For many years Pierce Brosnan has taken control of his own legacy through his production company Irish DreamTime. He's had some mixed results but the bottom line is that he has remained a popular, consistently working leading man. Brosnan's hi-tech thriller "I.T." was released in 2016 with a limited theatrical run that apparently didn't generate any substantial business. The film has been released on Blu-ray where it has been largely savaged by reviewers. Having watched the film, I'll dare to go in the opposite direction and swim against the tide. I found the film to be thoroughly entertaining and very slickly made with rich production values that mask its relatively modest budget.
Brosnan is well-cast as Mike Regan, a mega-wealthy industrialist who is gambling everything he has on the launch of a bold new enterprise. Essentially, it's an Uber-like service that caters to rich executives who need air transportation on a minute's notice. Regan's company has a fleet of private jets ready to serve this limited clientele in return for sky high fees. When we first meet Regan, he's frantically overseeing his company's first official unveiling of the business plan. He still has to get approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission, but feels he has nothing to worry about in that regard. However, upon personally launching the hi-tech, expensive video presentation in front of business executives, the press and potential investors, a serious glitch threatens to spell catastrophe when the video malfunctions. Regan is spared disaster by the intervention of Ed Porter (James Frecheville), an innocuous temporary employee who Regan doesn't even know. Thanks to Ed's quick thinking, the video presentation resumes quickly and is deemed a success. A grateful Regan personally thanks Ed and rewards him with full-time employment. He also invites him to his modern mansion house with a freelance assignment to rewire the outdated wi-fi capabilities. When Ed arrives at the house, Regan introduces him to his wife Rose (Ann Friel) and his attractive teenage daughter Kaitlyn (Stefanie Scott), who is a high school student. Regan gives Ed the royal treatment and encourages him to stay for drinks. Ed, meanwhile, has an ulterior motive. Upon having seen Kaitlyn tanning herself poolside while clad in a bikini, he decides to wire the home in a very unique manner that no one will be aware of. By the time he's done, the Regans have the ultimate hi-tech wiring system- but don't suspect that Ed has secretly installed microscopic video cameras and microphones that allow him to monitor every movement and conversation, which he views at his loft on a wall-sized video screen. Unbeknownst to Regan, Ed had also made some "improvements" to his state-of-the-art sports car that will allow Ed to manipulate the controls and a video system installed on the dashboard. Regan soon discovers that his friendly overtures to Ed have blurred the line between in the employer/employee relationship. Soon, Ed is showing up uninvited at the family home. Of more concern to Mike and Rose is Ed's increasingly obvious interest in Kaitlyn, who seems smitten by the older man. When Ed crosses the line, Regan ends up firing him in a very belittling manner and thereby opening a Pandora's Box of troubles for himself, his wife and daughter.
Ed seeks immediate revenge and he has plenty of tools at his disposal. A master hacker, he forges documents that are leaked to the SEC, causing Regan's pending deal to fall under suspicion of being illegal and gumming up the approval process. He also releases provocative footage of Kaitlyn in the shower that was secretly shot with the hidden cameras. The result is her humiliation among her friends and schoolmates. Regan catches on that his entire world is in the hands of a mentally unstable former employee and he decides to fight back. After trying to physically intimidate Ed- a tactic that fails- he uses his own hi tech genius, the shadowy Henrik (wonderfully played by Michael Nyqvist), who constructs a plan to turn the tables on Ed by hacking the hacker and turning his own world into a nightmare. The result is a cat-and-mouse game between Regan and Ed that escalates to a violent final confrontation between the two antagonists.
Stefanie Scott and Kaitlyn.
"I.T." has been criticized by some critics for being very obviously inspired by "Cape Fear". Indeed, both films do capitalize on the premise that an everyday, law-abiding family can be terrorized by a charismatic psychopath who has the wherewithal to ensure that his actions don't leave him vulnerable to arrest. However, one film being inspired by another is hardly a reason for criticism. It's been an old joke in the movie industry that there are only a handful of basic premises for scripts and they have been copied endlessly since the early days of cinema. Would we disregard Howard Hawks' masterpiece "Red River" simply because it's very obviously "Mutiny on the Bounty" with some herds of cattle tossed in? Indeed, "I.T."'s script by William Wisher and Dan Kay- while certainly not flawless- is believable and compelling throughout. One weakness is that the early relationship between Ed and Mike Regan could have been afforded more screen time to develop, but that's a minor quip. The film is very well directed by John Moore, who has apparently earned an army of on-line enemies for having helmed what are perceived to be in some quarters as a string of cinematic misfires. But Moore does well here, milking suspense out of situations that are sometimes cliched. The most disappointing aspect is the boilerplate-like conclusion that finds Regan and Ed engaged in a fight to the death. Until then, Regan is an everyman, not particularly adept at acts of derring do or violence. However, the conclusion finds Brosnan reverting to 007 mode and squaring off against Ed as though he were a Green Beret. I wish the movie had the courage to end on a psychological note instead of a routine action scene that also includes the age-old cliche of the villain having bound and gagged the hero's ladies (who are conveniently scantily clad to add some eye candy to the proceedings.) The epilogue redeems some of this, however, with some ambiguous final images that may or may not be in the imagination of our protagonist.
The performances are all very good indeed. In fact, this is one of Brosnan's most impressive performances as we watch him deteriorate from a cocky, self-absorbed business tycoon to a borderline madman in his quest to protect himself and his family. Brosnan remains one of the most charismatic leading men working today. James Frecheville is also exceptionally good as the villain. He never overplays the socio/psychopathic aspects of his character and generally remains chilling because of his calm demeanor and propensity for sick humor. Both Anna Friel and Stefanie Scott acquit themselves strongly and there isn't a weak link anywhere else in the cast. The movie was shot entirely in Brosnan's native Ireland but for some strange reason, it's set in the United States. This unnecessary decision only serves to provide some distractions, as the movie clearly has a European feel and some of the characters betray Irish accents. Nevertheless, I found this to be a first-rate thriller. (This movie represents the last collaborative project between Pierce Brosnan and his long-time producing partner, Beau St. Claire, who passed away before the film was released. Appropriately, the movie is dedicated to her.)
The film has been released on Blu-ray by the IMES9 company. The transfer is excellent. The only extras are a way-too-brief "behind the scenes" featurette that has cast members exchanging mutual compliments and some discussions about their characters without delving into how, where and when the movie was shot (some of the locations are very impressive.) A short photo gallery is also included but again, it calls out for more content.