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Monsters of Man, Neal McDonough, (Sci-Fi/Horror Movie Review)

Monsters of Man, Neal McDonough, (Sci-Fi/Horror Movie Review)
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PLOT: The CIA is making a backdoor deal with an AI company that has built robots for the purpose of ground combat. In order to see how well these bad boys work, they are dropped into the Golden Triangle as a test to stop an opium operation with maximum efficiency. Once one of these machines becomes self-aware, this quick in-and-out operation goes from bad to worse.

LOWDOWN: Action is a tough thing to do on a modest budget. Unlike most other genres, an action film can't survive if it looks and feels cheap. Characters and story matter, but the spectacle is the sell, and that's why when a smaller budget flick manages to pull it off, you usually hear about it. Well, I just watched Monsters Of Man, and I can tell you that everybody is f*cking sleeping on it. A gritty, mean, and intense actioner, Monsters Of Man is a prime example of how to do action right.

Things are a bit ambitious as we have multiple storylines going on at once. We have the superb Neal McDonough as the CIA agent running the illegal operation, the on-the-ground team doing the testing (Hough, Havert, and Blackmore). The drug village, filled with more than just hardened criminals, as the target area. This hits its sweet spot when the focus is between the tech nerds who are in the deep end of an unwinnable situation and the village with kids, an ex-soldier, and lost humanitarian doctors who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The heart of Monsters Of Man is with innocent bystanders trying to survive an impossible situation and the coders who need to own up to their ultimate role in this. Mark Toia separates Monsters Of Man from other killer robot films because of the grey area he puts his characters in. At times, the doctor's group lets their ego put them in unnecessary harm or how the bad guys are somewhat reasonable in their demands. Everyone here works within the grey of the situations, and it helps keep this out of any "been there, done that" territory. I was rooting for coder Kroger (David Haverty), who not only utterly stole every scene with his witty and relatable retorts (I loved his disdain for the humidity) but that he recognized that they would be complicit in murder real quick and shut the f*ck up to save his own skin. Jose Rosete plays the handler, Boller, the on-the-ground support, and though he's "bad," I ended up falling in love with his no-nonsense approach. He's a rigid prick and made me chuckle more than I should have. Keep up the excellent work, Rosete!

The real treat is how well the robots are executed. For a self-funded flick, this is some of the best robot CGI I've seen in years. They seem physically heavy, are affected by the terrain, and are grounded in their design. Things are always tense throughout because early on, these slaughter bots are established as almost indestructible and lethal as hell. Things get violent when it's time to clean house and eliminate all witnesses. There are a few gory scenes that show just how cold and precise these robots are. No one is safe, women, children, or our cast of down-on-their-luck characters. Things are pretty unpredictable. I tried guessing who would live or die, and I ended up wrong most of the time. Any downside to this? Neal McDonough is underused and spends the entire time in an office. He's excellent at barking orders and commands every scene he is in, but I wish he got to get more in on the action. Clocking in at over two hours, Monsters Of Man repeats some of the same story beats as you can only run and hide for so long before you become less invested in the characters safety. This went on a bit too long and could have used some trimming and punching up here and there. Nothing too big gets in the way and doesn't hamper the overall experience. As a first-time feature for writer and director Mark Toia, I am still impressed, flaws and all. Yes, A bit tighter would have helped, but I still loved the tale being told.

GORE: This doesn't hold back. We get a crushed face, a smashed head, and enough bullet wounds to make Paul Verhoeven proud.

BOTTOM LINE: Monster Of Man is mean, gritty, and unforgiving. An action-packed sci-fi thriller that doesn't shy away from the casualties of war. For a small-budget flick, director Mark Toia proves once and for all that, if you spend your money wisely, great CGI is attainable. Monsters Of Man is an excellent end of the year surprise that fills that bold, unflinching dose of action I am sorely missing these days. Give this puppy a watch, turn the volume up loud, and get a good drink to sip on. Trust me. You'll have a great time.

 

Monsters Of Man is out now on Digital and VOD.  WATCH IT HERE

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