Director Paul Cotrulia makes his feature debut with MODIFIED, a low-budget cyberpunk sci-fi thriller set in a near future where the drug of choice for many isn't something that you can snort, smoke or swallow, but technlogy that becomes a physical part of you. Illegal body modification is sweeping through the underground and at a nightclub that specialises in serving guests who enjoy the vice (this includes many shady characters), a young man (Cory Sanders) must take desperate measures to rescue his love interest (Lia Albers) from becoming consumed by the dangerous craze and lost forever.
Tattoos and piercings are perhaps the most elementary forms of body modification, and it is often suggested that both are akin to drugs in that once you have one, you find yourself with an appetite for more. Cotrulia, who concocted the story, and screenwriter Kevin J. Hannigan appear to have blended this idea quite literally when crafting their vision of the film's dystopia, which is an interesting foundation. Here, the body mod scene is one of empowerment and satisfaction, verging on sexual, but also self-destruction. MODIFIED provides an intriguing set-up, however the weakness of the script ensures that the story soon falls apart at the seams, failing to bear the weight of poorly written dialogue, overlong scenes and insipid performances from hollow characters.
The film wasn't just set in a nightclub, as one was used in production. Cotrulia makes decent use of the smoky haze and swirling spotlights to create atmosphere, and generally the film is cleanly shot, looking particularly fresh and perky in high definition, but it never fails to look uninspired. The house colour of the film, if you like, is black. The drab use of colour – or lack thereof – is overwhelming to the point where just about everything appears dull and uninteresting.
Low-budget film-making 101 tells us that modest stories, few characters and one or two locations are top tips for getting the most out of limited resources, but the story of MODIFIED is conveyed in such a theatrical way – and that includes the extent of the cast's collective abilities – that it appears much better suited to the stage.
I rarely see films or read scripts that aren't fuelled by good ideas; it is the poor execution of those ideas that is commonplace, and unfortunately MODIFIED, while not entirely without merit, is one such movie where its few qualities are lost within the pages of a script that lacks structure and back story, ultimately becoming a rather flat and humdrum effort.
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