Mark Simonitis ’19
Over the past few years, Netflix has offered extremely high-quality entertainment such as “Beasts of No Nation,” “House of Cards” and more. Then again, it’s also given us “The Ridiculous Six.” “iBoy” lands somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, a movie that remains exceptionally average throughout its hour and a half run time. To be honest, I am not looking forward to writing this review, because there just isn’t a lot worth mentioning.
The film revolves around Tom (Bill Milner), a teenager who comes face to face with a gang of thugs breaking into the home of his friend Lucy (Maisie Williams). Things get violent, and Tom is shot in the head while attempting to dial the police. After waking up from a coma, Tom discovers that the pieces of his phone embedded into his head have granted him the ability to interact with and manipulate electronics. With these powers, Tom seeks vengeance on the gang and eventually launches a war on the criminal underworld as the vigilante “iBoy.” Yes, Lucy brings up how stupid the name “iBoy” is.
Like most of the movie, the performances are acceptable, but not really anything to write home about. Milner plays Tom like basically any other slightly awkward teenage protagonist, but that’s almost to be expected given the story. Williams does all she can with what she has, but the bland script severely limits the talent that she has been able to show off in both Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. The one performance that really seems like a standout is Rory Kinnear’s portrayal of a charmingly evil gangster, but that’s only because he is the highpoint of a fairly disappointing third act.
The plot itself is nothing you haven’t seen before, another revenge story against those that have wronged our main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good revenge flick as much as the next guy. It’s just that not only has this story been told so many times, and many of those other stories are far better in their execution. It seems that “iBoy” is well aware of that as it tries to transition into a broader story, but that leads into problems of its own. The movie writes itself into the trap of having Tom learn fighting techniques and how to break into bank accounts by watching YouTube tutorials. This seems especially frustrating when you consider that there are plenty of ways to explain this, like chalking up his newfound hacking skills to his supernatural connection with electronics. As for the fighting, Tom’s powers seem to have no defined range, so why would he even need to be on location for his attacks when he could simply blow up cell phones from the comfort of his own home?
I have to admit, the concept of “iBoy” is fairly intriguing on its own. The movie makes use of some impressive visuals as Tom accesses and then uses cell phones as improvised microphones, spies on criminals through webcams and sees the electronic connections that permeate our society. Unfortunately, his power set begins to grow in a way that seems cheesy and unwarranted given the (relatively) realistic setting of the movie.
Perhaps my biggest problem with the movie is how it never knows what kind of story it wants to be. It struggles between embracing the inherent goofiness of a superhero origin and going for the grounded “cape-punk” aesthetic that movies such as “Chronicle” helped bring into the mainstream consciousness. It’s particularly jarring to see Tom enact vengeance on a gang member by broadcasting a video of him in an … intimate moment and then later locking him in a burning car. One moment he’s trashing a gang boss’ apartment to an admittedly catchy soundtrack, and then bodies start being strung up from the roof tops. These shifts from mischievous pranks to acts of brutality give the film a sense of major tonal whiplash, especially as Tom treats it like no big deal. Similarly, there’s no believable justification for Tom’s later decision to take on the broader criminal underworld.
If I had paid to see this movie in theaters, I would have been angry. In fact, I am still a little disappointed that I spent an hour and a half of my life on this. Let me make one thing clear: “iBoy” is not a bad movie. It just happens to exist in what is probably a golden age of entertainment. This situation is compounded even further by the fact that it is a Netflix exclusive. This is the type of movie that you watch when you lie in bed flipping through channels because nothing else is on. You do not explicitly seek out an average movie on a platform with plenty of other superior choices.