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Review: More Bruce Willis isn’t necessarily better in low-energy sci-fi actioner ‘Cosmic Sin’

Bruce Willis in an armored spacesuit
Bruce Willis in the movie “Cosmic Sin.”
(Saban Films)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

Bruce Willis has lately been lending his name to modestly budgeted, largely forgettable action pictures, marketed as “Bruce Willis movies” even though he typically appears in a few listless scenes. The good news about the explosion-laden science-fiction film “Cosmic Sin” is that Willis is in it quite a bit. Roughly half the action directly involves his character, General James Ford.

The bad news is that he’s somehow more lackluster than usual — something that would seem to be impossible given his recent run. Maybe the problem is that Willis spends most of the movie in a bulky armored spacesuit, not exactly conducive to a high-energy performance. Maybe he’s giving “Cosmic Sin” director and co-writer Edward Drake’s plodding “war of the worlds” story just as much gusto as it deserves.

Drake’s film is admirably ambitious, with a reach that exceeds its grasp (or at least its budget). Set in 2524, “Cosmic Sin” follows a group of soldiers on a secret mission to lay waste to an alien planet before its inhabitants can invade the Earth. General Ford joins the team because of his reputation for unsentimental ferocity, born of his mass murder of millions of human colonists who once rebelled against their Alliance.

Ford isn’t meant to be seen as a hero necessarily. “Cosmic Sin” is more thematically complicated, raising questions about humankind’s long history of coupling exploration with conquest. Drake seems to be going for something akin to one of the more cerebral episodes of “Star Trek” or “Battlestar Galactica,” where the morality is murky.

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Aside from some genuinely impressive special effects sequences — with characters hurtling through the outer atmosphere or clinging to the hulls of spaceships — “Cosmic Sin” is pretty tedious. It’s clichéd, falling back on the old pulp premise of the culturally diverse “ragtag team” of tough guys and gals, barking out clumsily expositive dialogue in between unimaginative fights.

“Cosmic Sin” perks up whenever Frank Grillo shows up, playing another top military officer who refuses to hear nuanced arguments about engaging with the aliens. But Grillo only appears occasionally. He’s the Bruce Willis of this movie — offering little more than another recognizable face to put on the poster.

'Cosmic Sin'

Rated: R, for language including some sexual references, and violence

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Available March 12 on VOD; in limited release where theaters are open


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