “The rage started here,” his infected character calmly explains to Smith. “Against the government, the rich, the poor, foreigners, intellectuals, conservatives, feminists, intellectuals, freaks, name it.”

A near future where a divided humankind is so full of anger at people different from themselves that they literally turn into monsters? It's a frightful thought for frightful times. But it's also the only thought this slipshod thriller contains in its not-so-pretty little package.

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‘Patient Zero’

Rating: R, for bloody violence, language and some sexual content

Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Playing: Starts Sept. 14, Galaxy Mission Grove Luxury+, Riverside; also on VOD

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