Simple, silly, moderately entertaining for most of its runtime, iBoy is a film that somehow feels both over the top and never able to fully realise the potential of the central gimmick. It doesn't seem to know where it wants to go in terms of grit and tone, leaving it disappointing to those hoping for some kind of urban revenge tale with a twist and equally disappointing to those seeking pure escapism.
Bill Milner plays young Tom, a boy who runs into a vicious gang incident and is shot in the head while trying to call for help as he flees. When he comes out of a coma, Tom is informed that bits of his smart phone are now stuck inside his head. It soon becomes clear that this freak accident allows Tom to access the internet, and thus any other gadgetry, with the upgraded power of his mind, and he doesn't waste any time setting about to deal with the general crime problem in his neighbourhood, and the specific gang members who changed his life.
Although Milner isn't asked to do any more than wear a hoodie and look sullen for many parts of the movie, he's good enough in the lead role. Maisie Williams also does okay, as Lucy, the object of Tom's unvoiced affection, although it's an underwritten role that seems to have been offered to her in order to use her name as a selling point. Jordan Bolger is also good as Danny, a friend of Tom who starts to wonder about the changes in him, and both Miranda Richardson and Rory Kinnear do good work, with the latter coming in to steal the movie in the last few scenes. The rest of the cast consists of young rent-a-thugs who simply hang around onscreen until our hero can deal with them.
Based on a novel by Kevin Brooks, the screenplay, written by Joe Barton, Mark Denton, and Jonny Stockwood, is busy moving from one nonsensical tech-reliant set-piece to the next (seeing how Tom views the world and makes his connections to the devices around him) without any real attempt to actually flesh out the rest of the characters beyond the level of inferior teen drama (think of a cross between Grange Hill and Hollyoaks, but with some added gang presence).
Director Adam Randall doesn't do enough to make up for the script problems, although it's hard to fault him for his basic approach to the material, especially when considering the fact that the budget must have come in at the lower end of the spectrum, and the entire movie ends up playing out on one standard level of engagement when it really should have been a mix of satisfying highs and temporary setbacks for our hero.
Like a lot of the other Netflix-branded content, this is something that isn't awful and isn't great. It's just there, available to you as you lounge on your sofa and push the button for it (either accidentally or on purpose). Nobody involved will hold it up as the shining star on their CV but it's not the worst way to spend 90 minutes.
iBoy isn't on shiny disc yet, so why not buy Johnny Mnemonic instead.
Americans can get Johnny Mnemonic here.