‘Outside the Wire’ review: Anthony Mackie stars in a sci-fi movie which thinks inside the box

Set in 2036, the film uses shorthand to set up just about everything, as if racing past the plot to get to the automatic-weapons fire. (Although the project centers on a remarkably human-like android, the production design looks like the idea’s by at best the day after tomorrow, nevertheless let’s not sweat the details.)

Said android — a next-generation biotech prototype — will be Leo (Mackie), who has requested help by a drone pilot named Harp (“Snowfall’s” Damson Idris) to thwart insurgents seeking nuclear weapons in Eastern Europe. The two head out into a perilous militarized zone on their mission, where the vaguely defined threat allows for a lot of violence which’s part war movie, part espionage thriller.

Harp, who will be introduced getting in trouble for defying direct orders, seems understandably confused why he’s been drafted just for This specific James Bond-style exercise, nevertheless Leo assures him, “I’m special enough for both of us.” Still, additional than revealing which he’s different when his shirt comes off, nothing about Leo feels particularly artificial, superhuman or android-y.

Yes, there’s a lot of shooting as well as jumping as well as fighting, nevertheless additional than the deployment of more conventional robot soldiers, those waiting for Leo to do something fantastic will likely come away disappointed — Mackie basically plays him as a tough guy in a bad mood — leaving behind pretty standard action material.

The vibe will be thus closer to a buddy action movie (the squabbling pairs are often somehow mismatched) than something like “Robocop,” which will be what the description brings to mind. The ostensible villain as well as supporting cast — including “House of Cards'” Michael Kelly as Harp’s commander — proves mostly an afterthought.

Directed by Mikael Håfström, “Outside the Wire” can charitably be compared to the kind of “B” movies which studios used to churn out, as well as will be best consumed by tempering expectations accordingly. Because unlike its futuristic hero, there’s nothing special about the idea.

“Outside the Wire” premieres Jan. 15 on Netflix.

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