The Awesome: A real fun filled sci-fi action thrill ride. A low-budget film that does what the $200M blockbuster fails to usually do and that is deliver and fully entertain from the opening frame to the last. Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace was phenomenal...his facial expressions really sell the illusion that he has no control of his body when the STEM system (voiced by Simon Maiden) takes over and that is the most important part of his performance and he f'en nails it, he almost has to play two characters at once, I cannot overstate how fantastic it is to see a man watch in horror at what his body is doing to another human being and although self-defense was the intention, I f'en LOVED the internal and external conflict that created for our main character. Although some of the narrative borrows from other films like Robocop and John Wick, those similarities are combined and handled superbly to tell an interesting and engaging story. I really enjoyed the script and more notably the dialogue between Grey and STEM, their exchanges are realistic and hilarious as I found myself fully immersed in what was happening and looked forward to what was to come because it could only get cooler. The action scenes are amazing and the fight choreography was excellent and was really fun to watch in context and what really added to it was the dialogue between STEM and Grey before any of the fighting, so much f'en fun. Jeffries' death scene was one of the gory-best in the movie and while the film's deaths are a bit gory, nothing felt over the top and were shock moments that really worked. The voice of STEM is what I want all my devices to sound like...no disrespect to HAL 9000. Low-budget that exceeds the entertainment value proves that creativity and not just $100M thrown at a production is what actually makes things fun to watch. The fight choreography has to be mentioned again as it is absolutely brilliant in its execution as not one move is wasted and again sells the full illusion that the actor is not in control at the same time not making Grey just appear bionic, it was really well done.
The Good: The film is set in the future but not so far ahead that you can't recognize the technology, which seems rooted in realism from our not too distant future. The cinematography and production design was very good considering the budget and liked how I was never distracted by the tech around us and never became the focus and centered around the main character and STEM instead. Enjoyed the story overall and thought the ending was quite good. While the film enters an easily predictable formula after the first act, I felt that Grey's interactions with the bad guys already held a sense of unpredictability on their own and the twist at the end was satisfying and is where I also found the character of Eron (Harrison Gilbert) at his best. The "You now have full control again, Grey." moments are the cherry on top of some of the more intense moments. Time and time again this film made me put myself in the main characters shoes because I found what he was going through so interesting, especially once Grey begins to encounter serious conflict and threat. The hacker scene had a lot more depth than I gave it credit for as I did ask, "what was the point of that?", only to be unexpectedly filled in later.
The Bad: Where I feel this film is affected by budget is in the duration of the film, we are shown the catalyst appearing to involve many perpetrators but we only are introduced to four of them and I wanted more baddies gone because of the creativity in the encounters they do show us. Here is a film that wouldn't have bothered me if it was longer in order to flesh out some of the supporting characters as that is another place where the film weakens, the enemies are interesting on the surface and is probably why I wanted more substance, at the minimum with the Detective Cortez (Betty Gabriel) character who I felt had a strong presence and was heavily invested in learning the truth herself and her lack of backup also bothered me. Fans of the Venom film are saying negative things about this movie since they find parallels with the Venom story, but until I watch the Venom film, I cannot agree with them that this was a rip-off, but then again, what isn't a rip-off or spin off from something else, isn't that the essence in storytelling, how many new scenarios can mankind find themselves in these days, I cannot think of many, what is the last truly original thing you saw or read?
The Ugly: The budget and time constriction fight against the film because it's not terribly original and could have used more time to explore some of the story details like when we learn about the group of people taken and forced to implant weapons and tech into their bodies since they pose the greatest physical threat to our protagonist. There is a small tease on how advanced some of the enemies are but that tech just leaves us wanting more but the film isn't about the lives of the bad guys. And here is also why the lines of dialogue by the enemies don't always work and just make them come across as cardboard cutouts. People that dislike this film because it has no theme to deliver on or message...(and yet there I was at the end juggling the various messages I got from the film, one which was particularly haunting and shared something with a film i watched earlier in the year whose ending also spooked me). The script isn't especially strong but at least the comedy works better than it did in The Predator (I will never forgive them for turning the Predator into a comedy attempt).
Final Verdict: ...4/5... Interesting revenge story that borrows from other concepts but does them all justice in how entertaining and how much it exceeded my low expectations as i usually expect everything to suck, whether big budget or not. I think the important elements of the story really worked and I liked how it handled giving our main character obstacles on top of him becoming a quadriplegic. The action and kills were done well and never felt like a slasher and I thought the relationship between Grey and STEM was handled intelligently and real as I didn't find myself rolling my eyes and instead thinking, "imagine if that happened to me", so the film did capture my imagination and I appreciated that. I'm giving this such a high score because there were many moments were I had no idea what was going to happen and even when I expected STEM to do it's thing, it always felt fresh thanks to how subtle both Grey and STEM each seem to be evolving...
Just a real good time if you don't go in expecting a Matrix-like production and budget or some overly profound message or warning about our future, although like I mentioned before, I found my own message as the credits rolled.