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Echo Drive
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by Jay Seaver

"Not the best advertisement for Dell robots."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: The festival where I saw "Echo Drive" had a number of problems getting the sound right at the start of many presentations, so it's entirely possible that I missed some bit of exposition in those opening seconds that causes the movie to really come together and make perfect sense. I'm guessing not, though, which means that even for something that's as played out as misguided robot security, this doesn't really clear a low bar.

The extra security is added after the house day-trader Mike (Dane Bowman) and his family - wife Karen (Jordan Savage), daughter Jessica (Claire Gordon-Harper), and son Jake (Aaron Turgeon) - live in suffers a break-in. Since it's the model home for a new gated community being developed by a man with his fingers in a number of things, this Mr. Aldridge (Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis) beefs up security by adding a robotic security guard, "Dell" (Johnathan Hurley). But, as seems to be the case with most of those things, Dell's programming does not include respecting boundaries, and his directives do not always necessarily match up to the family's interests.

There's some brief talk about Dell being repurposed, which means that androids are apparently not an entirely new thing in Echo Drive's world, although he seems to be an unfinished enough product that giving him a gun that fires actual bullets seems highly irresponsible (you can tell he's an early model, because there are hydraulic noises dubbed onto the soundtrack when he moves and a filter applied to Johnathan Hurley's voices). It's a bit of logical inconsistency that hurts the movie in ways that are not necessarily obvious - does it really matter whether stuff happens because Dell isn't out of beta or because of a fluke with an established product? - but which robs the story of any chance of being about anything other than a "don't trust machines/rich people with their own agenda" idea that is worn straight through.

At least, that's the way it is until the end, which strives to give the film some meaning based on everything else that was going on with Mike and his family, and while writer/director Patrick Ryan Sims has sort of laid hints about this other plot throughout the movie, from things characters say to the way he and cinematographer Tom Wood shoot things like the group at the dinner table, it just doesn't work. Sims and company hold back what the film is really about too long for the revelations in the last act to have any meaning, and just as with the robot run amok. And while it all holds up for maybe as long as necessary before you get to the next part of your day, the plot really just doesn't make any sense when even a bit of thought is applied to it.

The cast, by and large, does what it can. Dane Bowman is given a sort of oily yuppie who needs to appreciate his family more character, and he does all right by it; not a whole lot more or less than you'd expect. Jordan Savage and especially Claire Gordon-Harper are actually pretty good as the wife and daughter, even if they are running through standard parts. Unfortunately, the filmmakers can't do quite as well with young Aaron Turgeon, whose scenes are distractingly bad (not necessarily his fault, as the kid is written annoying). Johnathan Hurley does the robot thing capably, and Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis slathers the imperious billionaire onto his part with a trowel.

When the movie gets down to android-goes-haywire, it's at least capable. Sims isn't the greatest action director out there - the fight scenes here don't exactly drip with creativity - but he can handle the basic scenarios well enough to hold the audience's interest, managing a couple decent jolts when they're needed. It's also clear that he is at least trying to put something that's a little smarter than the disposable action movie variety of sci-fi, to the point where I suspect a second viewing would display some clever bits right next to the ones that don't make any sense.

That's a contradiction, but perhaps something to be expected from a first feature like this, where talent and ambition are present but budget and experience at getting the plot holes out are not. There's promise here, but there are bugs in the system, if not as severe as Dell's.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26288&reviewer=371
originally posted: 02/16/14 11:01:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/12/14 Linda L Sims Obviously Mr. Seaver missed the point of the movie. 5 stars
6/11/14 TJ Great Movie!!! Critics can't make movies... only judge which doesn't matter 5 stars
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  DVD: 10-Jun-2014



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