Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | October 29th, 2023
Divinity (Eddie Alcazar, 2023) 3 out of 4 stars.
Writer/director Eddie Alcazar (Perfect) has a lot of visual tricks up his cinematic sleeve in Divinity, a raucous black-and-white sci-fi film that is a showcase for experimental techniques used in the service of an elliptical narrative. With a strong cast fully committed to the experience, the movie makes the most of its 88-minute runtime to deliver a unique frisson of the unforeseen. That said, not all segments equally intrigue, and viewers with limited patience for the strange and atypical may quickly tire of having their narrative expectations constantly frustrated. For the rest of us, it’s a wild, if uneven, ride.
The plot, hard to discern at first, follows two intergalactic travelers—brothers, it turns out, played by Moises Arias (Monos) and Jason Genao (Film Fest)—who arrive on a planet where a drug lord (of a sort) peddles “Divinity,” a magical substance that prolongs life. This is Jaxxon Pierce (Stephen Dorff, Old Henry), son of the scientist, Sterling Pierce (Scott Bakula, CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans), who actually developed the product. In flashbacks, we cut to Sterling filming himself explaining the process of creation and, often, failing in his pursuit of perfection, young Jaxxon and his brother, Rip, sometimes in the background.
When the two “Star” brothers arrive at Jaxxon’s palatial complex, where he is in the middle of coitus with a younger woman (hired by Jaxxon for sexual services, we later learn), they stun him with a phaser-life weapon, tie him up, and force large amounts of Divinity into his body. The result is rapid and massive muscle expansion and loss of hair, the drug behaving like a super steroid and, amusingly, transforming Jaxxon into what looks like a giant phallus. Given what Divinity does in small doses—as evidenced by the ripped body of the adult Rip (four-time Mr. Universe Mike O’Hearn)—it’s not hard to understand why it behaves this way in higher quantities.
The larger question remains, however, the reason this bothers the brothers so much. It seems as if they are here to restore balance in the universe, where life follows a given course and should not be altered (there’s a more twisted secret to the formula behind Divinity that they don’t yet know). Their mission gets sidetracked upon the arrival of another young woman, Nikita (Karrueche Tran, Embattled)—similarly hired by Jaxxon—with whom they explore both sexual and emotional intimacy. There’s another group of women, who live either nearby or off-planet, led by Ziva (Bella Thorne, Chick Fight), with some possible connection to Nikita, to whom we cut as they plan a potential rescue of their sister.
That about sums up the characters and their relationships to each other. As for the aesthetics of the work, the images come to us shot on TRI-X Reversal film, which produces a positive print only, and so needs to be cross-processed to produce a negative from which further prints can be made. The result is heavy on the contrast, deep shadows emphasized and the differences between white and black in sharp relief.
And then there are the occasional stop-motion elements, used when the brothers arrive and then, delightfully, in a final fight sequence. Even as motivations and resolutions sometimes defy strict dramatic logic, the joy is in the mystery, as well as the raw beauty of what is on screen. Divinity lies, as always, within these small details.