Cast: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo
Special guest review!
By Jason Alt
A grim version of
the future. A planet devastated by war. Test-tube babies. Giant robots.
Drinks that taste like blood. Russians. Flying cars. The Hawaiian dude
from Problem Child. Giant robots. Are these not the
essential elements of the perfect film? No? Who asked you anyway?
which is set in the not-too-distant future, contains all of the above
ingredients for sheer cinematic mastery. So it is no surprise that this
movie bankrupted Empire Films. “Wait, did I read that right?” you may
be asking yourself. Yes, unfortunately you did; this movie was such a
turd in the punch bowl that is the box office that the production
company went broke 3 months after unleashing this cinematic juggernaut
onto an America which was, frankly, not ready. Which was a travesty
considering all the things this film had going for it. Somewhere along
the way it lost its audience, failed to put butts in theater seats, and
utterly failed to transition to video (and laserdisc for that matter).
But what can we
expect from a hit/miss director like Stuart Gordon? He has had both his
great successes (Re-Animator) and his disappointments (Space
Truckers and the incredibly unsuccessful film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit.) His
writing career has been just as unpredictable and he has fared very
well in that respect. His story, which you may have heard of, features
a man who has to tell his wife that he has somehow shrunken their kids.
“Honey,” he tells her, “I shrunk the kids.” I don’t recall what the
name of that movie was. He then wrote The Dentist.
But inconsistency is not what crippled this movie and ultimately an
unwitting production firm. The reason this film bombed is actually not
apparent. We would do better to take an objective look at the film as a
whole and judge it on its merits.
The story is utter
Gouda. Calling it Brie wouldn’t even do it justice. This is just
perfect by me, really. Wars are settled by pilots of giant robots with
each pilot (what is the singular of Jox?) having to fight 10 battles
before retirement. The Jox are being driven to an early retirement by
test tube babies who are designed to be the ultimate fighting machines.
The plot centers
around Achilles (Graham) who, in his 10th and final bout,
accidentally kills lots and lots of spectators. Swearing he is going
into retirement despite the rescheduling of the 10th bout,
he, in movie protagonist fashion, comes out of retirement at the last
minute to save the girl and win the fight against a Russian dude who
has an accent. Did I give away the whole plot? If you didn’t see that
exact ending coming as soon as all of the characters were introduced,
you probably aren’t old enough to be watching a PG-13 movie anyway. And
it’s past your bed time.
The acting is
great. By that, I mean “stereotyporific”. Everyone tries their best to
act like the vague, sweeping generalizations of the minority group they
represent. And I love it. “Hmmm, I wonder if the Russian guy is going
to drink some vodka! OOOH! He did!” “I wonder if the guy in the
gigantic cowboy hat is going to have a southern accent. He does!
Magnificent!” Even Gary Graham, who is commonly panned by Hollywood
contemporaries (Me) for being a very wooden actor, is wooden. And
that’s great. It’s just what we expected and it’s why we love him so.
Because his character, Achilles was written that way. In fact, I
daresay that Gary Graham plays a better Achilles than Brad Pitt. Put
that in your pipe and smoke it, why don’t you?
Is there anything
funnier than a scene in a movie where an ordinary person’s ordinary
actions are rendered comedic genius by sheer virtue of their being
drunk/drugged? A person walking down the street is boring, but a drunk
Kevin Spacey staggering down the road, shouting vague philosophical
theories at confused onlookers…still didn’t save The Life Of
David Gale from tarnishing Spacey’s sterling acting resumee. It
came close though, and the scenes with Achilles drugged and/or drunk
trying to fight and even not fall down and piss his pants made me feel
like I was going to have a hard time not pissing my pants. This
movie really didn’t take itself too seriously, which is a relief. A
poignant piece about the moral hurdles a man-slaughtering former giant
mecahnoid jockey faces while he battles crippling depression,
alcoholism and juvenile onset diabetes this move is not.
are an awesome sight to behold. A montage of 12-inch-tall
plastic models and stop-motion photography blend to form an orgasmic
experience. An “eyegasm” if you will. I am friends with a guy who knows
a guy who did the models for the film….I basically worked on it myself,
really. Anyway, this (albeit vague) connection netted me a few tidbits
of uncommonly known information about the miniatures. Namely that they
were, to put it scientifically, dropped. On the floor. One model in
particular, in fact. On the eve of principal robot photography. If you
look closely at the jet-packs on the robots you will see one that is
obviously repaired with super glue and lots of cursing. And now I pass
this information along to you, dear readers. Laugh along with me at the
high-school-play-ishness of this film. And yet it so nearly struck oil
at the box office. Instead it struck the septic tank.
The Robots are
equipped with the kinds of weapons that one would expect to see on
giant dueling robots. All the standard weapons are there; flamethrower,
laser, giant rope-saw, rocket propelled boxing glove (no, really). This
movie takes us into the behind the scenes and gives us not only a peek
into the cockpit of the giant bots, but also into the command center
where a team of robot experts gives advice to the “jock” both over his
radio and on the heads-up display inside the cockpit. A lot of thought
obviously went into conveying how teamwork is essential in the war of
the future, and also that the military of the future will employ the
same 6 button flight simulator joystick that came bundled with my old
Nothing, that I can
see, is wrong with this movie. I really thought it was a gas. You
probably will too. And it is available on DVD directly from Ebay,
complete with barely any special features. Maybe the production
company couldn’t afford to put any on here! (There is no way to express
my evil laugh via text; suffice it to say it would make your beer
curdle, or your vodka taste like blood.) So see it. Buy it on
DVD. Or rent it from Blockbuster and “misplace it” and pay the 9 dollar
replacement fee. That’s the cool thing to do these days anyway.
Also reviewed at: Cold Fusion
for availability on Amazon (VHS)
Check for availability on Amazon (Blu-Ray)
for availability on Amazon (DVD)
See also: Godzilla Vs. King
Ghidora, King Kong Escapes, Star Kid