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Cyber Tracker
(1994)

Director: Richard Pepin
Cast:
Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Richard Norton, Stacie Foster


I don't know about you, but I have found numerous times over the years that a lot of things in your life can be compared to a muscle in your body - you have to keep up maintenance to it in order that it remain strong and vibrant. One obvious example in my case is my interest in movies. When I was younger, my workout with movies was simpler - I just watched them for pleasure. As I got older, I started to expand my interest - for example, I started to read more and more books concerning movies and the people that made them. Much later, I started this movie review web site, which got me not only to think more about the movies I watched, but to do a heck of a lot more research. With my constant interest in maintaining my movie muscle, I feel confident about talking about them. Much more confident that with a few other things in my life. Take technology, for example. When I was young, I regularly gave my technology muscle a workout. I was well-versed in computers, knowing every which way to tackle an Apple II computer. Also, I knew how to program my family's VCR. But as I left my childhood behind when I became an adult, my technology workouts started to get less and less. Partially because I had other responsibilities in my life, I couldn't keep up with all the new technology that was coming out. For example, if you were to hand me an ipad, I would start off by struggling greatly with it. Oh, I guess that with trial and error I could get to know how to work it - I learned on my own how to work my flat screen television and Blu-ray player when I got them, and I also learned how to use a cell phone when I was assigned one at work. But because I don't regularly work out my technology muscle, I approach any new piece of technology with a little hesitation and not with the highest level of confidence.

In other words, when it comes to technology, I am turning into one of my parents, who didn't know how to program the family VCR and left it to me to program it for them. Part of me doesn't like it when nowadays a new piece of technology comes out, technology that I might have to face and try to work on my own. But there is another reason that I don't look forward to new technology coming out, and that has to do with how it might impact on mankind in a negative fashion. Part of this comes from the constant workout I have given my motion picture muscle over the years. I have seen more than my fair share of movies taking place in the future, movies that usually deal with technology that doesn't exist... yet. And a lot of this technology that is proposed in these movies has a negative side to it. One famous example is with the Terminator movies, where artificial intelligence was applied to the American military defense system, and it ended up nuking the entire world. Another example is with the movie Minority Report, where technology enabled police to track down would-be criminals before they committed their crimes. Movies like those sometimes have me worried about the future. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that all new technology is unwelcome - in many ways technology has made our lives a lot better than even just a few decades ago. But I sometimes wonder the following: Just how much technology is enough? How much new technology can be applied to our lives in a way that mankind would benefit and not suffer from any negative consequences?

Often it seems to me that technology, while bringing positive things, can bring some negative things. For example, the Internet has helped spread knowledge and generate new businesses, but it has also spawned hackers and con men from Nigeria. Cell phones have made communication Cyber Trackereasier, but they have also caused car accidents from people who text while driving. Such negative aspects with new technology keep me exercising my caution muscle when I hear about something new and high tech. Also, my passion for movies makes me pay close attention to the science fiction ones I watch, so I can prepare myself if the technology in the movie ever appears later in real life. That's one reason why Cyber Tracker caught my eye, but another reason was that it was a movie from PM Entertainment, which was the B movie action king around the time this movie was made. The plot: Sometime in the future, the American judicial system has undergone a radical transformation thanks to Robert Dilly (John Aprea, New Jack City), a big shot Senator. The streets are now patrolled by "Cyber Trackers", nearly indestructible humanoid robots that track down criminals and execute them right on the spot several seconds later. As you might expect, not everybody agrees with this new justice system, especially since it's not controlled by human minds. It has resulted in an underground movement called The Union Of Human Rights, which is determined to overthrow the system. However Dilly still has loyal and well trained people to protect him, including secret service agents Eric Phillips (Wilson, Bloodfist 3) and Mark Ross (Norton, China O'Brien). However, Eric one day witnesses Dilly personally murdering a revolutionist, and in short order Eric is not only framed for the murder, thanks to Ross he finds himself pursued by the Cyber Trackers. Eric soon realizes that the only way to clear his name and enact proper justice is to somehow track down The Union and get their help. Eventually Eric finds them and their leader Connie Griffith  (Foster, Steel Frontier), a television reporter, but can Eric and such a small group overcome such a great and powerful mutual enemy?

When I sit down to watch a movie that is set in the future, inevitably at some point a certain question forms in my mind, a question that more likely than not comes into your mind when you watch a movie that's set in the future. And that question is, "How believable is this cinematic futuristic world?" As you no doubt know, when it comes to futuristic movies that are made by B-movie companies, it's more often than not harder to make a convincing world. That's because these B-movie companies usually don't have tens of millions of dollars to spend on props and special effects. Still, making a convincing world can be done on a low budget; it just needs some thought and creativity. So how does the futuristic world of Cyber Tracker come across? I'll start with the look of the movie. As you may have guessed, with the movie now being more than twenty years old, some of the technology on display comes across as dated, mainly the quality of computer graphics on monitors. But for the most part, the look of this future world is acceptable even today. Director Richard Pepin apparently thought that this future world (set a few years after the far-off year of 2014) would in many aspects be alike to how life was back then. People still ride bicycles and wear suits and ties, for example. Don't get me wrong, there is some technology on display that doesn't exist even today, but for the most part this technology is depicted in a way that doesn't seem too fantastic. For example, Eric's apartment's security system may have artificial intelligence, but his conversation with it doesn't seem too far removed from what people have with certain kinds of cell phones in this present day. Some viewers may find hard to swallow the Cyber Trackers, human-looking robots that have the ability to walk, run, and shoot firearms, among other abilities that are still out of the question in present day robotics. But I was willing to accept them, in part because they were the only real fantastic futuristic detail in the movie.

For a low budget B movie, the look of the movie is pretty good. Not just with the depiction of futuristic technology, but also with how it's captured by the people behind the camera; Cyber Tracker has the PM Entertainment trademark of good photography and lighting. However, the depiction of a cinematic futuristic world doesn't just come from its look, but also with the screenplay. And it's here that some of the movie's problems start to become evident. Screenwriter Jacobsen Hart (who also wrote the good futuristic PM Entertainment movie T-Force) biggest mistake in his screenplay is the fact that the characters are not very convincing. For example, Senator Dilly justifies the Cyber Trackers by making a comment at a press conference that the Constitution was over 200 years old. Would the American public really accept that lone justification? The movie thinks so, since the press conference only attracts a few protesters. More time should have been taken to explain just how the Cyber Tracker program got passed into law and accepted by most of the public. As it is, apart from a brief one time mention that crime is high, we see nothing of this world that makes us believe the Cyber Tracker program would be put to work. Even the time that the movie shows to the Union of Human Rights doesn't give us any clues as to what people are feeling or thinking. For that matter, the screenplay fails to make its main characters more than stock characters. Senator Dilly gets very little to say or do, and we learn nothing about his loyal henchman Mark except for the fact that he's jealous of his fellow bodyguard Eric. As for our hero Eric, we learn over the course of the movie that he is divorced, a revelation that seems to serve no purpose except for a desperate attempt to give his otherwise shallow character some depth.

I realize that the complaints I have made so far might not matter to a certain number of potential viewers. These viewers are almost certainly more concerned with the issue of if the movie delivers on its main promise, to have a lot of good quality action. However, as it turns out the action displayed in the movie is a kind of mixed bag. There is some variety to the action - there are car chases, shoot-outs, and with Wilson and Norton in the cast there are inevitably some martial arts. The martial art moments for the most part aren't bad. While for the most part they are filmed with multiple edits instead of a minimum, the choreography is fairly well done, and you do sometimes feel the impact of the blows, especially in the competent inevitable climatic sequence when Wilson and Norton fight each other. However, the other action sequences in the movie are overall disappointing. The car chases, even the one that involves a fire truck, come across as pretty sluggish, even during the PM Entertainment trademark moments of cars spinning through the air after hitting another vehicle. Even worse than the car chases are the shoot-out sequences. Director Richard Pepin puts absolutely no energy into the gun battles. He simply points the camera at the good guys firing their guns while standing still, and lamely cuts to the bad guys firing their guns while standing still. That's pretty much it. What's worse is that most of the action in the movie consists of these lame shoot-outs. Had these shoot-outs and car chases had been choreographed and directed by people with more skill, it's quite possible I could have forgiven Cyber Tracker for its weak screenplay and recommended the movie as a brainless but entertaining piece of nonsense. But as it is, all of the movie's problems added up result in a pretty frustrating experience, one where you can see that the filmmakers were so close to making a fun B movie but for some reason didn't try hard enough to deliver the goods.

(Posted July 8, 2017)

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See also: Cherry 2000, R.O.T.O.R., T-Force

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