by Christie Robb
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a cute accent will make even the silliest sentiment 20 percent more charming. So, it’s fortunate that the dialogue in Kiah Roache-Turner’s action/comedy/horror is mostly delivered in appealing Australian accents. Otherwise it’s a bit of a mess.
A take on cell phone addiction, Nekrotronic asks the question, “What if demons got online and created a knock-off of Pokémon Go to steal our souls?”
Thankfully, Howard, a sanitation engineer/orphan, discovers he’s the descendant of generations of necromancers (nekromancers?) with demon-fighting superpowers, now upgraded with what look like coaxial cable ports in the backs of their heads. Years ago, his necromancer parents split up when mom, Finnegan, was turned to the dark side. Howard’s dad hid him with muggles before being murdered by his ex.
Ben O’Toole delivers a decent performance in Howard. He’s equally able to pull off his silly X-Men-style superhero suit and deliver the occasional bit of banter that reminds us that the movie is supposed to be part comedy. His chemistry with his tragically underused sidekick Rangi (Epine Bob Savea) is probably the best part of the film. Too bad it’s mostly in the first 18 minutes.
After the initial setup, Nekrotronic often seems to forget the comedic slant and leans heavily into the action. The special effects and fight sequences are acceptable. But there are no stakes. What is Finnegan going to do with the power of the souls she devours through the cell phone game? Use the power to get more souls. Why? To what purpose? Unclear. What does Howard stand to lose? Little. He already seems to hate his foster family and his job. He’s not invested in random strangers. His BF Rangi might take a hit, but Howard’s powers can sorta mitigate that.
The movie mashes up Matrix, Tron and Ghostbusters and sets it to a half-hearted attempt at a Tarantino soundtrack. But there’s no focus or originality in the result.
The weakest part of the movie is probably Monica Bellucci’s Finnegan. Possessing a gorgeous Italian accent, her delivery proves the exception to the accent-makes-it-better maxim. She struggles to enunciate the juvenile, expletive-laden dialogue that comes much more naturally from the other characters. It feels like when your manager researches slang on Urban Dictionary and pulls the results out in the conference room to seem relevant. It’s cringy and off-putting.
In the end, Nekrotronic delivers a little bit of everything, but it not enough of the right things.