Film Review: Anonymous

A sub-“Mr. Robot” saga about an amoral criminal caught up in the world of international hacking.
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Anonymous is riddled with shortcomings, but none is greater than its inability to provide a single reason to care about the plight of its protagonist. That uninteresting center of attention is 18-year-old Alex (Callan McAuliffe), who—ostensibly because his Ukrainian mother was fired from her bank job while the family lived in Canada, but really because he’s greedy and amoral—decides to become a computer criminal. As embodied by McAuliffe in a dreary one-note performance, Alex opts to raise money for college by joining a notorious online cabal called DarkWeb, where intrepid crooks can buy and sell stolen credit cards, IDs and merchandise. That enterprise, however, quickly becomes so lucrative that he’s seduced into making it his full-time gig. And before long, he’s teamed up with another wheeler-dealer, Sye (Daniel Eric Gold), to expand his operation from pawning pilfered watches to bank fraud.

No matter the film’s images of Guy Fawkes masks and general air of sub-“Mr. Robot” anti-establishment anarchism, Alex isn’t raging against any machine so much as living high off the purloined hog. As such, he’s a monotonous sort of entitled cretin. After being busted for a failed scam, Alex is befriended by Kira (Lorraine Nicholson), who—unbeknownst to him—is a hacker being blackmailed by the U.S. government into gaining his confidence, all so he can lead the feds to DarkWeb’s mastermind, Zed (Clifton Collins, Jr.). Now a trio, Alex, Sye and Kira immediately set about pulling off one cash-grab scheme after another, at least until street-smart Sye begins to suspect that Kira isn’t to be trusted—in large part because her every business meeting is facilitated by some mysterious “uncle.”

Anonymous revels in its characters’ bad behavior, but writer Sanzhar Sultan and director Akan Sataev never make Alex, Sye and Kira’s high-tech ruses seem the least bit plausible; instead, the filmmakers merely have characters spit out techno-jargon in a vain attempt to mask the fantasyland nature of their every set-piece. If the mouthfuls of phony dialogue weren’t a transparent enough attempt to cover up the proceedings’ nonsensicality, Sataev also has his camera fly about with spastic abandon to simulate suspense. And he chops virtually every scene to ribbons, beginning with an opening sequence—involving Alex and Kira overseeing the supposed execution of the chairman of the Federal Reserve—that features more editorial cuts than should reasonably be found in an entire feature-length film.

As circumstances spiral out of control, Alex and Kira find themselves taking great risks that make next to no sense from a strategic point of view. And though the setting shifts from Canada to America to Hong Kong, there’s almost no variety to their banal story. Even the climactic onscreen appearance of Collins in a wheelchair with a scarred-from-burns face fails to inject any (much-needed) cartoonishness into the action, which—with the utmost self-seriousness—barrels forward in search of the next preposterous plot twist and/or tired cliché. That those pursuits are routinely fruitful is, unfortunately, the only way in which Anonymous proves a success.

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