I.T. (2016): A Modern Cautionary Tale (Review)

James Frecheville and Pierce Brosnan in I.T.

I.T. can be seen as a modern cautionary tale, but less so about who we allow into our world or house and more about the dangers of “Smart” houses.  Co-written by Dan Kay and William Wisher Jr., directed by John Moore (A Good Day to Die HardMax Payne) this American thriller was shot in Ireland and features an “international” cast.

The film is  not quite a “by the numbers” psycho thriller but it comes very close. Pierce Brosnan is Mike Regan, the owner of a fleet of jets that he plans to rent out to various companies to turn a profit. His opening brief gets a massive glitz and temporary I.T. guy Ed Porter (James Frecheville) fixes it quickly and efficiently. 

Regan is impressed enough that he invites the temporary employee to his smart home to boost the WiFi. His daughter Kaitlyn Regan (Stefanie Scott) sees Ed and takes a bit of a shine to him. Her mother Rose (Anna Friel) and Mike do not. 

Unfortunately, Mike allows Ed access to his smart controls, his car and hires the younger man as a full-time employee. Soon, however, Porter begins a concerted attack on Regan’s privacy. He stalks Kaitlyn and turns Regan’s own company into a liability with the SEC.

Any parent can empathize with Mike Regan when Porter targets his daughter and then later humiliates her with camera footage of her in the shower.  The businessman and father also gets our support later on when the stakes are increased to an insane degree.

However…

In terms of empathy, we do not like Regan. The man is not an endearing individual. Like many a self-made man he is not pleasant unless he wants something.

At the start of the film, he does befriend Ed only to turn against the unhinged man when he gets too close.  By the end of the film it is all too clear that much of what transpires could have been averted if only Regan had set up boundaries early on.

Porter tells his temporary boss that he was used by him. Ed is right. When the I.T. worker gave Regan what he wanted, the successful businessman was all smiles and he welcomed the younger man into his home.

Another message of this film could well be that one should be careful about who we attack.  Porter is a computer hacker extraordinaire. He infiltrates every aspect of Mike’s life. Regan ends up asking for help from a friend who recommends an “off the books” type.

The superb Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist plays Henrik, the expert who talks Mike Regan through recovering his information from Porter. The scenes involving this are very well done and the suspense is top notch.

After this point, however, the plot falls back on a premise that we have seen all too often. It does not spoil the film but it does take a few points off for lack of originality.

For all that, the film is entertaining if not a bit slow paced. It can be argued that the creeping storyline is necessary to build to the film’s climax but it could have been a tad faster.

Brosnan, who is not capable of turning in a bad performance, is perfect as the unpleasant businessman who has his family tortured by a mentally ill employee. Frecheville is adequate in a role that screams out for a younger Milo Ventimiglia. (Frecheville actually resembles Ventimiglia to a degree…)

Anna Friel was completely wasted as the little lady at home but Stefanie Scott turns in an excellent performance.  The cinematography looks brilliant. Rather interestingly, the cinematographer Ekkehart Pollack worked on Pathology, a Ventimiglia film.

I.T. is a solid 3.5 stars. The film can be seen on Netflix, or downloaded, and it is entertaining enough to warrant a look.

No Escape (2015): White Knuckle Viewing (Review)

Lake Bell and Owen Wilson in No Escape

Family man Jack Dwyer, whose own company went bust, is taking his wife and two children to Southeast Asia for a new start. He works for the Cardiff as an engineer  for the water company. He is looking forward to a new exciting life. Unfortunately the excitement levels peak when a bloody coup takes place endangering every foreigner in the country.  No Escape follows his attempt to save himself and  his family.

Co-written and directed by John Erick Dowdle (Dowdle’s brother Drew Dowdle was a the other scribe on the film.)  No Escape is a  “wrong place, wrong time”  film. Literally the day the Dwyer’s plane  lands, the country turns into a battleground where foreigner’s are being savagely murdered on sight.

Owen Wilson plays Dwyer, his first dramatic role in years, and the splendid Lake Bell plays his wife Annie. The children, Lucy and Beeze are played superbly by Sterling Jerins and Claire Geare respectively.  Hammond, the “British CIA” type is a grizzled Pierce Brosnan

Brosnan manages to convey  a sense of realism to his character.  A man paid to bring down the peaceful society who feels guilty for endangering Dwyer and his family.

No Escape is nail-bitingly tense. The chaotic wholesale murder of every foreign person found by a mob of armed and crazed citizens is, at times, terrifying.  The rioting populace either shoot or hack to death everyone they encounter.  Dwyer realizes that to survive he needs to keep  10 steps ahead of the mob.

The country is obviously meant to be Cambodia, as it is right next to Vietnam;  the country the family head for to claim asylum, although it is never called by name.  The scenario, of world powers messing about with small countries so they can take control is not too far fetched at all.

Some of the scenes are a bit over the top or feel a bit “off.” There is a scene with the oldest daughter and the leader of the mob that strains credibility.  The helicopter scene also feels a bit contrived.

However, this is an edge of the seat thriller from start to finish.  By the end of the film the viewer will feel wrung out and exhausted from all the tension and suspense involved.  Dowdle, whose last effort was the horror movie  As Above, So Below proves to be a dab hand at action thrillers.

The film looks brilliant and certainly feels authentic, it was shot in Thailand, which adds to the toe curling sense of tension that pervades every scene. This is a white knuckle ride for the viewer with no let up at all.

No Escape earns a 4.5 stars for the acting, the storyline and the high level of almost excruciating tension throughout. All the actors  killed it and made this a film that was almost too tense to watch.

This “R”  rated  fim is streaming on Hulu at the moment.  Do not be surprised if you grit your teeth and clench your fists throughout this high tension film.

Survivor (2015): Milla Jovovich Versus Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan is Nash, aka The Watchmaker
Directed byJames McTeigue from a screenplay by Philip Shelby, Survivor features a more than capable cast. Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Perfect Get Away), Pierce Brosnan, Robert Forster, Frances de la Tour (who recently featured as the giant in the 2014 Disney film Into the Woods) and a group of brilliant talent that included James D’Arcy, Dylan McDermottAntonia Thomas, to name but a few. Survivor could be seen as a sort of advertisement for anti-terrorism, a throwback to the days of McCarthy-ism perhaps, where all non-American’s are immediately suspect, and not a few US citizens are up to no good as well. 

Certainly the film does show the abject paranoia that has gripped the government since 9/11 and it also shows that regardless of whether you work for the British  or the US government, guilt is immediately presumed before it is proven. The film also shows just how slowly and ineffectually both government’s security departments move. Like a rusty wheel, the mechanism is stiff and hard to run.

Jovovich is the newest addition to the American Embassy in London, Kate Abbott. She is a high flying security officer who has a sterling reputation. Her immediate boss, Bill Talbot (Forster) is not overly pleased to have her on board but the “big boss” Sam Parker (McDermott) is glad that she is on his team. When one of the visa team flag a request from Dr. Emil Balan (Roger Rees) Kate steps in to investigate. Bill attempts to intervene but the visa is denied. 

Balan complains to his superiors who bring immediate pressure on the Embassy, Kate and Sam to clear the Doctor. Paul Anderson (D’Arcy) is an officious prig who tries to bully the Embassy into clearing the medico. As Abbott attempts to find out who is behind Balan, she discovers that Talbot has a record of passing dubious visa requests.

As the visa team go to celebrate Bill’s birthday, professional assassin “The Watchmaker” aka Nash (Brosnan) kills the team, but Kate survives. Thus begins the cat and mouse game where it seems that Nash’s side hold all the advantages and Kate’s paranoid and frightened bosses are all too ready to give their new security chief up.

Jovovich fills the shoes of a security chief with ease and shows just enough know-how and tenacity that her battles with the minions of terror all feel real and possible. Brosnan as bad guy works very well, taking a step back from his non-Bond spy in The November Man.  (And an even further one from his old Bond days or Remington Steele ones.)

Survivor will not set heart’s racing or cause the viewer’s adrenaline to surge, but the storyline is solid enough and there are enough twists and turns to make the film entertaining. There are the usual complaints associated with any film that uses London as a location. The underground is never that clean or void of graffiti and the streets are not that litter free. As the action starts off in, and plays mostly in, London it is also doubtful that McDermott’s character would be allowed to run around the streets of the capital with a gun.

The plot is not quite a “by the numbers” set piece but there is just enough reliance upon on stereotypes that it does feel awfully close to a standard spy film. Director McTeigue may talk about “hiding” his political messages in the films he makes but in Survivor the point he is trying to make may as well be painted in neon colors.

Still, unhidden messages aside, the film is entertaining, albeit frustrating as one really does feel that Ambassador Crane (Angela Bassett) was a tad too ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater and label her former protege a traitor/terrorist. Jovovich, as usual, is a joy to watch. This woman works hard to make whatever role she plays feel real and her Kate Abbott is no exception.

McDermott is also believable; another actor who oozes a sense of reality in any part he plays. Survivor is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars and is streaming on US Netflix at the moment. Good spy fare, despite the “warning/pronouncement” at the end about how many terrorists the US government have caught since 9/11.

The November Man: Pierce Brosnan Kills It (Review and Trailer)

The November Man: Pierce Brosnan Kills It (Review and Trailer)

As The November Man Pierce Brosnan “kills” in this post Cold War spy film where action replaces smooth moves and sterling wit. At 61, The former Bond and Remington Steele actor may have been deemed too long in the tooth to play 007, but the Brit performer shows he still has what it takes in the action man arena.

Good Friday a Long One With Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren

Good Friday a Long One With Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren

Ever since stumbling across The Long Good Friday years ago and which is one brilliant little independent British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, I can never start the Easter weekend without thinking of this gem. This small budgeted movie which caused me to fall in love with not only Mirren, but the short dynamo of talent that is Bob Hoskins never grows old. The mists of time have obscured just how the film came to be viewed, but it was in England that I first saw it. Having lived there long enough to recognise quite a number of Brit actors who were now quite big in the world of television and film. Watching this film over Easter weekend has become a tradition and not just for the beautiful Mirren.