Future Kick (1991)

There are certain things I feel it’s important to spoiler before you ever get to the movie, although the list is relatively short. “Does the dog die” is, of course, the most important, because dogs are great and killing them can be used as a cheap emotional device so you ought to be able to avoid that bit if you like. That doesn’t apply to “Future Kick”, though. The one which does?

“It was all a dream”. This is probably the worst plot device in the history of plot devices, a cheap and unbelievably irritating thing which is rarely used because it sucks so much ass, and has become a pop culture joke (such as the entire season of TV show “Dallas” which was all a dream because the show’s ratings were tanking and they needed to bring back some characters). Anyway, this entire movie, minus a few minutes at the beginning and end, is a dream / VR game being played by one of the main characters, and if you’re as annoyed by this garbage as I am, you may want to avoid this altogether. If not, then read on.

In the future, rich people have pissed off to the Moon, and everyone else lives in misery on Earth. Well, apart from the corporations, who control everything. They create Cyberons, super-powered police officers, but the Cyberons work out that the corporations are the big evil and start going after them; so the corporations then create the “Corporate Police” to kill the Cyberons. All but two of them have been finished off, and that’s where we join things, roughly.

Howard (Jeff Pomerantz, who looks like the bad guy in an 80s soap opera, or a low level hotel manager in real life) is one of the rich people on the Moon, and he’s a computer programmer, who’s making super-good VR program to distract the people up there from their lives of no proper air or outside or anything like that. He tries it but it’s full of frightening images, and warns his wife Nancy (Meg Foster – “Oblivion”, “Immortal Combat”, “Best Of The Best 2”) against giving it a go til he comes back, as he has to go to Earth for some meetings. She says don’t worry! I prefer a good book anyway, and off he goes. She, for absolutely no reason, puts it on –

EVERYTHING FROM NOW TO TEN SECONDS BEFORE THE END OF THE MOVIE IS A DREAM

– and in the next scene removes it and gets the news that her husband has gone missing on Earth. He left the airport and went straight to get some hookers, getitng involved in an illegal organ-harvesting operation on Earth, to help rich folk replace their ageing bodies. Fairly quickly, he turns up dead, so Nancy has to go to Earth to look for him.

Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who has his martial arts credentials listed under his name in the opening credits (same as the early “Bloodfist” entries!), is Walker, the final remaining Cyberon (or so we think). Although he’s presumably been declared illegal and is hunted wherever he goes, he carries on doing his old job, of hunting criminals for the bounty. Nope, makes no sense to me either. Nancy is in the police station, meets Walker and hires him to help her out. They go to Zona Rosa, where all the sex and crime is, and while they’re sort-of investigating, the chief organ-harvester for the evil corp, Hynes, and his sidekick Bang (Chris Penn, a year before “Reservoir Dogs” would put him out of the price range of Roger Corman forever), slaughter their way through the wasteland of future-Earth.

The main thing I enjoyed about “Future Kick”, apart from the title, is how gory it is. A few people explode, drenching everyone around them in lumpy blood, heads and limbs are severed, Don gets his finger chopped off…it’s a fun throwback to a simpler time. There’s also plenty of nudity – I mean, the script insisted they film at a strip club. What else could the director do? The fighting, surprisingly, is a bit rubbish, although we do get a lot of kicking, in the future.

Corman is a thrifty fellow, for two reasons. One, the movie barely gets above the 70 minute mark before the credits roll; and two, he liberally re-uses footage from his other productions. If you’re watching this and a scene sticks out, like you’re thinking “why are they spending all this cash on a three-second reaction shot?”, the simple answer is “they aren’t”.

While it doesn’t slow down enough to get boring, it’s a bit on the cheap side, meaning the vast world of future LA is one strip club, one police station, and a filthy street with garbage and hoboes in it. Plus, the wealthy moon-people would presumably take security down with them and could buy better police protection, but again, that sort of thing would be more expensive to film so they just don’t bother.

Oh, Don has magic glasses that apparently help with his Cyberon-stuff, but no-one questions why you build a cyborg but force him to wear glasses to get the full range of features. Also, the movie never explains what they’re for or why he needs to wear them. Ah, who cares.

So, it’s short! (Thumbs up) But it sucks and is stupid and has the crappiest ending imaginable! (Thumbs down)

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Future-Kill (1985)

At some point in the early 80s, in between runs to the local coke dealer’s place, a group of movie execs were discussing how great “The Warriors” was, but how it’d be even better (for their purposes) if almost the entire cast was white. Oh, and how maybe the villain should be sort of a cross between the Terminator and Freddy Krueger.

That’s how I like to imagine “Future-Kill” was born. For such a relatively unheard-of movie, it’s surprisingly good fun, with weak-ish performances and a few lulls made up for with a decent central concept; a worthy addition to the latest ISCFC review mini-series, “movies that start with the word Future”.

Early on, we meet both strands of our story. One is a large community of anti-nuclear protestors, who’ve essentially taken over a significant portion of an unnamed city. The protestors have created their own subculture, which apparently revolves around non-violence, and wearing an excessive amount of face make-up, like a reject from a bad New Romantic band. Although, the cover-star, a gentleman by the name of Splatter (Ed Neal, who co-wrote the movie and was also in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, many years previously), is only hanging out in this part of town because he’s got actual radiation poisoning and has a cybernetic arm (complete with razor-talons), a metal face-mask and he 100% does not agree with the non-violence thing.

The frat guys are a curious bunch, because I guess we’re supposed to like them? But their first action is to destroy the expensive sports car of the head of the “evil” frat; and they then tar-and-feather one of the evil frat’s lieutenants – the other frat appear to have done nothing to them, and even invites them to their big party and offers them a reasonable deal to save face. Perhaps if I was a horny frat douchebag in the mid 80s I’d feel differently? Oh, by the way, the reasonable deal is to turn up to the next party is women’s underwear – to which the largest and angriest of the frat guys says “I ain’t faggin’ up for nobody!” Ah, the 80s. They try to put some frat-style gross-out shenanigans in there, like tricking two of the guys into a threesome with a hot prostitute, but they turn out the lights and do a literally impossible switch with a larger woman with massive boobs who of course horrifies the two.

ASIDE: one of the random guys at this party is a debuting – aside from an entirely uncredited bit-part in “Police Academy” – John Hawkes, future Oscar winner and star of “Scary Movie” (not that one).

The way these two groups come together is one of those “will this do?” 11th hour writer’s decisions. The frat guys are actually pledges, and the head of the frat, who’s the nerdiest guy to ever hold that position in any movie ever (I’m counting “Revenge of the Nerds” here), dresses them like protestors, takes them downtown and tells them to kidnap a random guy. The one he picks is, of course, stood ten feet away from Splatter, who instantly murders the head frat guy, then murders the head protestor (who to this point has been his only real friend), pins it on the frat guys and tools up ready for some butchery.

While “The Warriors” is the obvious template (they even do the thing where one of them falls in love with a local lady), watching this in 2018, you’ll probably be reminded of 90s classic “Judgement Night” (the movie most famous for its soundtrack). “Future-Kill”, though, is almost entirely devoid of context, like it would be impossible to get offended by it or see any wider points being raised. Heck, even though they pay the faintest of lip service to its future setting it’s basically set “today”. If you really wanted to stretch, you could say the protestors are stand-ins for angry black youth, but the producers realised that by the mid 80s you couldn’t have a movie where the villains are entirely black and the heroes entirely white.

It loses its way a little in the middle, as well. With “The Warriors”, you knew where they were at all times, and there was a real sense of where they were headed. Here, you’ll find yourself begging them to just pick a direction and run that way, until they encounter some helpful people or the bus, or anything. But they meander as if they’re not being chased by a deranged psychopath and his gun-toting goons. They sort of get close to making a point, that civilisation is a veneer you need to get rid of if you want to survive, but it’s pretty cloth-eared about it all.

The acting is almost uniformly rotten, with lots of people whose IMDB profiles don’t have a photo (the kiss of death, fame-wise). It makes me wonder about the genesis of it all – this is the sole writing or directing credit for one Ronald W Moore, who was apparently friends from university with Ed Neal; they seem to be relying on having two cast members from “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” to do all the work of selling it (the other being Marilyn Burns).

It’s got a great (read: terrible) soundtrack and a VHS cover from HR Giger, who must have been doing someone a favour. I know I’ve been less than kind to it, but it’s still quite a bit of fun, even if I’d have made it shorter, trimming the opening frat-garbage portion way down. Worth a watch, even if you’re not doing a weird review series.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

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A lot of the fun of watching both this and the first “Purge” movie is pondering just how the Purge wouldn’t work. While writing notes for this, I went and looked at my review of the first one, and not only did I accurately predict the plot of “Anarchy”, I’d already thought of most of the issues then, so I’ll just rewrite that bit. Can you plagiarise yourself?

 

The Purge is still going strong, the one night a year where America’s new rulers, The New Founding Fathers, decree all crime is legal, so everyone can apparently purge themselves. Three groups come together – a man looking for the driver who killed his son; a mother and daughter escaping from “soldiers” kidnapping everyone in their building; and a young couple, about to separate in a very mature way, whose car breaks down halfway home. On the streets are two main sources of danger – a group of masked thugs who seem to have targeted the young couple; and a huge truck that holds a ton of computer equipment and one large minigun.

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Depth is added by Michael Kenneth Williams (aka Omar from “The Wire”) as revolutionary Carmelo, standing up to the frankly ludicrous system; and the rituals that have sprung up round the Purge with the rich treating it as a sport. This adds a layer to the original movie, which really needed it, and any doubt that may have existed in the original about the political motivation of the New Founding Fathers is gone. The entire system is a far right fantasy, where death squads either kill the poor or send them to groups of rich people to hunt in special arenas.

 

I think it’s fair to say that the writer/director is more bothered about the world and the broad strokes than he is the characters. The young couple do absolutely nothing, other than complain, and the mother / daughter combo, while a bit better, one gets the feeling the camera discovered them by accident rather than writing a film about more interesting characters.

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My main problem with it, even though this movie has improved in leaps and bounds from its predecessor, is how fundamentally broken the filmmakers’ idea of the future is, despite it being a fairly high-concept movie. I’m not the smartest guy, but a hundred problems popped into my head as I was watching it, such as the lack of  psychological problems from killing someone. The reason we don’t murder people from dawn to dusk is not because of the laws against it, but because, by and large, we don’t want to. When you start thinking of violence as a solution to your problems on one day, you’re more likely to think it’s a solution on every other day – take that street gang, for instance. There is absolutely no chance in hell they’re not committing crimes the other 364 days a year (even if the film tells us crime rates are at an all-time low).

 

There’s other issues. Fire, for example. If there’s no fire service for the 12 hours of the Purge, then I’m thinking one or two pyromaniacs could go hog wild in that time (the couple of puffs of smoke we see at the end would be a raging inferno). Cities would burn to the ground. Religious fundamentalists might decide to sabotage the water supply to a place like Las Vegas to get rid of the scum there, and cause billions of dollars worth of damage. Women who went into labour at the beginning of the Purge might suffer severe problems. Is there insurance in this world? I would think that professional criminals would just loot the hell out of everything they could find and export it or sell it the next day, which would absolutely destroy the economy. Bank managers would just rob the heck out of their own banks. What about living in the same building as the guy who raped you the night before, and not being able to do anything about it? There would be race wars. And so on, and so forth.

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The filmmakers clearly listened to criticism of part 1, because they answer some of the more obvious problems, or at least try. The ending scene, while on first glance looking a bit unlikely, is, if you ponder on motivations, quite powerful. It shows you quite a lot of different groups, different ways of organising, and does it well. Okay, it feels like the middle section of a longer story (which it is, if the sequel is happening) but it’s a nice example of a sequel which improves on what came before.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle