Monsters of Man Movie Review
Written by R.J. MacReady
Released by High Octane Pictures
Directed by Mark Toia
Written by Jeff Hand and Mark Toia
2020, 132 Minutes, Rated R
Released on December 8th, 2020
Neal McDonough as Major
Brett Tutor as Mason
Jose Rosete as Boller
David Haverty as Kroger
Paul Haapaniemi as Jordan
I saw the trailer for Monsters of Man a while back and put it on my radar, so when I got word it was available for review, I signed right up.
The premise of the movie doesn’t seem that original from the get-go. Some sketchy military guys have created some robot soldiers that they’d like to test out in the field, that field being in the Vietnam/Cambodia region. They’re obviously doing this in secret, and have enlisted three field programmers to monitor the ‘bots and upload new objectives.
Meanwhile, a group of young doctors is traveling through the country helping out the native population, but their van breaks down, which forces them to seek help from a nearby village that’s not very hospitable to outsiders. With the help of a sympathetic mother, they’re granted permission to spend the night, but they must leave by the morning or they’ll be killed.
Well, as happens in killer-robot movies, something goes wrong with the ‘bots. One has a module that comes loose on the landing when they’re dropped in via parachutes, and it goes a bit off the rails. At first that doesn’t seem to make that much difference, because the military guys have decided to have the robots kill everybody in the vicinity.
That’s about all the plot I’ll give you. It’s not a very hard movie to follow even though there are a lot of moving parts. I’ll tell you pretty succinctly what this movie is, which might help you to know if it’s something you’d wanna watch. Would you like to see The Terminator as directed by Neil Blomkamp? That’s this movie in a nutshell.
And by now we’ve all heard the debates about whether The Terminator is a horror film or not, and this movie definitely falls into that same area but features some of the extra trappings from horror movies, like some nice gore gags.
Once the movie gets going, it’s a stalker film, where these killer robots are hunting down the doctors and the villagers who are helping them, led by an ex-Marine named Mason (Brett Tutor), whose woman is the sympathetic mother from the village. She has a kid (played by actor Ly Ty) who features prominently in the story, and I was particularly impressed with his acting. The acting from everyone overall is good, which is impressive considering you won’t recognize a single face in this other than Neal McDonough (Minority Report, Captain America: The First Avenger).
The cinematography is beautiful in this thing. The picture is crisp and vivid, and the colors are just muted enough to make you feel immersed in the jungle environments. The action sequences, of which there are many, are all shot and edited well. At no time will you be confused about what’s happening on screen, and that’s the hallmark of a director who knows what he's doing. I’ve never heard of Mark Toia and he doesn’t have a lot of IMDB credits, but I’d be interested to see what this guy does next.
What stops this from being an absolute must-watch is that the characters aren’t as well-rounded as they could be. I can see why that is because we see it all the time in slashers. You need to provide the “killer” a variety of possible-victims, so there isn’t time to give a lot of depth to any one character. The best slashers get past this by casting actors with personality and distinctive looks, and that’s where they could have used some help here. Eventually, some of the ones who make it toward the end do start to shine, like Brett Tutor, but there are moments where you’re not as invested as you could be.
The only other niggling bother is the running time of two hours and twelve minutes. The copy I watched is designated as the Director’s Cut, so I’m not sure if there’s a shorter version or not. After watching it, I don’t see a ton of easy cutting, but they could probably knock this down to an even two hours without too much hassle. It’s not that I was ever bored, but perhaps some of the chase sequences become repetitive after a while.
Monsters of Men is a fast, good-looking film that’s a modern Terminator amped up to eleven, and if you’ve watched that and Chopping Mall and Hardware, and you need a new killer-robot fix, then you’ll be pretty happy finding this one.
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