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The Divide: Viewers risk toxic levels of dumb

1.5 out of 4 stars


Apparently, if you're an apartment dweller in New York, and a nuclear attack has reduced your city to an ashen state of apocalyptic ruin, it pays to have a good super.

Of course, such valuable life lessons always come at a steep price, and this one is no exception. Sorry, but you'll have to shell out for The Divide and then suffer through its nearly two hours of bloody inanities. Weigh the balance, make your choice.

Happily, the lesson plan is quick to start. Kaboom goes the nuke, dropped by some unspecified miscreant, leaving a group of the apartment building's tenants to scurry into the dingy basement, which the helpful super (Michael Biehn) has already prepared as a bomb shelter complete with food supplies and a sealed iron door.

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"Not exactly the garden of Eden," he says caustically, although it should be noted that a woman in the group is named Eva. Close enough. The various Adams include a large black gentleman, a pair of half-brothers who look like potential trouble, and Eva's mild-mannered hubby who looks like potential fodder. Completing the lineup is a little girl with her understandably concerned mother (Rosanna Arquette).

Of course, since the weather outside is frightfully radioactive, what we have here is an entrapment scenario, which invariably is hard to sustain over a feature's length. So director Xavier Gens immediately fabricates a distracting bit of exterior action. Soon, a band of men, unrecognizable within their biohazard suits, are blowtorching open the iron door and rushing in to snatch that little girl, although not before the tenants slay one of the intruders.

Not much later, half-brother Josh dons the suit himself to engage in a bit of reconnoitering, where he discovers a large plastic tunnel that leads to some kind of makeshift scientific lab. This all looks quite intriguing; too bad none of it makes a lick of sense.

No matter. With the requisite stalling over, we're back in the basement to continue the entrapment yarn. Since the opened door has let in fallout, the survivors start losing parts of themselves – their hair first and then their moral compass. That latter absence paves the way for an extended game of who-can-out-gross whom, a contest that kicks off with the ever-popular axe – chopping up the interloper's dead body and stuffing the remnants down the toilet.

Oh, things are just beginning. The super gets tortured, finger by severed finger. The distraught mom decides that the best way to cure the blues is to offer herself up as a sex toy to the male contingent, and her choice of couture – strategically placed duct tape – makes for some compelling bondage imagery. Then the half-bros shave their heads completely, the better to denote their new status as twin despots in charge of food rationing and general misanthropy, not to mention the occasional act of sodomy. As gross-out competitions go, this is definitely not lacking in energy, with a climactic burst of self-immolation only adding fuel to the fun.

To be fair, there are a few spoilsports. Eva (Lauren German) traipses through her garden with more rectitude than most, hoping thereby to up her survival odds. Maybe, but my money is on another, seen at least twice in optimistic close-up. It's a rare movie where the most likable character onscreen, and the feel-good hero of the damnable show, is none other than the hardy cockroach.

The Divide

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  • Directed by Xavier Gens
  • Written by Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean
  • Starring Lauren German, Michael Biehn, Rosanna Arquette
  • Classification: 18A

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About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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