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LD 50 (aka: Lethal Dose)
cast: Katherine Towne, Tom Hardy, Melanie Brown, Leo Bill, and Ross McCall

director: Simon De Selva

94 minutes (15) 2003
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Touchstone DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
When a raid on a vivisection lab goes horribly wrong, an animal rights activist is left behind. A year later, he leaves a message on the group's website, in code, giving a grid reference and a single, coded word: 'rescue'.

LD 50 has a lot going for it, especially in the first 20 minutes. The raid is well shot, the activists are all given distinctive personalities and the setup is engrossing and unusually clever. The circumstances leading up to the rescue are a great, straight thriller that leaves you and the characters guessing. Even the locations, filmed on the Isle of Man, are fitting. There's a sense of slight dislocation to the place, a thin veneer with something odd going on beneath it that's prime horror movie material.

Unfortunately, this is very far from a prime horror movie. After the initial setup it's all downhill, and downhill fairly quickly. Inside half an hour, LD 50 has become a traditional 'rats in a maze' movie as the activists are trapped in an underground lab, attacked by something they can't see and begin to turn on one another. The characters quickly devolve into their stereotypes and, as a result, a lot of your sympathy for them drains away very quickly. Some, such as Justin (Toby Fisher) are barely given an opportunity to register before being killed off whilst others, notably Vaughan (Phillip Winchester) are given far too much screen time. Only Helen (Katherine Towne) and Matt (Tom Hardy) really register, which is a shame as there are some good performances struggling to get out further down the cast list. Former Spice Girl Melanie Brown is good as Louise and Winchester as Vaughan does a good job with the thankless task of hysterical, arrogant and disposable boyfriend.

The real fault lies with the script that simply tries to do too much. The animal rights angle is dropped within the first 40 minutes and the conspiracy theory that replaces it, whilst interesting, is itself jettisoned in the last 20 minutes in favour of the same final 20 minutes that every horror movie of the last five years seems to have done. Character motivation is thrown out in favour of having an un-killable killer to run from and the end result is you twiddle your thumbs instead of biting your nails. It's a genuine shame too as, when the script works, in particular in that first 40 minutes, then it works extremely well. There are some genuinely unusual character beats (When was the last time a character being an electrician was a crucial plot point?) and some good performances, most notably from Hardy and Towne but ultimately this doesn't quite have the courage of its convictions. Nearly something very special, it's ultimately an off-the-shelf effort that could have been so much more.

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