In the year 2010, a plague known as "Neurological Degeneration Syndrome" (NDS) kills five billion people. A treatment medicine, Absolon, is eventually discovered, and a powerful MegaCorp (also acting as both a world government and as much of the entire world economy), run by the mysterious "Murchison" (Pearlman), arises from the ashes of The Plague to distribute Absolon to what's left of humanity.
Fast forward several years. Mankind is still dependent on Absolon, requiring daily injections to avoid dying of NDS. Detective Norman Scot (Lambert) is investigating the murder of Dr. Frederick Reyna, the scientist who created Absolon. In the course of his investigation, he meets World Justice Department Agent Walters (Diamond Phillips), who is strangely interested in the case, as well as Dr. Claire Whittaker (Brook), the woman in charge of the group that was funding Dr. Reyna's research.
Scot discovers that Dr. Reyna was working on a cure for NDS and turns out he may have been killed to cover it up. As he digs deeper into the mystery, Scot is unwittingly tasked with carrying a part of the working cure for the plague in his own bloodstream and must find a second part of this cure in less than three days before the part already inside him turns deadly, and even Absolon itself may not be what it seems...
This film provides examples of:
- Apocalypse How: Five billion people die in The Plague, making it a Societal Collapse scenario.
- Canon Discontinuity: The Opening Scroll and the rest of the movie seem to disagree on several key points, such as what caused The Plague and how long it's been since the world went to pieces.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Murchison, the head of Unified Pharmaceutical Corporation, manufactures a drug dependency among the global population for profit, and kills anyone who tries to reveal the truth.
- Chekhov's Gun: The warrant Walters gives Scot in the beginning of the movie turns out to be a tracking device.
- Designated Girl Fight: Claire and Walters' partner get into a brief fight, bludgeoning each other with giant wrenches.
- Government Drug Enforcement: People are paid in Absolon, which is measured in hours, meaning your wages are quite literally how long you have to live.
- Green Aesop: The Plague was set loose upon the world due to the deforestation of the Amazon.
- Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Walters and his men are incapable of hitting a target at point-blank range.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Scot manages to shoot a man in the forehead, firing blind while hiding under a table. To the movie's credit, Scot looks somewhat surprised when he sees what he did.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: The Opening Monologue is on this theme.
- MegaCorp: One company produces Absolon. Unsurprisingly, they're rather powerful.
- The Mockbuster: The story premise and thematic elements of Absolon bear several stark similarities to the bigger budget 1995 science-fiction film Johnny Mnemonic, loosely based on the William Gibson short story of the same name. This is perhaps a little more than mere coincidence, seeing that the star of Absolon, Christopher Lambert, was once in the running for the lead role in Johnny Mnemonic (before the part went to Keanu Reeves). Johnny Mnemonic similarly takes place in an early-21st Century "near future" where half the world is infected by a plague called "Nerve Attenuation Syndrome" (NAS). Only one giant pharmaceutical company is selling expensive treatments to combat the plague, and the film's hero unwittingly finds himself carrying information on a permanent cure that must be delivered in a short period of time before it kills him.
- Never Got to Say Goodbye: Scot often listens to a saved voice mail of his wife saying she's going to visit her mother. It's the last thing she ever said to him.
- No New Fashions in the Future: Not surprising considering it's only 20 Minutes into the Future. However, some characters have hair or clothes that are probably supposed to look futuristic, but wouldn't look out of place at a late-1990's/early-2000's Dance Club.
- One World Order: The governments of the world coalesced into this following the upheaval of society in the face of The Plague.
- One Nation Under Copyright: Unified Pharmaceutical Corporation, the company which produces Absolon, basically controls the world government.
- Opening Scroll: The Backstory is provided in text form, with the addition of stock footage.
- Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: The CGI used in the GPS sequences in the movie don't look much better than what was used in Total Recall (1990), a movie that came out 13 years earlier.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Scot, while hiding from the bad guys, puts on a pair of slightly tinted glasses to hide himself.
- Phlebotinum Dependence: The remaining survivors of the NDS plague need regular doses of the Absolon drug due to Murchison's machinations.
- The Plague: Neurological Degeneration Syndrome, or NDS.
- Precision F-Strike: Scot near the end of the movie.Scot: Shut the fuck up.
- Predatory Big Pharma: Unified Pharmaceutical Corporation is a Mega-Corp that has manufactured a dependency on the miracle drug, Absolon, which apparently cures NDS, the extremely deadly plague that has killed billions of people worldwide. In reality, The Plague died out a long time ago, and the UPC's Corrupt Corporate Executive, Murchison, kills anyone who either tries to stop them or finds out the truth about Absolon.
- Race Against the Clock: Once Scot is tasked with carrying part of the cure for the plague in his own bloodstream, he is told he has three days to find the second half of the formula, or else the part that is inside him will kill him.
- Revealing Cover Up: Murchison has Reyna killed in order to cover up the fact that Absolon dependency is something that needs to be cured.
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: Scot is given the cure because he happens to be a universal donor, and happened to be in the room when Dr. Reyna needed to hide it.
- Scavenger World: According to the Opening Scroll, the world is living off of pre-plague surplus, with Absolon being about the only thing actually produced. A downplayed example; the world doesn't look post-apocalyptic, more like a random sampling of the late 20th Century.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: The camera fades to black when Claire and Scot make love.
- Schizo Tech: Holograms exist alongside technology that was dated when the film was made. Justified considering the state of the world.
- Shadow Dictator: Murchison is the elusive leader of Unified Pharmaceutical Corporation, the corporation that runs the world.
- Shout-Out: Possibly not on purpose, but Scot's clothes look very much like the wardrobe of Conner MacLeod.
- Title In: After Scot is told he has three days to find the second half of the plague cure, a countdown clock begins appearing on screen to convey how much time he has left before the part of the cure already in his bloodstream would kill him.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Dr. Reyna's autopsy lists the year as 2017.
- Twist Ending: Not quite the end of the movie, but near the end it's revealed that... The Plague died out a long time ago. The cure that Scot gets is actually for Absolon. Absolon is effectively a highly addictive drug that alters the host's body chemistry, making the patient unable to live without it.
- Wire Dilemma: Averted. Scot seems to magically know which wire to cut to stop the bomb.