Monday 6 March 2017

I.T., aka Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot
t Dot Greater Than Underscore

It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to announce that Pierce Brosnan's remarkable run of incomprehensibly bad films continues with alarming implacability. This week sees the unwelcome incursion into selected cinemas (fingers crossed yours isn't one of them) and VOD platforms of cyberturkey I.T., or - if we are to follow the widely accepted convention of referring to films by their on-screen title cards - Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore.
Directed, in a way, by A Good Day To Die Hard's John Moore, Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore is a '90s home invasion thriller with a 21st century upgrade, which is that the bad guy is one of those new-fangled Computer Hackers. We know this because, in one of cinema's most nuanced depictions of Computer Hackers, he lives in a dimly-lit tech dungeon with an enormous bank of monitors and spends his time listening to deafening EDM while green text is projected onto his naked torso as he ogles pictures of sexy waitresses which he took on his technologically advanced mobile phone which - wait for it - is also a camera.

But more about him later. Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore's notional hero, Mike Regan (a peculiarly-accented Brosnan, although there appears to be no other type of Brosnan these days), is a self-made aviation tycoon about to release an app allowing the super-rich to hire private jets in much the same way that lower lifeforms use Uber. None of this is remotely relevant; all that matters is that Regan is rich enough to own a house kitted out with top-of-the-range smart technology although he himself is a complete luddite, as is explained in an early scene which sees him outwitted by his own coffee machine.
Even the mere proximity of data cables gives Bronhom the heebie-jeebies

When the launch of Regan's app is beset by a technical glitch, temp I.T. guy and closet EDM-loving, tech-dungeon-dwelling psychopath Ed Porter (James Frecheville, unrecognisable from 2010's Animal Kingdom, which is probably in his best interests) steps in to fix things. By way of thanks Regan immediately gives Porter a permanent job and, naturally, invites him to his home to fix his wifi despite a) having only just met him and b) describing himself as a man who values his privacy above all else. From there it is but a few short and inanely written steps to Porter overstepping the boundaries of polite social interaction and targeting Regan and his family for a prolonged campaign of aggravation via the aforementioned smarthouse system.

Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore initially balances out its improbable character behaviour, gaping plot holes and unlikely story developments with a series of unintentionally hilarious scenes in which Frecheville seems unsure whether his one-dimensional maniac is a cool, calculated home invader like Michael Keaton in Pacific Heights, or a scenery-chewing loon like Cape Fear's Max Cady. John Moore doesn't appear to know either, so we get a sequence for the ages in which Porter - having been booted out of a Regan family party - conveys his rage in the time-honoured fashion of driving home while screaming, heavily exhaling and angrily miming to 1982 new wave non-chart-topper Words by Missing Persons. Later on Moore will display further depths to Porter's madness by showing him lifting weights in his tech dungeon in between abstract shots of a rotating pill and a drop of blood trickling past an Instagram logo on a smartphone. One can only hope there is still a chance for the Academy to change their mind about this year's Best Picture one more time.
Makes u think

What drags Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore down from mildly entertaining two-star trash to offensive one-star bullshit is its explanation for Porter's actions, which I am about to wilfully spoil because I'm hoping that by now I've dissuaded you from watching the film. Did Regan do some terrible wrong to Porter or his family, for which vengeance must be sought? Nope. Is there a sly commentary on the politics of wealth, who's really in control or the inherent dangers of technology? Nah. Porter's problem, according to Michael Nyqvist's character (a ludicrous combination of a tech-savvy Leon from Leon and Psycho's exposition-dealing psychiatrist), is that he has "mental health issues" and is "a bad man". That's literally it. So having squeezed every last drop out of the already bone-dry cliché of socially awkward IT guys, Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore puts the boot right in by asserting that being the reckless millionaire CEO of an environmentally catastrophic multinational company qualifies you as A Good Guy, while being mentally ill means you are A Bad Man. Quick reminder: it is 2017.

All of which means it doesn't matter a jot whether anyone in Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore is any good (clue: Brosnan's angry face - with which I am painfully familiar - gets an extended workout here, with predictable results) or whether the script is in any way laudable (clue: Regan's wife, played by Anna Friel, chastises their daughter for consorting with a man eleven years her senior; a bizarre stance given that Friel is 23 years younger than Brosnan). All that matters is that the film is ignored by audiences and forgotten by the world as swiftly as possible. Let's just all agree never to mention the name Colon Backslash Backslash i Dot t Dot Greater Than Underscore ever again.