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By Alex Saveliev | March 30, 2022

“I’m not sure how I feel about this,” a character states in director Jack Peter Mundy’s lo-fi sci-fi tale Prototype, echoing my sentiment about the feature, whose ambitions are as large as its budget is small. Mundy clearly loves films like The Terminator, attempting to replicate certain aspects of the series: if not the scope then the momentum, if not the spectacle or grandeur, then the thrill of watching two anthropomorphic beings battle it out. Mundy and screenwriter Sam Gurney bite off way more than they can chew, but boy, it’s fun watching them go for it.

The film is set in the near future, where androids have become an everyday appliance, eerie (to say the least) human replicas designed to perform menial household tasks. The central family consists of abusive father Roger (James Robertson), who happens to be the creator of said androids, his desperate wife, Shelley (Danielle Scott), and their two kids, one bratty, the other sensitive. They live with the original prototype android, simply named One (Luke Robinson).

While popular, the model has flaws, so Roger is working on a new one. The 2.0 version – named, you guessed it, Two (Zoe Purdy) – soon joins the family. She doesn’t f**k around. “I can do everything you can, but better,” she informs One, whom she calls a “lower appliance.” “You deem me incapable?” she challenges the postman, then kills him violently. Two deescalates into a murderous tyrant quickly, only taking instructions from Roger, her master. Things accumulate into a hostage situation, a chase through the woods, and a fight that has “centerpiece” stamped all over it.

Two deescalates into a murderous tyrant quickly…”

The android’s design, while impressively detailed as a costume, resembles what I imagine a de-masked Jason Voorhees would look like, only there is a mask with very obvious eye holes. When it comes to things like dialogue (“I can read every microbe inside you, Roger,” Two says) or set design (Roger’s business partner’s obviously empty office cubicle being one of my personal favorites), the less said, the better. And yet, the narrative charges on, impervious to its shortcomings, and that confidence renders Prototype weirdly compelling here and there.

How can you not at least admire a plot that contains strangulation via headphones (“This is so not dope…”)? Or an evil android speaking through a conduit? Or a tussle that’s basically a miniature reenactment of the bathroom sequence from T3? The acting is so over-the-top it transcends “hammy” and sort-of works on its own frequency. Robertson snarls his way through a one-dimensional role. Scott does “despairing” well, which is great because that’s what she sticks with throughout most of the film. Robinson and Purdy deserve the biggest props, as they almost make you forget you’re watching two actors in costumes playing creepy androids.

“I need to open your panel,” Shelley tells One. Beep boop beep. A red light turns green on the back of One’s head. “I changed your code,” she informs him. If that sort of thing puts a smile on your face, you will lap up the oddity that is Prototype. Others, like myself, may find it to be earnest but misguided, a functional prototype of a better film.

Prototype (2022)

Directed: Jack Peter Mundy

Written: Sam Gurney

Starring: James Robertson, Zoe Purdy, Luke Robinson, Danielle Scott, etc.

Movie score: 5/10

Prototype Image

"…Robinson and Purdy deserve the biggest props..."

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