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‘Insight’ review: Standard action movie adds a little too much

Piling it on.

Insight let’s the audience know from its opening moments that there is going to be a lot going on. A series of flashbacks and visions within them show two young brothers who seem to have an abusive father. Fast forward to an undisclosed amount of time later to a break in at a corporate building and a brief but fun fight scene. Things then go back two days.

Clearly, this is not going to be the most straightforward movie. The plot revolves around Jian (Ken Zheng, who also wrote and helped direct the film) a counter terrorism agent who is a skilled martial artist and clairvoyant. Upon hearing of his brother’s mysterious suicide, he heads to Los Angeles. There, he teams with the LAPD to fight against a high tech criminal (Sean Patrick Flanery) who is hungry for power.

The story does not require this level of complication. Insight has a basic premise: the hero tries to foil a cover up run by an intelligent megalomaniac. This has served James Bond films well for decades. While conspiracy films are filled with twists and turns by default, this one tends to be too convoluted. Along with the normal air of distrust, corruption, betrayal, and mind control there are a number of flashbacks. These are supposed to flesh out Jian’s backstory, but they tend to break the flow. 

Insight understands when to keep things simple. The fight scenes are well choreographed and fun to watch. Today’s movies are filled with outrageous battles. There is a toned down feeling to the fights that are reminiscent of action films of earlier decades. It is a welcome change.

While Zheng handles himself well in the more action packed sequences, his performance leaves a lot to be desired. His delivery is wooden and really stands out next to industry veterans like Keith David and Madeline Zima. This is especially noticeable since Jian is a character that should is supposed to have a lot of emotional depth.

Insight is an overly complicated action movie. Structurally, it is not much different than similar film, right down to a “turn in your badge” scene. The clairvoyant aspect is ignored for large periods of time and adds nothing worthwhile. What could have been a serviceable action flick becomes an annoying one.

Insight is scheduled to release March 12

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