Our Joe Lara season continues! For those of you who haven’t read our “Steel Frontier” and “American Cyborg: Steel Warrior” reviews, Joe was the guy who played Tarzan on both the big and small screens, before retiring from acting in 2002 to concentrate on a country music career. In between Tarzan gigs, he made some surprisingly entertaining sci-fi-action movies, and we’re reviewing them.
Joe is Dakota, and it seems to be his first day on the police force (although someone calls him Lieutenant, which indicates I really ought to pay more attention to these movies) and he’s partnered with John Amos, who my American readers will know from “Good Times” and my British ones from “Coming To America”. He’s the grizzled veteran, you get the drift, and this scene appears to exist mostly to show that Amos has a gun so powerful it can blow trucks up with a single bullet.
I’m a huge fan of scenes where the director or other power-player in a film puts in a scene where they’re doing something gratuitous. Evan Lurie is the writer / producer of this film (his sole writing or producing credit) and we’re treated to an absolutely 100% unnecessary scene of him having sex with a pneumatically-breasted blonde lady. Have a screencap, and notice the rack of guns hanging in the foreground while the lovemaking is occuring:
Lurie is Slash Gallagher, as fine a name as you could hope for, and he’s got a plan which is sort of what Robin Hood would do if he were a violent psychopath. The city is run by an incredibly corrupt cabal so he’s all about taking them down – luckily, the city has Dakota to protect it, and at the end of a fairly amazing (for a low-budget B-movie) car chase / gunfight, Slash is arrested.
Now, here’s where the film gets a bit odd. The prisons of the future are rehabilitation facilities, where people are…turned into holograms and reprogrammed so their antisocial thoughts and feelings are removed, then (I think?) put back into their bodies and sent out as useful and productive members of society. If you think this makes no sense, then come join me on the “What the hell?” bench. Slash has been in prison for five years, and in that time the elite has built a huge dome over downtown LA to keep the air safe, but also to bleed even more money from the likes of you and me.
Slash is, of course, irredeemable even with this technology. Dakota’s girlfriend, conveniently, is one of the scientists in charge of the programme, and if only she had his powers of observation she’d have stopped the mole inside the prison from messing with the holograms and…turning Slash into an unstoppable hologram! He can move around freely and kill people with electricity. This, of course, makes no sense.
So, Slash and his cronies (Tiny Lister, awesome as always; the Hacker guy; and a chap with one eye whose co-cronies make an awful lot of mean jokes about it) continue on with his pre-imprisonment plans, and Dakota, now with the Joe Lara trademark stubble, continues on with his plans to stop him. Which is a bit difficult as he’s just a hologram – although, when they figure out how to create a plastic mold for the hologram, which looks exactly like their real human body (and then create perfect masks of other people), things get a bit blurred.
This film is amazing. On the surface, it’s sort of a weird combination of “Demolition Man” and “Face Off”, but it’s more overtly political than the former and much stupider than the latter. There are a lot of big firefights and car chases in this too, because as any good B-movie person knows, you need to keep the audience entertained. Lara and most of the supporting cast range from solid to great in the acting stakes, and indeed the only one who lets the side down is Evan Lurie as Slash. I’m intrigued as to why this was his only writing / producing credit, but he’s not the greatest angry villain in the world. He was ripped in this film as well, and his dreadlocks certainly made him stand out in the crowd. So it’s slightly odd to see his current career, which is as an art gallery owner just outside Indianapolis. Good on him for doing what he loves, though!
So, this is another hit for our Joe Lara season. There’s weirdness, disused factory fights a-plenty, hologram-on-hologram action, and the women in this film (aside from the lady at the beginning) are treated fairly decently. Also, the ending is one of the funnest and out-of-nowhere ones I can remember.
Rating: thumbs up