Years in the future, a Martian police unit is sent to pick up a highly dangerous criminal at a remote mining post. Upon arrival, though, the cops find that said post has become a charnel house
Although Ghosts Of Mars may not technically be a remake of director John Carpenter's breakthrough movie, Assault On Precinct 13, it does share certain similarities in terms of both finance (on the low side) and plot (basically a rehash of Howard Hawks' classic Rio Bravo).
This time around, though, the baddies are neither Western outlaws nor kill-crazy L.A. gangbangers, but the spirits of an ancient Martian race who, after being roused to 'life' by miners, set about possessing these human interlopers and turning them into self-mutilating psychopaths bent on reclaiming the planet.
Meanwhile, the soon-to-be possessed/beheaded good guys include hardened criminal 'Desolation' Williams and a bunch of coppers (Henstridge, Statham, Grier) who have arrived at the isolated mining town to pick him up. The reason for the high number of female rozzers is not just to provide eye candy for the audience - and a fairly redundant lesbian sub-plot - but because future Martian citizens are apparently governed by a matriarchy.
Quite how this came about is never adequately explained and, indeed, the whole shebang has an air of 'Will this do?' about it. Certainly, the many action sequences will seem rather run-of-the-mill to anyone who has seen either Crouching Tiger or The Matrix (i.e. everyone).
Moreover, although Henstridge (who replaced Courtney Love at the last moment for reasons that still remain somewhat foggy) is acceptable enough as a Ripley-lite heroine, the casting of Ice Cube as the movie's rough, tough crim seems downright lunatic given that he is actually one of the cuddliest people ever to have graced the screen.
Worst of all, Ghosts Of Mars is told in a weary flashback-within-a-flashback-within-a-flashback stylee whose only real purpose appears to be papering over the chasm-sized cracks in the script. That Carpenter still has the fright chops was proven with Vampires, but this still looks like the work of a man who'd rather be watching old movies than remaking them.
Well, it's better than both Mission To Mars and Red Planet - and yes, that's every bit the backhanded compliment it sounds.