A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that iBoy is based on the sci-fi Kevin Brooks novel of the same name. The premise is that a smartphone accidentally embedded in a boy's brain gives him super cyber-powers. The movie's focus is on the defenseless, crime-plagued, inhabitants of South London public housing and the gangs that terrorize them. All who live there are trapped in their roles by poverty and hopelessness. Marijuana use, drug dealing, threats, beatings, guns, rape, and money laundering are all featured. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," and "bastard." Teens smoke marijuana and drink beer. A video of a boy who is masturbating (clothed and sitting at a desk) is shown in a classroom. No body parts are shown but it's clear what he's doing.
What's the story?
In IBOY, Tom (Bill Milner) is a high school student living in rundown London projects with his feisty grandmother (Miranda Richardson). His complex is riddled with gang members, most of whom he grew up with. When one kid refuses to join, the members rape his sister, Lucy (Maisie Williams), the girl Tom has a crush on. Tom sees the attackers leaving and they shoot him in the head while he holds his phone to his ear, calling for help. When he wakes up, the phone is embedded in his brain and iBoy is born -- a nerdy guy with an array of bizarre, sci-fi super powers. Faster than a speeding bullet, he can look anything up on the internet, rifle through data bases, perform calculations, anonymously send texts and make calls, and eavesdrop on conversations, all just by thinking about them. He can turn other people's devices on or off remotely and also make electronic equipment explode at will. He is all set to be the perfect, undetectable vigilante. Using his search powers, he secretly finds the gang's bosses and begins to sabotage and stalk them. The biggest boss comes after him and Lucy with beatings, guns, and threats. The height of threat and tension results in a fairly typical bad guy-good guy face off in which, rather implausibly, cyber-good triumphs.
Is it any good?
This is a curiously compelling movie, more focused on cyborg vengeance and cleaning up crime than on teen angst. Social commentary is the underlying theme, with an emphasis on the difficulty of upward mobility for those who start at the bottom. Tom's mother, also raised in the projects, died a drug addict. It's implied that doing well in school, as Tom does, is the best way out. While the gang members mock Tom's geekiness, there's a sense that they are jealous, too, that he's most likely among them to escape the drugs and violence of their world. Director Adam Randall manages to normalize and give some reality to iBoy's fantasy premise using a realist approach and competent special effects. The metaphor is unmistakable -- those who use their brains will probably do better in life than those who use their fists.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the reason some teens in iBoy turn to crime and others try to excel at school. Do you think that teens who have never had money are more likely to succumb to the lure of easy cash promised by drug dealers who recruit them?
Some of the gang members seem uneasy with the violent behavior expected of them. Do you think all the gang members are bad guys, or possibly just guys who didn't have role models to show them other ways of life?
Tom makes money appear in his poor grandmother's bank account so she can pay the rent. He uses his powers to make violent things happen to the gang. Do you think his iffy behavior is justified because he is trying to help people?
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