Much like the “observer effect” in quantum physics, where the mere observation of an experiment causes a change to its state, so too it is with 1990s straight-to-video action movies. Just when you think you’ve reviewed all the half-decent ones, yet more emerge from the woodwork (okay, that’s nothing like the observer effect). But even though the ISCFC has featured over a thousand reviews, with mine personally coming in at a little over 900, I’d never even heard of this one until a few days ago.
The whole “never heard of it” thing is even more surprising when you factor in the two stars – Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Richard Norton. We covered the entirety of Wilson’s “Bloodfist” series a little while ago, and we’ve been fans of Norton’s ever since we saw him in a few Cynthia Rothrock movies. And here, we even get to hear Norton’s real accent!
Right from the beginning, we’re given a world which is something of a conundrum. Outside a club is a hologram person, imploring people to come in as they’ve got it all – “beer, whisky, heroin, cocaine”. So, this is a world where everything is legal, or where the forces of law & order have broken down completely, right? Well, not quite. In this heady far-off future of 2015, the US Government has merged with a corporation (I think? They’re sort of unclear on that point, the flags are different though) and we’ve now got the Computerised Judicial System. How crimes are investigated is a matter we’re never informed about, but people aren’t so much arrested as brutally murdered by a huge bald cyborg. Perhaps the cyborgs only go after the big crimes? Again, information we’re not given, although there is a sequel which may fill in all these holes, much like “Prometheus”.
Wilson is Eric Philips, low-level security guard for Senator Dilly (John Aprea, last seen by us in “Savage Beach” and “Dead Man On Campus”); Norton is Dilly’s right-hand man, Ross. Eric and Ross help to thwart an attempt on Dilly’s life by the UHR – “Union For Human Rights” – and because Eric is so awesome, he’s let into the inner circle. Although, the inner circle is basically Dilly going “watch me murder this unarmed protestor”, so Eric runs away, horrified at the person he’s working for.
Director Richard Pepin is no slouch – we’ve already covered his stuff in “T-Force” and “Hologram Man” – and he makes as much effort as his budget will allow to build a world. This is stuff like the bizarrely flirtatious relationship Eric has with the AI running his house; the scene where he turns her “perception” down so she won’t question his crap opens a whole can of philosophical worms. Then there’s the work of TV newsreader Connie (Stacie Foster), whose piece about the UHR is the most friendly-to-terrorism piece of news reporting perhaps ever. She’s as fine and obvious a love interest as b-movies have ever given us, even if I was worrying that she’d still not met Eric by the halfway point.
So, a fairly solid man-on-the-run plot; just one with cyborgs in it. When you’ve got Richard Norton and Don “The Dragon” Wilson as your stars, you can also expect plenty of fighting, and they’re both of course brilliant. One of the many plus points about low-budget cinema is you’ll get the main guys doing their own fighting, so you can keep the camera in close (no need to cut around faces or obviously incorrect haircuts). But the gun-play leaves a little to be desired. As the Cyber Trackers are made of some weird magic super-hard skin stuff, they don’t need to worry about dodging bullets or finding cover; and they’re also terrible shots, meaning there are a few more scenes than strictly necessary of a Tracker stood in the middle of a room, shots bouncing harmlessly off him, missing large numbers of people who aren’t making any attempt to cover themselves either.
I mentioned the low budget, but if you were counting the number of cars that blow up, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s got a much larger amount of money spent on it. Explosion after explosion after explosion…they even blow up a fire-truck at one point, which can’t have been cheap. Stock footage or the fact the director is also the boss of the production company? Seriously though, if you miss the explosions, wait two minutes and another one will be along.
A couple of splendid tropes of low budget cinema pop up here too. One is the “Access File” screen. You’ll have seen it yourself dozens of times, the good guy trying to log on to the villain’s computer, and rather than using Windows or Linux, it’s just a screen where you type in “Access File X” and it pops straight up. Perhaps Hollywood has its own OS that it’s holding out on us about? And the second, my personal favourite, is the Overconfident Villain. You know the deal – villain has guns, hero is trapped, villain goes “I don’t need guns to beat you!”, puts the guns down and immediately gets his ass kicked by the hero. The ur-example of this is the great Vernon Wells in “Commando”, but this is a fine entry in that particular tradition.
If you like people always doing the dumbest thing in every circumstance, then “CyberTracker” could be the movie for you. Some silly sci-fi, lots of terrible wooden acting, the occasional whisper of a sense of humour, terrible gunfights and excellent hand-to-hand fights. The usual. Let’s see if part 2 is any better!
Rating: thumbs in the middle