Odd but slick sci-fi mix of the future and past

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Leanne Liebenberg as Viper prepares to torture her quarry in "Doomsday." The star of the thriller is also a woman, Rhona Mitra.

The British are better at developing female action stars than we are, recognizing that high cheekbones and a supple trigger finger make an irresistible combination.

First Kate Beckinsale in the Underworld movies and now Rhona Mitra in Doomsday, an intriguing if derivative sci-fi thriller.

To play a deadly commando in the year 2035, Mitra, best known to American audiences for her stint on Boston Legal, has her hair cut in an ultra-angular shag so that she resembles Victoria Beckham on steroids.

You know it's the future because Mitra has a detachable eyeball that doubles as a rolling surveillance and recording device. And cigarettes are prohibitively expensive (wait, that's already happened).

When signs of life emerge in Scotland, which had been sealed off from the rest of the world decades before after the outbreak of a monster virus, Mitra is sent in to investigate.

Her mission goes off the tracks when she runs into a contingent of savage rowdies in Glasgow. They look startlingly like refugees from Mel Gibson's Mad Max films with their mohawks, mascara, magenta hair, studded dog collars, and insatiable thirst for blood.

They even have their own Thunderdome, a combination rock concert, pep rally, and open-air barbecue pit. The theme song for this circus comes fittingly from Fine Young Cannibals.

The leader of this colorful crew (Craig Conway) appears to have adopted his appearance wholesale from Keith Flint, the lead singer for Prodigy, a dubious fashion model if ever there was one. But you'll be happy to know, no matter how bleak our prospects have become, the art of tattooing is still thriving.

Most films would have been content to make a meal of these Glaswegian gargoyles, but Doomsday is just warming up. No sooner does Mitra escape the clutches of these punk-bikers than she is plunged into an antithetical, but no less menacing, environment.

Up in the rainy Highlands, in a gloomy castle, a mad - or just angry? - scientist (Malcolm McDowell) rules over a cruel medieval society. He doesn't have knights; he has executioners. And he is no happier to see a visitor from the larger world.

Most fantasy-action films blow their budgets in the first half-hour, and limp home with their makeup smeared. Doomsday is unusually patient, smartly saving most of its fireworks for the later innings.

One caveat: The film has more blood-splatter than a dozen zombie movies. If you can handle that, Doomsday's drunken mash-up of futuristic and feudal is surprisingly satisfying. And when Mitra squints her beautiful eyes, you'd follow her right into the jaws of hell.


Doomsday *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Neil Marshall. With Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, David O'Hara, Craig Conway and Malcolm McDowell.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 mins.

Parent's guide: R (graphic violence, profanity, brief nudity)

Showing at: Area theaters


Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ daveondemand.