Video shops were strange and wonderful places. Before Blockbuster took over, long before online destroyed Blockbuster, video shops were either dedicated shops or, and these were my favourite, a few racks of tapes in the back of a normal “corner shop” (convenience store, to my American readers?). Rental copies of big-budget movie VHS tapes used to cost a fortune (I saw them with £80 price tags, and this was the 1980s), so local shops didn’t buy too many of them, filling their shelves with whatever cheap trash companies like Cannon were making or distributing.
This trash is the subject of thousands and thousands of movie review blogs, of which this is but one (and it’s not like we do this stuff exclusively, either). It seems there were an infinite number of these movies, because even people like me are still discovering “new” ones, 20 years later, with the great benefit of having Youtube serve as a sort of surrogate (completely free) VHS shop. It’s even more surprising when it’s a near-future, robot-cop movie – hell, I thought I’d seen all those damn things! But “T-Force” is a little sleeper classic, featuring performances from ISCFC favourites old and new.
Those old and new favourites are Evan Lurie and Deron McBee. Lurie has entertained us in such fare as “Hologram Man” (which shares this movie’s director, Richard Pepin) and “Cyborg 3”, and after retiring from acting in the late 90s has had a surprising second career as a composer and owner of an art gallery. McBee is the magnificent over-actor from “Immortal Combat” and “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”, and as soon as you see him (in those movies) you’ll love him too. They’re both androids, robots, whatever dumb name they give themselves, part of T-Force, a group of 4 who kick ass when the police are outnumbered or outgunned. Check out the amazing logo of the company that designed them:
We’re introduced to them in a pretty brilliant opening sequence, which also happens to be a gigantic ripoff of “Die Hard”. Vernon Wells, looking like he’d just had major dental work before falling asleep on a tanning bed, is the Alan Rickman, and four super bad-ass robot cops are the Bruce Willis (okay, the analogy isn’t perfect). Unfortunately, our robot pals have a bit of a problem when it comes to orders with even the slightest grey area, and to stop the terrorists they straight-up murder a bunch of hostages too. If you’re going to create a bunch of perfectly human-looking robot cops, and give them personalities of a sort, then you really ought to work on their ability to understand and process differing instructions. Like, “if one of your solutions involves blowing up a bunch of innocent people, then maybe try something else”. But I’m not a future-scientist, what do I know?
It’s up to vehemently anti-robot cop Jack Floyd (Jack Scalia, star of more cheesy 80s TV than you could shake a stick at) and the one member of T-Force who decided to stay on the side of good to take on and destroy the rogue robots. Will these two mismatched cops become friends? I’ll leave that as a cliffhanger for you, dear reader. There’s a whisper of an interesting idea here, as Jack talks about how mechanisation threw good working people like his dad on the scrapheap, but it’s not really developed, as if they realised that to go too far down that path would lead to some miserable realisations.
The low budget is admirably worked round most of the time, with some pretty inventive miniature work and that one disused factory that about a million films have used; but it comes up in other ways. A strip club scene features a terribly dowdy stripper – around 40, huge un-erotic underwear, looks a little too old to still be pursuing this line of work. But then it turns out she’s a robot! If you’re building a robot stripper, why build one who looks vaguely sad and ready for retirement?
I don’t want to rag on the script too much, because it’s a fun film, but the robots are pretty terribly written. They speak normally some of the time, then they revert to that no-contractions “robot style” so beloved of cheap movies and TV; and their whole motivation seems pretty bizarre. When Evan Lurie and the sole female robot have sex, to see what the fuss is about, I was hoping for the faintest whisper of them realising how ludicrous it was, but I’m not sure and think they just wanted to get some boobs on the screen. Plus, this movie has more “cool guys walk away from explosions” moments than perhaps any film ever. Did the writer not go “nah, too many of these already. Perhaps something else” even once?
If we’re being honest, it’s not the most original movie ever. I mentioned the way the first segment rips off “Die Hard”, but then there’s a complete lift of the scene where Arnie slaughters the police station from “Terminator”, and a bit of “Robocop” too. There are certainly worse films to crib from, I suppose, and the end result doesn’t just seem like a bunch of sloppily meshed together ideas from better sources, so kudos to them.
I know I’ve just complained about a ton of stuff in this movie, but it’s a cheap sci-fi/action B-movie, and absolutely delivers on what it sets out to do. There’s plenty of fun, some bizarre acting choices, and even if it does waste its secret weapon Deron McBee by not letting him pose and grimace like a crazy person, it’s solidly entertaining and you could do far worse.
Rating: thumbs up