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This movie screened for the critics the same night as American Animals. I went to AA (wait, that sounds funny). I was glad I did, as that was a good movie the San Diego International Film Festival presented for  their Film Insider Series. When I talked to a fellow film critic in the San Diego Film Critics Society named James Jay Edwards (who knows more about horror movies than anyone I’ve ever met), he was surprised at how good it was. So I headed over to the Reading Town Square to check it out, and it was a B-movie blast.

Since it’s the second movie directed by Leigh Whannell (the guy whose written Insidious and Saw films), I was worried that Edwards steered me wrong because of his love of slasher films.

The movie could be predictable at times, and not be the most logical, but there is a visceral pleasure in watching a guy go all Robocop on the folks that killed his wife.

It’s not just Robocop I thought of. There are times you’ll think of Ex Machina, Hardcore Henry, Matrix, Lucy, Transcendence, and the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man. With the computer chip “Stem” working with his brain, you think of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. My wife thought with the voice, it was more like the Trans Am in Knight Rider (voiced by Simon Maiden).

What made this so enjoyable for me was that, as the body count piled up, there were interesting visuals and a lot of funny lines. As it got more violent, my wife was being turned off by it, but she does admit for one of these types of movies, it wasn’t “horrible.”

The story is set in the future. The movie starts wonderfully with Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green) working on a ‘60s muscle car while blasting Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning.” It’s when he gets into his wife’s (Melanie Vallejo) futuristic car (what car will ever be self-driving?), things turn bad. Some thugs messed with the computer in the vehicle and shoot the couple after the crash. She dies, and he’s crippled. Luckily for him, the last muscle car he was building was for a young genius named Eron (Harrison Gilbertson, channelling Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio). Eron has a chip he’s invented called Stem. It will help Trace regain use of his limbs, and it will also do wonders for his brain. With both brain and braun, he’ll be able to kick ass and take names (literally, as he has ways of torturing bad guys to get the names of the others involved). It’s terrific fun to see him tear through various henchmen, on his way to Fisk (Benedict Hardie), who has some AI wiring himself, but also some handy weapons (literally, as he has a gun in his arm and a deadly sneeze).

The futuristic look of the cities was cool. The modern/futuristic style houses with everything computerized — that’s where the 1% live. The poor communities — look a lot like they do now.

The score reminded me of Blade Runner on steroids.

It’s a fun popcorn flick.

3 ½ stars out of 5.


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