Terminal Justice

Director:Rick King                                 
Lorenzo Lamas, Chris Sarandon, Peter Coyote

I hate Lorenzo Lamas. Why he is a star is beyond me; for one thing, the man simply can't act. He utters all of his lines in the same soft monotone voice, no matter what his characters are feeling, or for whatever situation they are in. Even his facial features (always sported with a permanent day's growth of beard) never seem to change throughout any of his movies. And he always looks like he slept in a gutter in the night before, with his long uncombed greasy hair, and ill-fitting (and ill looking) clothes. And just look at the movies he's made. They include such monstrosities like Body Rock, Final Impact, Bad Blood, and three SnakeEater movies. I had never seen a good Lorenzo Lamas movie, so when I got a chance to see Terminal Justice, I was naturally hesitant at first. In the end, I decided to watch it, so I could again serve the public by telling them about another B movie person to avoid (which I did earlier with Albert Pyun in my review of Omega Doom.) But I was surprised by Terminal Justice. Now, don't get me wrong - overall, this movie doesn't get a recommendation from me. However, I was never bored by the movie, and I actually found several things about the movie either entertaining or intriguing. It's not a movie to willingly pay for or seek out - but if you are pressed to watch a Lorenzo Lamas movie, this is the movie to choose.

The movie takes place in 2008, in some unidentified North American city. What's interesting about this setting is even though there is some new technology seen throughout, the movie shows civilian life pretty much as it is now - a more realistic viewpoint, I think. This slightly advanced look is evident in the first scene, showing famous actress Pamela Travis (Kari Saldin) relaxing one night in her home. Her relaxation is interrupted by several masked men trying to break in. Luckily, cop Bobby Chase (Lamas) is moonlighting as a security guard, and quickly arrives to save Pamela. In the darkened house, Chase's eyes suddenly switch to a shining green - his eyes are actually man-made, with a night vision mode. I didn't actually find the idea of these eyes silly - here and elsewhere, these devices are treated fairly seriously - but seeing someone like Lamas having glow-in-the-dark eyes is pretty amusing.

Needless to say, Chase saves the day (make that "night".) And needless to say, Pamela is still a bitch, since its standard in movies like this for the woman to be mean towards the male hero at first. The police department assigns Chase to head up the police unit assigned to keep Pamela under guard. Bobby isn't pleased with this, especially since he has another agenda in mind - he is determined to bust criminal Reggie Matthews (Sarandon), head of a software company devoted to virtual reality, for illegal activities on the side (as well as for a mysterious personal reason.) Chase is assisted by his partner during his pursuit. Since his partner is significantly older than him, it's inevitable that during a chase of some of Matthews' henchmen, Chase's partner gets gunned down. The next few minutes boast some of Lamas' worst attempts at acting, including him uttering, "!" in his monotone, feebly kicking around the furniture while alone in his apartment, and covering all of his face with his hands while bending his head back.

Terminal Justice boasts several silly sequences like that, one of the more silly being later, when at a restaurant, Chase and Pamela are attacked by the bad guys by a model helicopter with what seems like an unlimited number of bullets. Not a very practical weapon, if you think about it. It's also silly when Chase and Pamela soon fall in love and jump into bed together, since (aside from that dinner scene) they have hardly spent any time together. That relationship is strictly B movie formula. Though elsewhere in the movie, there is a relationship that's not typical. Soon after Chase's partner is killed, he is forced to team up with Hiroshi (Todd Thawley, in a good performance), a sarcastic lab technician. Chase's first impression (and ours) of Hiroshi is that he is a snotty little twerp, going strictly by the book. Of course, their first attempt at teaming up doesn't go very well, and there is shouting. But little by little, the two start to work well together, teaming up in various ways. And during this evolution, our viewpoint on Hiroshi changes as well. We learn more about him as the movie progresses, and we begin to like him, even feeling sympathy for him when he's placed in a dangerous or embarrassing situation. This relationship also generates some nice comic moments. In one scene, Hiroshi wants to hack into Chase's computer eyes, so he can see on his computer monitor what Chase is seeing at the other end of town. "So what happens when I have to take a leak?" complains Chase. Hiroshi dryly replies, "I'll use magnification, if that will help."

The idea of linking into Chase's computer eyes is one of many interesting things that can be seen in this movie. It's also well done in execution, with both men giving each other information to work on in order to solve the problem at hand. There's also a neat virtual reality machine that the police department uses. A computer scans and records everything in a crime scene, and later, the police can revisit the crime scene via virtual reality, to see if they missed anything at the actual scene, or if they made a mistake collecting evidence the first time. Terminal Justice also brings up and briefly discusses some serious issues that may come with advances on certain aspects of technology. In this future, sex is available on virtual reality. Since it is "perfect every time", many men have long stopped having sex with real women and pursuing real relationships. Violent and illegal virtual reality games that have killed some of its players are hot on the black market. The movie also makes some creepy theories as to how human cloning might be exploited, and that how laws may have to be changed when the first human clones appear.

So while Terminal Justice does have some silly moments, it has quite a few original and interesting ideas up its sleeves. The movie is also very well produced; despite the low-key set design and other effects, there was definitely a budget here, giving the movie a very good look without making the mistake of making it too polished. It's much better than most B movies, but it doesn't quite work either - there are two major problems with this movie. The first problem is that viewers will be in a mild state of confusion in many parts of the movie; there are too many times when something is either never explained, or not explained or revealed until later in the movie. Chase's eyes are not explained as soon as you'd think. It's suddenly revealed more than halfway in the movie that Pamela is famous among men because she was used illegally in a virtual reality sex program. Beforehand, we get the impression she's popular, but we don't know why. We don't even see her character do some acting at any time in the movie! The confusion of the movie is furthered by the fact that for large segments of the movie, the story grinds to a halt. During such times, we wonder just where this story is going. It doesn't help that the movie is set in an anonymous city, and sometimes in anonymous locations.

The second reason is Lamas. Once again, he gives a very poor performance, not just in his scenes where he is upset. He talks with such an impassive tone, we don't root for him, we just get impatient at him. Because of this, Chase becomes a bland character when a strong hero is needed. When he says a line like, "Burn in hell, you monster..." in a whisper, it destroys any chance of Lamas building an aura of some kind of feeling around him. The movie needs a hero who is determined and can let his feelings get to himself. Also, Lamas is dressed up in scruffy leather pants and a leather overcoat (which he wears throughout the movie), somehow giving Chase a kind of stinkiness around him, even if we can't smell anything. It doesn't help that his stubble and long dirty hair accompanies this outfit. This performance and the confusing aspects sink the movie from being a B movie gem into a near miss. Terminal Justice is yet more evidence that Lorenzo Lamas has never made a good movie, and I don't think any time in the future I'll say so. But I have to admit, I never thought that I'd ever say that Lorenzo Lamas has been in a movie good enough to be a near miss. When you consider the quality of Lamas' other movies, I think that's worth something. P.S. - I hate Lorenzo Lamas.

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See also: Body Armor, Deadly Force, Lethal Tender