Cyborg Cop (1993)

If you’ve ever heard of “Cyborg Cop”, you might wonder why the ISCFC has never covered it – it’s perfect for us, in terms of era, production company, stars and plot. Well, I watched it about a week before I answered a forum post saying “anyone want to review movies?” and started writing for this site, back in 2012, and I’ve needed this amount of time to forget enough stuff about it to watch it again, and it fits in nicely with our “— Cop” series of reviews.

It’s a welcome return for David Bradley – not the one from “Kes”, or the one from the “Harry Potter” movies, I’m talking about the famous one here – last seen by us in “American Samurai”. Here, he’s DEA agent Jack Ryan (generic name alert!) and he and his brother Philip (Todd Jensen) are tracking down some dealer through a disused factory. The dealer has a hostage and a vest, so Jack takes out his magic armour-piercing bullets, which you’d think would be referenced later during the climactic battle but totally aren’t, and shoots him. Hostage survives, bad guy dead, no problem, right? Well, the TV news, making Fox News look actually fair and balanced, are there within seconds, and as the dead guy is the son of a media magnate, Jack is out of a job.

Jack retires to a generic bar, to wear a leather jacket and a fanny-pack and look miserable. Philip, still a DEA guy, takes a team to storm the remote compound of Kessel, and here’s where I need to stop the review for a moment.

John Rhys Davies! Reviews of his movies litter our pages, and his run on TV show “Sliders” is a particular highlight – we can even leave aside his crappy Margaret Thatcher-supporting right wing views. But here, he clearly turned up for the first day of filming and said “hey, director! I’ve got an idea. How about I do a camp Yorkshire accent?” and then just refused to change it when everyone said it was not a good idea. As far as I’m aware, it’s not JRD’s real accent (having been born down south and brought up in Wales) and it appears this particular voice is not one of his strong suits. Anyway.

Philip is captured by Kessel and Jack has to go and look for him. As the title sort of gives it away, Kessel’s business plan, as well as selling drugs, is to create cyborg warriors and sell them to international terrorist organisations – the prototype is the guy who captures Philip. Before we go any further, Quincy (the prototype’s name) has an amazing knife-hand thing, like a combination of Freddy Krueger and Wolverine, and his impassive performance is a minor gem. Anyway, Jack gets to (Mysterious Unnamed Caribbean Island) and wouldn’t you know it, the reporter who exposed him back at the beginning of the movie is here on the island to look into the same thing! It may take you at least three seconds to figure out they’ll be having sex at some point soon; but Alonna Shaw, who plays Cathy, is actually a pretty good actress, so it’s still fun to watch.

The movie progresses pretty much like you expect it to. Jack and Cathy investigate things, get involved in chases and fights, and Kessel tries to track them down, or kill them, or both. Director Sam Firstenberg (who also did the first two “American Ninja” movies, as well as “American Samurai”) knows how to keep things going at a good pace. There’s a fine example of something which is lost in movies today – good blood squibs. There’s so much CGI shooting these days that it’s fun to see someone doing it the old way, and doing it well too.

Also, kudos to writer Greg Latter, who’s got some comedy form. As well as JRD’s performance (which we could charitably describe as OTT on purpose), there’s some decent banter between the two stars, and some decent comic relief from Kurt Egelhof as “Rastaman”. Plus, a guy gets a hole punched right through his head, which (I hope for my sanity) was put in there as a grim joke.

This is another Nu Image production. They were founded by executives from Cannon after that company folded (check out our review of the Cannon documentary HERE) and decided to make movies just as cheesy as Cannon did, but to actually have a control on their finances and so on. That’s why Golan and Globus are a joke now and Nu Image is making the Expendables movies and sitting on a large pile of cash. We have the solid performance and low-ish budgets of movies like “Cyborg Cop” to thank for that success. Hurray, I guess?

Both main stars never made another movie past the late 90s, and I think that’s a shame. David Bradley was a great martial artist, looked like a leading man and, towards the end, bothered to learn acting (he’s totally fine in this, for example). Alonna Shaw is way better than I expected a former model to be, too, so there’s precious few of those moments where your brain tunes out because you can tell everyone on screen is struggling with their lines.

So, it’s a lot of fun, there’s plenty of action, and cyborgs too! ISCFC readers will no doubt have a fine time with this one. Join us in a few days to see if part 2 is anywhere near as good!

Rating: thumbs up

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Cybernator (1991)

Cybernator

Normally, playing a game of “hey, it’s That Guy” (or “That Gal”) is fun, when you’re watching something big-budget. However, when you’re watching a sub-sub-bargain-basement film like “Cybernator” and you start to recognise people from “Samurai Cop” and the “Nuke Em High” films, then you might need to start asking yourself some serious questions.

The IMDB summary of this is succinct and perfect. “In the future, an L.A. cop whose girlfriend is a stripper uncovers a conspiracy concerning killer cyborgs.” I’m half tempted to do the film reviewer equivalent of drop my mic and walk off the stage at this point, but there’s plenty of fun stuff to talk about.

Brent McCord is the LA cop, and if you’ve seen literally any film from the 80s, you’ll recognise the basics. Leading political and military figures are being killed and he’s just trying to do his job. Plus, there are cyborgs around! I sort of wondered if they were going for some racial tolerance thing, but the cyborgs are all evil and deserve to get shunned in the street and eventually shot to pieces.

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“Cybernator” may put you off going to see strippers for ever. The strip club is incredibly ugly and atmosphere-free, and I think director Robert Rundle should have just hired a couple of real strippers because it’s not like he could have possibly found a worse actress; combine that with stripping that looks like a jazzercise class for people with broken hips, and you’ve got a recipe for a bad time. Talking of ugly locations, the two virtually identical offices used by the police captain and the army Colonel are so nondescript that your eyes fight to stop looking at the screen – although a good spot from my wife was a bar right at the front of the shot in the Army office, which indicates they were filming in the corner of an old-fashioned bank (perhaps one of the cast worked there as a day job and snuck them in to film).

They’ve never met a cop movie cliche they didn’t love, either – we get the big “you’re off this case” speech, and the main guy hands in his badge at one point. We even get the girlfriend giving it the “please don’t go”  to McCord as he’s about to go after the androids, even if it’s about half an hour too early for it to really work. But they try! If you’ve seen any of the films we’ve reviewed here, you’ll see the twist coming a mile away, but it’s not a bad twist, just slightly over-used.

It’s not all cliches, though, like when they go to speak to the coroner, and it’s an Asian woman. She’s not there for comic relief or to be an exotic romantic encounter, she’s just a normal, friendly woman doing her job. Noticing it made me realise how rare that sort of character is, even now, and how completely unknown it was back in 1992, especially in American cinema. Good on you, “Cybernator”.

This film also has one of the longest and least erotic love scenes I’ve seen. My wife went in the kitchen to make herself a drink at the beginning of it, and as the lovemaking was accompanied by awful music, she could hear it and kept saying “is that damn scene still going on? Seriously?” I feel like the occasional shot of a breast (while all we see of the man is a bare chest) is like the tenth worst thing about that scene.

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I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Now, this is a film with rotten acting (the lead, Lonnie Schuyler, is so bad as to almost defy belief), cliches stacked a mile high, perhaps the worst soundtrack ever, ugly sets and terrible special effects, including but not limited to cyborgs with bits of metal glued to their face, lasers that are sort of near the gun they’re supposed to be coming from, but you know what? I really enjoyed it. It’s a throwback to the days of Ed Wood, when clueless directors, bored / incompetent actors, terrible special effects and awful scripts combined to make real “so bad it’s good” movies. This film definitely belongs in the pantheon of great bad movies, and I definitely recommend it for your next bad movie night.

And it’s available for free on Youtube! I didn’t mention the Troma connection, but they evidently bought the rights to it (they had nothing to do with its production) and as they’ve put up their entire back catalogue on Youtube, knock yourselves out.