Review by C.J. Bunce
iBoy is a 2017 Netflix original movie that may appeal to fans of Unbreakable and Attack the Block starring Bill Milner (Dunkirk, X-Men: First Class) as Tom, a teenager in London readying for exams, who is friends with Lucy, played by Maisie Williams (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones) who he has been infatuated with but never asked out. After he finally works up the nerve he arrives at her apartment to find masked thugs attacking Lucy’s family and raping her. His instinct is to run and call the police, but they shoot him in the head as he’s running away and they leave Tom for dead.
A dark and serious film with a sci-fi twist, iBoy is based on the 2010 novel by Kevin Brooks. The film does not stretch much beyond its title, but it does offer up a British teenage thriller where the two survivors (Lucy of rape and Tom of the hole in his skull) grow together to help each other with their trauma, using sci-fi as a storytelling device. The sci-fi element makes Tom a superhero in the realm of Bruce Willis’s masked vigilante in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable or Rami Malek’s hacker Elliot in Mr. ROBOT. When the bullet hit Tom’s head it went through his smart phone, leaving bits of the phone technology in his brain permanently, too dangerous to be surgically removed. Those bits soon allow Tom to tap into the electrical power and communications grid and he learns quickly how to harness his power to avenge the pain caused to Lucy, who stays home from school and doesn’t want to leave her apartment. But Maisie Williams’ Lucy gets her own opportunity for revenge once the higher steps of the criminal underworld ladder begin to hone in on Tom as the mastermind that is putting them in jail one by one.
More drama than thriller, the film offers up a fairly simple plot, yet those intrigued by the life of teens in a big European city in the realm of Attack the Block’s street thugs will see that drugs and guns cause trouble for inner-city kids everywhere. The visual sci-fi element–Tom pulling data from people and machines from all across the city–is nicely done, and the production overall is something better than a typical made-for TV film.
Both Williams and Milner provide a realistic portrayal of the effects of violence on its victims. The several forms of revenge Tom takes on the gang and on the puppetmaster behind the gang provide some satisfaction at least for the viewing audience. Charley Palmer Rothwell (Dunkirk, Legend) is particularly loathsome as one of the gang members.
Supporting roles are provided by well-known British actors Miranda Richardson (the Harry Potter series, The Hours, The Phantom of the Opera) as Tom’s grandmother, and the mob boss is played by Rory Kinnear (the James Bond series, The Imitation Game).
A British production about teenagers, violence, and sci-fi, iBoy is another example of the diverse tales Netflix is willing to finance. It is streaming now on Netflix.