SyFy’s ungodly 2006 mix of “Wedlock”, “Enemy Mine” and…er…anything that’s ever had human-looking androids in it is quite surprising in its goodness. Okay, it doesn’t make a lick of sense if you think about it, but I think we can all agree that we rarely watch this sort of movie to think too much. It’s got a pro wrestler in a small part, plus a star of the 90s and some splendidly bizarre acting from its supporting cast. Let’s get into it!
Post-apocalypse! I think it’s environmental, but they sort of handwave it away. Humanity now lives in a few remaining domed cities, one of them being Phoenix, Arizona, and the first thing we see is a trio of androids rescue a wealthy woman’s son, after he just goes for a wander in the wasteland. It turns out that we created a bunch of Probes (mining robots), but made the mistake of giving them tons of really good weapons and enough intelligence to become sort-of sentient and rebel. So they’re patrolling the wilderness picking off any human without the sense they were born with, but the androids can kick a little butt and come home with the kid. Main android is DeeCee, and he’s played by Joey Lawrence, 90s sitcom star (“Blossom”); there’s also TeeDee (pro wrestler Chris Jericho) and Tranc, who not only doesn’t follow the android naming protocol, but gets to wear shorts and kind-of impractically long hair (Armenian-American actor Anne Bedian).
At the same time, Jute (Scott Bairstow, for whom this was his last ever role) is losing his job at the shovelling plant. Seriously, the poor fella looks like he’s just got to shovel things into a fire-y tube all day long, so if I did that job and they replaced me with an android I’d be delighted. But he’s not, and this fuels his anti-android feeling – by the way, if you’re thinking this is some racial allegory, it’s not that smart. This does raise a quite important question, however – what point is there, with a fairly small non-mobile human population, having unemployed people? Democracy seems to exist, sort of, so it’s not like they’re just after a tiny handful of wealthy humans and androids to serve their purposes. Use androids for stuff humans can’t do, why don’t you?
Jute gets into a bar brawl with TeeDee and eventually “kills” him, which leads to the arrest of him and his wife Rachel (Amy Matysio). DeeCee is a prototype, and his emotions get the better of him, so he’s sent off to Terminus, a combined re-programming centre / prison out in the wilderness, and of course the two men are handcuffed together on the transport there. So you’ve got Jute first fighting with, then learning to respect, DeeCee, then getting captured, escaping, discovering the big evil plot, and saving the day.
The guy who’s in charge of building and maintaining the androids is the most obvious villain in (non-superhero) movie history. An absolutely splendid performance, complete with super-villain costume, he’s Varrta (Troy Skog) and he’s magnificent, another one for the Overacting Villain Hall of Fame. He’s sick of humanity, despite being human, and is building a new generation of Probes to beat the other Probes up, but also to kill all the remaining humans and take over, because no supervillain plot is complete without something like that. There’s also a subplot with him inventing an exact replica of human brain fluid, as that’s the thing that’s been holding his work back apparently? There’s another hefty logical problem, with the various androids…Varrta says DeeCee is his greatest creation but flawed (he just wants emotionless robots to rule over, it seems) but both Tranc and the rather doughy male android who’s helping her track down DeeCee and Jute also show emotions, lots of them, to the stage you’re wondering if the director remembered they were supposed to be androids too. If anything, DeeCee is the least emotional of the main androids we see.
The movie switches between Terminus, Phoenix and the desert, but respect to the person who found the sets for them to use. Terminus is a giant chemical plant, which is fairly standard, but it also looks like it’s still in use, so it adds a little authenticity; there’s also some great abandoned buildings out in the desert. It’s a cool looking film.
Add in a strong final fight, as our heroes take on the forces of Terminus (after being almost rescued by Rachel, and it was nice to see her do something) and you’ve got a completely entertaining SyFy movie. It’s a long way from being original, but it figured out what it wanted to do, found a bunch of decent actors and some good locations and just did it. Okay, Scott Bairstow just grimaces and punches people, but given he’d not worked since 2003 and this was his last performance, he’d probably already mentally checked out of the movie business.
Kudos to director Paul Ziller, who’s very familiar to us at the ISCFC. He did “Bloodfist 4” way back in the 90s, but starting with 2004’s “Snakehead Terror”, became one of SyFy’s go-to directors, directing a good dozen of their original movies up to 2012’s “Ghost Storm” (so it’s perhaps best he stopped). But this is solid, entertaining and if it gets repeated, definitely worth your time.
Rating: thumbs up