This film and “Steel Frontier” represent the beginning (and possibly the middle) of the ISCFC’s Joe Lara season. Lara most famously played Tarzan, both on TV and film, and before he quit acting in 2002 to pursue a career in country music he appeared in an unbroken string of fairly terrible sounding, but actually pretty good, films.
It’s 17 years after a nuclear war which has pretty much done it for humanity, and the AI computer we built to help us out has decided to take over, using cyborg “enforcers” to maintain the peace over the remaining human settlements. Humans are all sterile and are gradually dying out…now, I don’t like pointing these things out, but if the computer doesn’t care about humanity, why bother saving any of them? We’re given all this information by the weirdest sounding faux-English voiceover guy, who I expected to be popping up throughout the film to fill us in on stuff, but just doesn’t. Shame!
After meeting an Enforcer, who’s an odd looking fellow for a cyborg badass, being skinny, a bit thin on top and having a small moustache, we then see a member of the human rebellion, seemingly determined to draw attention to himself by acting as suspiciously as possible. The driving plot of the film (discovered when the rebel makes it to his home base) is the one remaining fertile woman has gotten pregnant. For reasons unknown, they put the foetus in some sort of artificial womb, which is just a giant test tube with a timer attached…Mary, the woman in question, needs to get to the seafront in 36 hours in order to rendezvous with a French ship and take the foetus to Europe, where they will start a new fresh strain of humanity. It’s a sign of a woman whose fertility is important to a film that she’s called either Mary or Eve, usually.
Of course, the Enforcer finds them, and after a fight where Mary kicks ass by dropping a car engine on his head, the rebels are scattered to the four winds and the clock is ticking. No Joe Lara yet, I hear you ask? Well, when Mary is at her lowest point, about to have her stuff stolen, he swoops in to help her and after a bit of bribery on her part, agrees to help her across the city to the dock. He’s Austin, a mysterious drifter with a heart of gold, and he is magnificent in this, hair flowing free.
The majority of the film is their journey across town, with attempts to thwart them from a very camp gang, the Leeches (cannibal mutants), one of Austin’s old friends, and of course the Enforcer himself. This film was made just after “Terminator 2”, and if we’re being honest borrows quite heavily from it, so the cyborg in this, while having none of the T-1000’s shapeshifting ability, takes a severe kickin’ and keeps on tickin’. He can regenerate chopped off fingers and heals all but the most severe injuries fairly quickly. There was a point when he got impaled on a massive spike and I shouted at the screen “CHOP HIS DAMN HEAD OFF” but they didn’t listen.
The first thing to note about this film is that it’s good! The action is tight, there’s no messing around, and the motivations of everyone (apart from the computers who decided to keep humanity around) are clear. It’s also from that sweet spot of VHS dominance when any old film could get some decent amount of coin thrown at it – so despite them re-using a few sets in very different parts of the city, it looks like a pretty expensive film, and would certainly not get made the same way today. Okay, it’s not the most original film you’ll ever see, but with the title it has, few people would be expecting that.
Mary, the saviour of humanity, is no shrinking violet either. She kicks ass, doesn’t rely on Austin for too much and saves the day a few times. It’s refreshing to see, honestly. I could have sworn I recognised her from something, but it seems after working for David Fincher (in a couple of Billy Idol music videos) Nicole Hansen’s career didn’t do too well.
Despite this having a lot of similarities with “Steel Frontier” – heck, you could make half a case for that film being a sequel to this one – it was loads of fun to watch and if you have any love for video-shop classics, then I’d recommend giving this a try.
Rating: thumbs up