Agent Revelation is the middle portion of a trilogy by writer, director and star Derek Ting, following on from 2017’s Agent Intelligence. In the original film, Jim Yung (Ting), his former girlfriend Angela (Marikah Cunningham) and two friends go into the desert for firearms training, but they unexpectedly release a mysterious red dust concealed underground, which possesses some of the group.
Jim is exposed to the dust as well, but instead of it taking him over, he ends up obtaining enhanced skills for hand-to-hand combat and using weapons. Jim and Angela both have to fight for their lives, with their friends becoming deadly enemies, and trying to spread the red dust to as many other humans as possible. Agent Revelation picks up where the first film ended, with Jim and Angela being rescued by an unidentified military force.
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We discover the whole operation is actually being funded by an enigmatic figure, Alistair (Michael Dorn, best known for playing Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation), someone who has knowledge of the red dust, which is used by aliens to control humanity by feeding upon its baser instincts, such as greed. Alistair has been setting up a secretive force to use as a way to fight this invasion, and wants to utilise Jim’s newly-acquired ‘super soldier‘ skills.
Ting had co-founded Random Action Workshop in 2009 as a vehicle to be able to create his own cinematic content, Agent Revelation being RAW’s most ambitious release to date, at a budget of some $1.5 million. He clearly has his sights set on yet greater things, as the final part of the series – which has the provisional title of Agent Allegiance – is currently being scripted, with filming set to take place later his year, and set to cost in the region of $5 million.
When making a trilogy, the trick is trying to make something which not only forms a cohesive whole, but the constituent parts are also able to stand alone as being satisfying films in their own right. On that basis, Ting has sadly fallen short of the mark with Agent Revelation, which – while entertaining in parts – largely feels like filler, as though it could have been condensed down and combined with Agent Intelligence, as there is an awful lot of extraneous material which could have been stripped out.
With Agent Intelligence having come in at 77 minutes, some of the footage ends up reused here for flashbacks, to help fill in the background in case anyone watching this has not seen the earlier film. However, there are also newly-filmed scenes showing Jim’s early life, in an attempt to try and make him a more fully-rounded character; regrettably, these sequences end up being interminable, with clunky dialogue plus rather stilted performances. In fact, they help make a movie lasting a lean 86 minutes feel overlong at times.
You certainly cannot fault Ting’s ambition and drive, nor all his accomplishments to date as an independent filmmaker; however, in attempting to be a ‘triple threat’, it seems that he may have overreached himself, as he appears to lack either the charisma or the acting skills required to be the leading man which this movie needs to carry it. A lot of his delivery here is flat and lifeless, which consequently makes the script’s dialogue failings even more apparent.
The trouble with wearing so many different hats during the making of anything is that you run the risk of not being able to be truly objective about some of the creative choices that need to be made, and all lose the benefits of it being a truly collaborative process. There is a better movie here waiting to get out, but it feels hamstrung by Ting’s overseeing of script and direction. Having somebody to work alongside him, or if he were to relinquish one of his duties on the film, may have made all the difference.
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However Agent Revelation is by no means a total failure, as there is much here which is praiseworthy. For the most part, the VFX are of a reasonable enough standard when compared to a major studio production, and are impressive for what is a modestly-budgeted feature. The action sequences also tend to be competently shot, apart from a few jarring moments in places, including the big climax. Some of the supporting cast are excellent, with Kayla Elwell and Matthew Ryan Burnett in particular bringing some much-needed fun and levity.
While not even a qualified success, Agent Revelation is still a reasonable diversion which thankfully does not demand too much of your time. It mainly falls down by trying to be far too many things at once – conspiracy thriller; sci-fi; action flick; treatise against capitalism and human greed – and not quite managing to successfully hit any of those targets. This would be the sort of movie which, back in the day, would have gone straight-to-video, or that you might expect to eventually see cropping up now on SyFy: make of that what you will.
Agent Revelation is out on Demand and on Digital in the US on 22nd January.