Future Hunters (1986)

This movie represents the emergence from the background of our subconscious and the “hey, I recognise that name”-ing of director Cirio Santiago, one of the most prolific directors of the Filipino genre film boom of the mid-70s to mid-90s (as shown in “Machete Maidens Unleashed”, a wonderful documentary). Just roll a few of these titles of his movies round your mind, and just imagine the thrills contained within, and the video store shelves that bent under the weight of them:

TNT Jackson; She Devils In Chains; Vampire Hookers; Death Force; Hell Hole; Stryker; Caged Fury; Final Mission; Naked Vengeance; The Devastator; Eye of the Eagle; Equalizer 2000; Demon of Paradise; The Expendables (not that one); Dune Warriors; Raiders of the Sun; Fire Hawk; Kill Zone; Angelfist; One Man Army, and Bloodfist 2050 (the only one we’ve reviewed so far).

There are many more. A few of them are obvious attempts to cash in on trends – TNT Jackson is blaxploitation, Dune Warriors looks like Dune, etc. – but most of them are just “which Western actors do we have in town this week, and what half-finished script is lying around?”

Which brings us to “Future Hunters”. The main western actors in question are Robert Patrick (who appears to have gotten his start in this part of the world) and the great Richard Norton, whose survival I was immediately worried about when I discovered he wasn’t first-billed. This feels like a much less fun version of the end of “Blazing Saddles”, where the stars break through a bunch of different film sets – it starts off in a post-apocalypse Mad Max style, before turning into an Indiana Jones thing, going through a martial arts section, jungle war movie, Far Eastern travelogue, even throwing in modern Hitler enthusiasts and a friendly army of midgets.

It is, in other words, a movie that’s more fun to describe than it is to watch. But I watched it, so here goes.

Right from the beginning, you know someone realised how odd this all was because we get a two-minute voiceover explaining the world we’re in – 2024, where humanity is virtually extinct thanks to nuclear war. Someone has figured out that the Spear of Longinus, aka the Spear of Destiny, aka the thing that pierced the side of Christ while he was on the cross, has the ability to turn back time, so Matthew (Norton) is described as humanity’s last hope, as he needs to go back and stop the apocalypse from happening. Quite why he’s being chased across the desert by a bunch of bad lads is never adequately explained, but anyway, he gets to a derelict building of some sort and grabs hold of the spear-head, just as the bad guys start shelling the place.

1989! Michelle (Linda Carol) and Slade (Robert Patrick) are at the same ruined building, she looking at the carvings and paintings for her university thesis, he sat around bored. A bunch of criminals attack them for no reason, and Slade is immediately knocked unconscious, showing just the sort of character he’ll be for most of the movie – luckily, out of the ruins wanders Matthew, who saves the couple, shoves the spear into one of the criminals, turning him to dust, then gets shot himself. Sorry, Richard Norton fans!

From this point on, it’s the two of them arguing about whether the spear is real or not, then a bunch of criminals, sent by modern day Hitler wannabe Fielding (Ed Crick) and led by a guy who looks like a blond ape poured into a suit, Bauer (Bob Schott), chasing them across the world. They get just enough information to convince them of the rightness of their mission and eventually Slade grows a backbone, although for a former Marine, he gets his ass kicked by randos way too often.

Aside from the odd bit of bad film fun, like one scene where the two dubbed characters voices change completely half-way through, like the voice guys just wandered outside for a cigarette but they couldn’t be bothered to wait for them to get back, or the chase scene that starts in the dead of night but finishes, minutes later, in broad daylight; it’s honestly a little bit boring. Too many locations, too little sense, and the gradual evolution of Michelle from interesting lead character to damsel in distress is pretty crappy. There’s even a scene where the bad guys tear her dress open as there’s no way they’re making it through an entire movie without degrading a woman.

It’s also too long, clocking in at around 100 minutes. If you’re going to do a cheapo exploitation movie, there’s very little need to have it above 80 minutes, or at the very outside 90. It’s not like they make any more profit if it’s longer, either, so I’m not sure why it was padded so much. The endless battle scene in the last third, which isn’t even all that well directed, could have been half the length and no-one would have minded.

It does have some pleasant lapses in logic which bring it from being terrible to merely puzzling. Like, why don’t the bad guys just kill our couple, rather than tying them up and giving them chances to escape? They’re not needed in the least. Or why do the bad guys keep giving them chances? Is the lead Nazi like one of those serial killers who keeps giving the cops clues as he’s secretly desperate to be caught?

Too little Richard Norton and too much bickering couple. Too much change and too little fun.

Rating: thumbs down

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