It’s humans versus big, spindly, skeletal robots in this lively and unbelievably low-budget sci-fi actioner whose focus is very firmly on its hardware and special effects rather than its human interest. Fair enough. You won’t give a mechanical monkey’s uncle what happens to any of the generic grunts (and one female human/robot hybrid) who populate the first full-length feature by FX guru Steven Gomez but there’s still some fun to be had in the well-executed action sequences and superbly-realised killer robots brought to the screen on a budget of… wait for it… just one million dollars.
The snappy, if perfunctory, script takes us to the near future (although it looks a bit like the far future to us) where an elite squad of marines is dumped on a remote island on what’s intended to be a routine training exercise. Of course, this is precisely what it isn’t. The group is cut off from civilisation and their communications are down. Enter an army of psychopathic murderous robots – incredibly advanced military killing machines – and as the shooting and the dying starts, the group realises that the computer-interfaced semi-human Mills (Kirby) is able to forge some sort of command connection to the tireless robots. But the trouble is, they can’t really be sure whose side she’s on and who exactly she is…
Kill Command is really all about those visuals. For the money available the effects are pretty outstanding, a blend of Starship Troopers dropships and Terminator-like robots. The resemblance to genre forebears doesn’t end there, though; worryingly, it initially looks as if our heroes have pitched up in an early episode of TV’s Stargate (via the first Predator) as they find themselves wandering around familiar-looking pine forests. Fortunately, scenes of the multi-legged robots stomping around the woods en masse indulging in furious gun battles with the grunts is enough to distract us from the mundanity of the location until the story shifts into a more interesting industrial setting as the survivors take refuge in a nearby devastated test installation. Having already set out its familiar stall with its survival-of-the-fittest hunter-becomes-hunted scenario Kill Command never really surprise in terms of its narrative; Hills’ machine connection is signposted well enough advance for the audience to at least have a fair idea where and how the story’s going to play out but there’s still some tension and edginess at the climax when she finally confronts the boss robot and makes what might well be irrevocable decision about her own destiny.
Kill Command isn’t necessarily one you’ll be in hurry to rewatch with your mates but taken on its own terms, and especially with the resources available to realise it, it’s a brisk, accomplished effort with a lot more wit, integrity, and intelligence than some of the more lavishly-budgeted genre movies which overwhelm the multiplexes. Our command… watch Kill Command.
KILL COMMAND / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: STEVEN GOMEZ / STARRING: VANESSA KIRBY, THURE LINDHARDT, DAVID AJALA, BENTLEY KALU / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 27TH