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'Paradox' takes time travel to a bad place

'Paradox' takes time travel to a bad place
Zoe Bell stars in a time-travel whodunit that is well plotted but stumbles in its writing and directing. (XLrator Media)

In "Paradox," starring Zoë Bell and Malik Yoba, a coterie of researchers holed up in a secret underground bunker tries out a particle accelerator that supposedly opens up a black hole to facilitate time travel. A test subject ventures one hour into the future only to find a grisly murder scene in which most of his fellow scientists lie lifeless in pools of blood, with the lab set to self-destruct within minutes. He promptly returns to warn them about a killer in their midst.

Writer-director Michael Hurst bungles the introduction to his characters by having all their back stories narrated by two National Security Agency operatives sitting in a van parked outside. While considerable thought might have gone into these elaborate details, this signals his penchant for telling rather than showing. Even the wealth disparity between two researchers — both MIT grads — seems particularly stark and reductive (though it has greater implications for the story than one might expect).

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As 2004's "Primer" and 2014's "Time Lapse" proved, it's entirely possible to ace time-travel movies on a shoestring budget. Hurst certainly plots this aspect well enough to elevate his otherwise generic "And Then There Were None"-style whodunit. The temporal puzzle is enough to distract from the artless direction, visibly cheap set designs and tacky special effects. But if the expository scenes are any indication, his writing could benefit from some refinement. It's at times bewildering that the characters find time for melodrama when they should be running for their lives; especially with a cast that can't sell it.

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'Paradox'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD

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