Kill Command (2016)
For a low-budget British film, this has great robot/effects design – courtesy of writer/director Steven Gomez’s background in visual effects. However, it has an overfamiliar premise, not much in the way of plot and is even a touch monotonous in the action department. In the near future, a squad of hard-bitten Marines (plus one token softie) and cyber-enhanced chick Mills (Vanessa Kirby) are airlifted to a remote island for a training exercise, pitted against the robot drones and mobile guns which are about to replace them in combat zones. As expected, the robots start exceeding the parameters of their programming and use live ammo – which, as is traditional, leads to the squad getting killed off one by one and the hold-outs worrying that the machines might be right to perceive Mills as one of them rather than as a human enemy. Early on, there’s a single self-aware note as the comic grunt (Mike Noble) reacts to the sight of the sort of disused industrial facility seen in numberless cable TV action films with ‘is it all going to be indoors?’ but the film does then get out in the woods for its scrappy combat action.
For some reason, Gomez has chosen to go with a faux-American feel, though it would have made for a much more distinctive flavour if the film featured Dog Soldiers-type squaddies as opposed to hand-me-down-from-Aliens grunts played by a decent if unstarry British cast (Dane Thure Lindhardt appears alongisde David Ajala, Bently Kalu, Tom McKay and Kelly Gough in the platoon). The killbots have been designed with an unusual mix of the usual ominous near-anthropomorphism (a display of eye-like blue lights) and surprising practicality (a lot of them are just mobile platforms with guns attached) … but they don’t really do much beyond pop up and kill like the baddies in a computer game, and the nuts and bolts of the story premise aren’t sufficiently tightened. Some elements – a doubtless evil private military outfit, the Harbinger Corporation, are behind it all – are utterly rote, and even the potentially interesting character of Mills, ‘chipped’ to cure paralysis and therefore indentured to the corporation, is muddily developed, though the flickering display on Kirby’s eyes is striking.