Director: Leigh Whannell.
It hasn’t been that long since I was writing about director, Leigh Whannell and the latest Insidious installment; a story he originally wrote; and let’s not forget, he’s the genius behind the Saw franchise as well. So upon seeing the red band trailer for this I was immediately curious and excited. My initial reaction was Max Steel going for an R rating, and then it reminded me of the incoming Venom flick; both films having very similar core elements.
A man gets upgraded by having a state-of-the-art AI surgically attached to his spinal cord, that is able to grant him some superhuman abilities. But whilst this all seems quite familiar ground, it’s a little more than just a linear actioner. It has a crow-esque storyline where Gray, our human host gets a second chance at life and is given the option to avenge the murder of his wife with the assistance of his rebellious symbiotic computer chip, STEM.
This paves the way for some great action and some good but violent comedy. The sequences are brilliantly choreographed, sharp, rapid and often brutal. This film does fist fighting like what Equilibrium did for gun-toting action. There’s some amazing and creative cinematography and whilst the narrative is totally different, you might get reminded of that epic actioner, Hardcore Henry; but it can be disorienting at times.
It must have been a challenging role for Marshall-Green, who essentially plays three different physical character types going from fully capable human being, to a quadriplegic and then finally into a robotic killing machine. Can’t be easy acting out having no control over your now advanced bodily functions whilst responding accordingly with both shock and awe as your AI companion takes control and maims your assailants with frightful precision.
Simon Maiden provides the excellent voice of STEM who shares the same charisma of the self-aware supercar, KITT from the 80’s TV series, Knight Rider. I do wonder if there’s an intentional hidden reference to KITT here with one of the cars featured in the film. There’s a couple of nice nods to the Blum House universe here, including BH regular Betty Gabriel playing her part. But back to STEM, who at first sounds like the perfect app to have; the only app you want; but you start to notice a sadistic change in it’s programming where you soon get the notion that it’s actually enjoying the slaughtering of people and the story starts to skirt near Ex-Machina. STEM meeting Ava would be very interesting, maybe giving birth to The Matrix.
Mentioning the 80’s, the film does remind me of all those futuristic thrillers and actioners like Robocop, Cyborg, even extending to Raimi’s Darkman and Terminator 2. I think of all those B-movie sci-fi flicks of that era that, in many cases, were just silly, but got cult status recognition. This film is just like those but seriously upgraded, giving an enjoyable and highly entertaining, feast for the eyes.
Other than the action, there’s some nice little touches like the unique, untraditional opening credit sequence. There’s an interesting running theme of computer vs human, analog vs digital and being set in the not-to-far future it does pose some threatening questions. Jed Palmer composes a good score and there’s some nice production pieces but it does reflect the film’s budget which is easily ignored.
The only real negative I can gripe about this, is wanting more of the epic action, which I obviously couldn’t get enough of. Sadly this does mean the story does lag in places and makes the film feel longer than it's 100 minute runtime, but the action, when it happens, totally makes up for it, making this a worthwhile action flick. More kick-ass robotics please Whannell!
Running Time: 7
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 5 for the impressive cinematography and action choreography, just wanted more of it.