Combustible Celluloid
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With: Neal McDonough, Brett Tutor, Jose Rosete, David Haverty, Paul Haapaniemi, Ryan Hough, Ly Ty, Ma Rynet, Kayli Tran, Jessica Blackmore, Jordy Tulleners, Tatjana Marjanovic, Conrad K. Pratt, David Samartin, Trong Kam, Taylor Leigh Edwards, Michael Goldman
Written by: Mark Toia
Directed by: Mark Toia
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 131
Date: 12/08/2020

Monsters of Man (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Blistering Roboto

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While sporting its share of flaws, the not-bad, bloody killer robot movie Monsters of Man somehow manages to use its extensive running time to find interesting gray areas in-between its situations and characters.

Three engineers set up camp to begin testing four high-tech robot soldiers in the Golden Triangle area near Thailand, in the hopes of securing a high-paying military contract. The operation is masterminded by a crooked CIA man, "Major" (Neal McDonough). Unfortunately, after the robots are deployed, the team discovers that a group of six doctors on a humanitarian mission are in the line of fire.

Additionally, an ex-Navy SEAL, Mason (Brett Tutor), is also there, living off the grid and in love with a local woman. Major orders that all the witnesses must be taken out, but Mason and the doctors are ready to fight for their lives.

Self-funded and written/directed/produced/shot by former advertising man Mark Toia, Monsters of Man is a combination of impressive ambition and absurd "B" movie ingredients. On the downside, the team of good, culturally diverse doctors are the least interesting characters, and the movie makes the rookie mistake of killing off the non-white ones first. (Women and children are also killed.) The action sequences are frequently choppy, and the violence is brutal and shocking, but at least death means something here.

On the plus side, some of the shadier characters grow to be quite fun; familiar, icy-cool McDonough adds some spice as the evil CIA man, answering the phone with a simple "go." Main hero Mason actually has a human side; he's far more engaging than many of today's more highly employable action stars. The VFX are very impressive, with the robots looking smoothly metallic and three-dimensional.

Toia uses the jungle setting to fine effect, whether it be characters trying to climb vines in a rocky canyon, or hiding out in an ancient temple. In the end, Monsters of Man intriguingly leaves off with questions about weapons and violence, good and evil, death and life.

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