Evan McCauley makes swords.
It’s an unusual hobby, admittedly, especially in New York City. Most bored, unemployed New Yorkers would be more likely to pick up jogging, maybe, or the guitar.
Not Evan, though. He’s always been a bit different. Ask him about his interest in smithery, and even he doesn’t know where it came from. Why, his most notable experience with blades came at 14 when he carved the words “inside me” on his chest with a box cutter.
After that bloody interlude, doctors labeled Evan a schitzophrenic, and the kid bounced around hospitals and foster homes like a turbo-powered Rhoomba smacking against walls. Stability wasn’t any easier to come by as an adult. He found pretty good work as a restaurant manager for a while—at least until he broke a customer’s arm and discovered that acts of violence never look great on a resume.
Thus, paradoxically, the swords. Crazy, really, that Evan’s so good at blacksmithing. It’s not a skill they typically teach in psych wards. But as soon as he picked up a chunk of metal and a big hammer, he felt at home. And honestly, the hobby helps pay for Evan’s psych meds, too.
‘Course, New Yorkers shopping for handmade Samurai swords aren’t always the most stable of customers either. His latest—a drug dealer, of course, with just the sort of anti-psychotic that Evan needs—wanted to use the blade to cut off his girlfriend’s arm. Oh, and he shortchanged Evan on his meds, too, and you can’t have that.
In the altercation that followed, the girl kept her arm and Evan kept the sword and the meds—but he also snagged an overnight stay in jail. He wakes up there and is promptly visited by a bearded man he doesn’t know but who insists the two of them are very old friends.
Strange? Indeed, but it’s British Baking Show-normal compared to what’s to come.
Soon the stranger’s pointing a gun at him, demanding that Evan recall his past lives. Then a well-armored sports car crashes through the wall, and the beautiful driver demands that Evan get in. A destroyed police station, a few explosions and dozens of major traffic violations later, Evan and the mysterious woman are boarding a private plane.
He’s not crazy, she says: Just reincarnated. And while most people don’t remember their past lives, a few—called the Infinite—do. He’s one of them, and an important one at that. See, somewhere inside his jumbled mind sits a very important secret. And that secret—a secret the gun-brandishing bearded man very much wants to know—could trigger the end of the world.
To Evan, it sounds like pure, delusional fantasy. But then again, he’s an unemployed restaurant manager who hammers out Samurai swords in his ample spare time, so maybe he should keep an open mind.
Spoiler warning: The woman in the heavily armored, police-department-destroying Aston Martin is trying to save the world, along with a few of her Infinite friends. And saving the world, in my book, is always a good thing.
Moreover, she and her ilk have been trying to do the world favors for literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. “We believe that our gift is a responsibility,” she tells Evan. “It’s up to us to leave humanity better than when we found it.” This is exactly what my mother told me when she took us out to pick up litter.
You could fairly say that she (the woman in the movie, not my mother), Evan and others risk their lives in pursuit of this noble goal. Sure, cynics might argue that their lives are literally expendable, given that they get an endless supply of them. But the bad guys—nihilists who want to end the cycle of reincarnation by destroying the planet—have a way of keeping those constantly rebirthing souls out of circulation. Plus, death tends to hurt. So it’s not like these immortals don’t have skin in the game.
Obviously, reincarnation is a thing here. The world of Infinite contains no promise of heaven or hell, as far as we know, which pushes it well outside the bounds of a traditionally Christian worldview. But it’s not really pushing another organized faith, either. Reincarnation—at least in how it manifests in the Infinite—seems more of a naturalistic process.
Evan himself notes the differences between this version of reincarnation and those of the religions that believe in it. Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs all believe, he says that “each life begins with a clean slate.” The fact that he and his compadres are supposed to remember everything about their past lives goes against those traditional belief systems. Moreover, the cycle seems devoid of karma: There’s no risk of bad people being reincarnated as moths or good people finally reaching a state of Nirvana. The reason that the nihilists are so keen on destroying the world is that there’s no hope of getting off the wheel.
That said, Infinite is loaded with plenty of nods to Eastern religions. The headquarters of the good Infinite (who, incidentally, call themselves the Believers) looks a bit like a Buddhist Rivendell, surrounded by huge Buddha statues and waterfalls. The ancient temple of Angkor Wat—which has been affiliated with both Hinduism and Buddhism—is tagged a place of frequent meeting for a pair of Infinite do-gooders. A woman appears to meditate.
Meanwhile, the film’s main evildoer, Bathurst, hangs out in what appears to be an old church, where his acolytes waterboard him as he seems to chant Latin. When he argues with a fellow Infinite who says a little faith would help Bathurst not be quite so nihilistic, Bathurst says, “I’m tired of faith. God must show me His face.” Later, he wonders whether “He’ll let us do this.” Bathurst could be referring to Evan, of course, but context (and a tiny flick of a finger upward) suggests that he might be referring to a more divine figure.
A couple holds hands in their last moments of life, and in flashback we see them kiss as well. Because they are both perpetually reincarnated, though, they know they’ll meet again. Indeed, one of them tells Evan that she and her beau have been together for hundreds of years, and at the end of each life they always plan to meet at the same designated spot—Angkor Wat—to renew their acquaintence. We see them both as teens, in fact, holding hands at the ancient temple.
An Infinite known as the Artisan is described as the ultimate hedonist: “Infinite lives, infinite opportunity for debauchery,” someone says of him. We see a bit of that on display in a casino the Artisan apparently owns, with some of the female guests dressed in cleavage-and-midriff-baring outfits. He may wear a bit of makeup, and when someone calls him a “him,” he shoots back, “I resent the gender labeling.”
A woman, apparently topless, is shown from the back. (She soon puts on a robe.) A character wears what looks to be a hefty bra as her main top. Evan goes shirtless once or twice. We hear that Evan broke a restaurant customer’s arm after the customer grabbed the behind of a waitress.
People treat their bodies rather carelessly when they know that, when their current model expires, they’ll get a shiny new one. One man solders a huge gash along his side with a cigarette lighter. Another subjects himself to a weird drowning machine. (Don’t ask.) Several die in explosions.
Bathurst has invented a special Infinite-disposing gun that he calls the Dethroner. It fires bullets that, if they strike an Infinite in the head, automatically download the unfortunate victim’s consciousness onto something akin to a flash drive, which he stores in his castle. We see several people “dethroned” in this way, though it doesn’t seem to be a particularly bloody procedure.
Bathurst’s world-killing device is called the “egg,” and we see it used (in some sort of vision or virtual reality-like scenario). First, birds drop from the sky, dead. Then people crumble into dust (in what looks like a slower, more painful version of what we saw in Avengers: Endgame). The device destroys all life, thus restricting any vessels that souls could be reborn into, so the vision feels pretty dire.
A man has both of his hands punctured by arrows, pinning him in place. Someone is waterboarded with honey. A character is stabbed in the gut. A man falls off a roof and onto a car a few stories below. Someone loses fingers via a Samurai sword, and a couple of other folks are threatened by the same weapon. When two or more swords are present in a scene, people invariably fight with them. People fight with other weapons, too, sometimes nearly severing heads with swords or axes. A number of people are shot—sometimes several times. Helmeted security troops are dispatched via all manner of weapons, including knives to the throat. (These kills are largely bloodless.) In past lives, some Infinites were mountain climbers, and we see one hang off a cliff face while another attempts a rescue. Someone plays Russian roulette—pointing the gun at someone else. Bathurst is described as an “apex predator.” Martial training sessions get pretty rough. We see a cadaver with part of the skull cut off and the brain exposed. Drones shoot at things. We hear about an attempted suicide.
People drive terribly here—or, more fairly, they drive well but with a great deal of lethal force and property damage. For instance, a spinning tire spins a brick off the pavement, which careens through one car before smacking into another (leading to wrecks in both cases). Motorcyclists smash into open car doors, sending the cyclists flying. People leap out of the way of cars driving through walls and down hallways.
[Spoiler Warning] An Infinite cuts into his own abdomen and stuffs something inside before dying. Later, a person recovers the corpse, opens the abdomen and fishes around with his hand to retrieve that something.
One f-word and about 17 s-words. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “d–n,” “d–k” and the British profanity “bloody.” God’s name is misused about a half-dozen times (half of those with the word “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is abused twice.
As Evan regains consciousness in a recovery center (or somesuch) after receiving some serious injuries, he sees the Artisan keeping watch and playing guitar. “I’m doing your morphine!” The artisan gleefully tells Evan. Someone suggests earlier that he’s high. We see people with drinks in their hands, and someone expresses his longing for one.
Evan’s quest to get his anti-psychotic drugs is a focal point for him early on—and while he seeks to get them illegally, they were apparently once prescribed by a real doctor. And he uses them for legitimate, mental health reasons. (The drug dealer he goes through clearly sells other, less helpful and legal substances.)
When first confronted with the idea that he could be a reincarnated soul, Evan brushes it off. He calls the concept a “comforting idea,” but it amounts to “the spiritual equivalent of better luck next time.”
We could say the same thing about this movie: Better luck next time.
Infinite is a high-concept sci-fi thriller that falls flat beneath the weight of its own conceit. It wants to say something about faith and purpose, but it’s not quite sure what. It wants to entertain, but its frenetic set pieces aren’t enough to divert us from the movie’s leaps in logic. The movie seeks to be a diversion for a large audience, but the violence, language and its chosen story centerpiece—reincarnation—certainly limit the movie’s reach.
While many films released during the still-lingering age of COVID deserved a bigger audience, Infinite feels like it’s found a fitting niche: To be seen by a few, unseen by most and quickly forgotten by all.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.