The Divide

Susan Granger’s review of “The Divide” (Anchor Bay Films)

As a nuclear strike hits Manhattan, the terrified residents of an apartment building push and shove each other in a frantic dash to the basement, which – after 9/11 – cigar-smoking Mickey (Michael Biehn), the janitor, has equipped as an underground bomb shelter. Quickly taking command, domineering Mickey orders that the door be bolted and no one is allowed to leave until the danger of radiation has passed.
He’s soon confronted by a motley assortment of egocentric individuals, including troublemaker Josh (Milo Ventimiglia), his step-brother Adrien (Ashton Holmes) and enterprising Devlin (Courtney B. Vance), who’s determined to make outside contact with his two-way radio. Plus, there’s bullying Bobby (Michael Eklund) and passive Sam (Ivan Gonzales) who astutely observes, “I guess that’s what survival is – trying to keep it together.” On the distaff side, there’s Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette), a mother protecting her whining daughter, Wendy (Abbey Thickson), and Eva (Lauren German), Sam’s attractive, level-headed wife.
Trapped for days with no hope of rescue, helpless and hopeless as supplies of canned food and bottled water dwindle, they turn on one another, inflicting both physical and psycho-sexual torment.  As they perish one-by-one, the only mystery is who – if anyone – will emerge and what will be found on the outside.
Working from an incoherent, redundant script by Karl Mueller & Eron Sheean, French filmmaker Xavier Gens (“Fronteire (s),” “Hitman”) fails on several fronts with this bleak, low-budget, sci-fi thriller, not only in establishing empathetic characters and sustaining claustrophobic suspense but also in saddling viewers with a disappointing conclusion.  Shooting in sequence, what Gens chooses to dwell on is the graphic, violent horror of human desperation and debasement, involving sadism, torture, dismemberment, rape and murder.
The question is: what are talented actors like Michael Biehn, Lauren German and Courtney B. Vance doing in this repugnant dirge? And why has plastic surgery been so unkind to Rosanna Arquette, who, in 1985, won a British Academy Award for “Desperately Seeking Susan”?
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Divide” descends to a depraved 2. Not recommended.