Appropriately enough for a movie titled “I.T.,” there is a preponderance of hard drives, software, satellite tracking networks, cutting-edge surveillance systems, and banks of large-format monitors on display throughout director John Moore’s slickly produced techno-thriller. But it falls largely on the shoulders of lead player Pierce Brosnan to provide a welcome human touch to the proceedings, with his persuasive portrayal of an analog man in a digital world.
With his Irish accent a tad more pronounced than usual, Brosnan plays Mike Regan, a private aviation tycoon who’s poised to expand his business with a new Uber-style app that will allow aircraft owners to sublet their jets. Normally, Regan is not a man who’s comfortable with innovative technology; truth to tell, he often needs help from his wife Rose (Anna Friel) just to operate the coffee maker in their lavishly appointed “smart home.” And he’s extremely uncomfortable when his office computer system goes on the fritz in the middle of an important presentation.
Fortunately — or so it seems, at first — Ed Porter (James Frecheville), a temp I.T. worker, is able to get the system up and running again. Regan, relieved and grateful, asks Porter to rid his smart house of some technical glitches (slow wifi, etc.), and is so impressed by the young man’s handiwork that he offers him a full-time job. Nothing good comes from this.
Regan is a bit slow to pick up on his new hire’s vaguely creepy vibe. (By contrast, the audience spots him as a psycho early on, somewhere around the time Porter does ineffably scary karaoke in his car to Missing Persons’ “Words.”) But as Porter becomes progressively more aggressive in his presumptive efforts to become Regan’s new best friend — and, worse, evidences all the telltale signs of a stalker while fixating on Kaitlyn (Stefanie Scott), Regan’s nubile teen daughter — Regan opts to reinforce employer-employee boundaries. And when that fails, he angrily fires Porter, and warns the unstable techie to keep away from him and his family. Nothing good comes from this, either.
As in so many other techno-thrillers, “I.T.” pivots on the propositions that hiding places no longer exist, and hell hath no fury like a psycho scorned. Through unauthorized excursions on the information highway, and remote-control devices planted in Regan’s home and auto, Porter causes all manner of mischief, ranging from the sadistically cruel (he records Kaitlyn as she masturbates in the shower, then sends the video viral) to the almost-homicidal. Regan attempts to fight fire with fire by hiring a tech-savvy, CIA-tied “cleaner” (played with quiet authority by Michael Nyqvist) to beat Porter at his own game. Not at all surprisingly, however, an old-fashioned low-tech beatdown is required to wrap things up.
Brosnan is very effective at playing Regan as a wary technophobe who has become too comfortable with his power and success — so comfortable, in fact, he thinks nothing of asking a temp employee to do some pro bono tech repairs around his house — but retains, deep down, an alpha-male toughness that comes in handy when push comes to shove. It speaks volumes about Brosnan’s ability to convey middle-aged machismo that his occasional fisticuffs with the conspicuously younger Frecheville aren’t entirely incredible.
The screenplay by Dan Kay and William Wisher is little more than a serviceable conglomeration of clichés, and Frecheville relies far too much on ranting and raving as his character grows ever more unhinged. But director Moore (whose credits include “Behind Enemy Lines” and “A Good Day to Die Hard”) generates a fair amount of suspense during “I.T.,” most notably during a surprisingly gripping sequence in which Porter emails Rose a fake diagnosis of breast cancer. After that, even the most forgiving viewers doubtless will decide that this techno-sadist deserves pretty much anything that happens to him.