Sci-fi fans often lament that so many genre films nowadays feel like bored retreads of what came before. But if you know where to look, you can find some wildly original content, including the Guy Pearce film Zone 414. It’s got mysteries, robot sex slaves, and everything in between, and you can now experience it yourself by streaming it on Netflix.
Guy Pearce has starred in a few quirky sci-fi films, but few are as strange as Zone 414, a detective mystery on Netflix.
What is Zone 414 about, exactly? In the film, Guy Pearce plays a very familiar noir archetype: he’s a former detective turned private investigator, and he gets hired to help a very wealthy man track down his daughter. The quest to find her is made more complex, however, by the fact that the woman in question has escaped into a walled city that is notorious for the fact that the humans in it can hire robot sex slaves to make all of their most perverse dreams come true.
If you want a better idea of what this Guy Pearce movie is all about, just try to imagine a stylized combination of Blade Runner and Westworld. As in Blade Runner, this is a futuristic world in which humans have created an underclass of humanoid robots whom they can exploit. And as in Westworld, most of that exploitation comes in the form of humans wanting to have freaky, ostensibly guilt-free sex with robotic servants.
As in both of those venerable sci-fi franchises, this cinematic dark tale soon forces audiences to ask philosophical questions about whether humans and robots are really that different. For example, Guy Pearce’s grizzled detective gets paired up with a self-aware robot who is meant to help him find the wayward daughter of his client (who is, incidentally, the man who created these lifelike robots). It’s tough to tell where humans end and robots begin when they each look and think alike, and to further drive that idea home, there are humans living inside this walled city that pretend to be robots in an effort to numb themselves.
In the finest noir tradition, Guy Pearce’s detective is haunted by his past…specifically, a disastrous incident in his past that precipitated his resignation from the police force. He goes through your standard Raymond Chandler-style arc in which he is seeking redemption but can only find his personal light by wading headfirst into the darkest depths. And we get some really crunchy parallelism where, even as the detective tries to become a better man, his investigation forces him to discover some of the worst that humanity has to offer.
If you want a better idea of what this Guy Pearce movie is all about, just try to imagine a stylized combination of Blade Runner and Westworld.
Interestingly, Guy Pearce wasn’t the first choice to play the leading role in this film. Originally, Travis Fimmel was going to play the lead, and after Pearce replaced him, Fimmel ended up playing the wealthy client who requires the detective’s services. The two of them have a very solid chemistry together, and while it’s interesting to imagine what Zone 414 would have been like with their Fimmel in Pearce’s role, the overall film is much stronger for having both actors in it.
When it was first released, though, critics and audiences were a bit perplexed by Guy Pearce’s most recent cinematic outing. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie currently has a 17 percent rating from critics and a 39 percent rating from audiences. However, even the harshest critics agree that Pearce turns in a riveting performance, which is certainly reason enough to check it out.
In the finest noir tradition, Guy Pearce’s detective is haunted by his past…specifically, a disastrous incident in his past that precipitated his resignation from the police force.
Other critics bemoaned that the film draws such direct references to movies like Blade Runner, but we think the movie ended up being the best of both worlds: it effectively incorporates many different genre films and synthesizes them into something new, making it a perfect choice for retro fans who want something new.
Ultimately, Guy Pearce is one of the most compelling actors in Hollywood, and it’s fun to see him exploring more genre storytelling outside the Marvel Cinematic Universe (although he was the best part of Iron Man 3). This film is the perfect way to kill a long afternoon, especially after you’ve made yourself good and paranoid over the nefarious possibilities of Artificial Intelligence. And since Hollywood actors and writers are on strike protesting the use of AI along with the need for fair wages, streaming Zone 414 may give you a better idea of what our future could look like when unchecked greed meets with unbound technological ambitions.