(director/writer: Brandon Cronenberg; cinematographer: Karim Hussain; editor: Matthew Hannam; music: Jim Williams; cast: Christopher Abbott (Colin Tate), Andrea Riseborough (Tasya Vos), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Girder), Rossif Sutherland (Michael Vos), Tuppence Middleton (Ava Parse), Sean Bean (John Parse), Raoul Bhaneja (Eddie), Tiio Horn (Reeta), Gabrielle Graham (Holly Bergman), Gage Graham-Arbuthnot (Ira Vos); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Fraser Ash, Niv Fichman, Kevin Krist, Andrew Starke; Rhombus Media/Rook Films; 2020-Canada/UK)
“Its violence is extreme and not for all.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Brandon (“Antiviral”) is the son of the legendary filmmaker David, who in his second film directs and writes this forcefully delivered, upsetting, clever, comical, dark sci-fi horror film. Its violence is extreme and not for all. The same could be said for its cerebral efforts to connect with viewers.
The opening sequence is a bloody doozy, showing some arty camera work in its bizarre colors and patterns, as well as exciting special effects in its melting flesh and flashing strobe lights to cover up such things as a criminal brain implant.
Holly (Gabrielle Graham) shoots a man in a hotel restaurant, and stabs him until she’s covered in blood. She tries to shoot herself in the head but the police arrive and they instead shoot her in the head. Suddenly the corporate assassin possessing her, Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough), jumps up awake, strapped inside a weird-looking machine. She has been operating in Holly’s body after using her mind to get into the vic’s body, as her mission to eliminate a corporate rival is now done. The corporate assassin works for a secret organization. She uses brain-implant technology to terminate her targets by taking control of their bodies without their knowledge.
Tasya’s corporate boss Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) talks the shaken Tasya back into the real world after the incident. Tasya then visits her estranged husband (Rossif Sutherland, one of Donald’s sons) and bright son Ira (Gage Graham-Arbuthnot). Afterwards she takes on a new work challenge. She goes inside the body of former drug dealer Colin (Christopher Abbott), and she has three days to kill Colin’s girlfriend Ava Parse (Tuppence Middleton) and her evil CEO corporate father John (Sean Bean). But Tasya’s psyche might not be able to finish the task, as she’s mentally unraveling (experiencing blackouts) and might be obliterated when not able to extract herself from Abbott’s body and must go on the run with him.
Don’t look for any clarity on how the body gets possessed or what the film is trying to say other than to be subversive and exciting. It’s painful to watch, as it requires us to view holes drilled in the head and the constant adjusting to keep everything nailed in place. Also, Tasya’s mission of murdering the arrogant CEO and his sympathetic daughter seems unimportant when compared with her own soul-threatening journey.
It’s all about trying to identify with Tasya’s tortured soul, as Riseborough offers a grueling physical performance that keeps you trying to figure out the sinister back story of why she does this sort of work. Tasya‘s pictured as a sympathetic character despite being an assassin.
If you make it through the gruesome opening, you might have the right stuff for this emboldened, ambiguous, scary film.
REVIEWED ON 10/7/2020 GRADE: B