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Film Review: Cyborg (1989)

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SYNOPSIS:

A martial artist hunts a killer in a plague-infested urban dump of the future.

REVIEW:

An apocalyptic cyberpunk martial arts driven action movie? Well there can be only 1 film that comes to mind at least from the late 80’s era, and that movie is the Jean-Claude Van Damme featured film “Cyborg“.

With “Road Warrior” and “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” setting the stage for apocalypse films in the early 80’s, it was not uncommon for these stylized future-driven films to arrive in droves. Among them was a lesser fx driven film that used action star Jean-Claude Van Damme to carry its weight. I was reminded of the 1985 film “Legend” which featured Tom Cruise in a more offbeat role than what we were used to seeing him. Likewise Jean-Claude Van Damme was cast as the lead, Gibson Rickenbacker, for his fighting skills ability and use of martial kicks. No, this was no “Kickboxer”, but in the setting of a cyberpunk reality, Jean-Claude seemed to be a good fit as a lone mercenary who becomes empowered over the course of the film due to a traumatic experience inflicted on him and his family long ago (yes, a formula often used in these films).

The film’s antagonist is played by Vincent Klyn in the role of Fender Tremolo, a bad ass thug and leader to a group of marauders who seem primarily bent on inflicting pain, death, and chaos in an equally chaotic world. The setting of this film is future earth after a deadly plague that has turned society and its inhabitants into a world of killers and survivors trying to get by in a distressed and broken way of life. Scientists and doctors are busy working on a cure brining us to cyborg Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon ). Pearl is assigned as a courier tasked with delivering computer information needed for the cure. The information located in New York city must be transported back to Atlanta per her internal hard drive. (guess they didn’t have dropbox in this reality?)

Even under the care of a bodyguard (Marshall Strat), she soon finds her mission intercepted per Fender and his team of pirates who want the cure for themselves in order to monopolize it’s production. Gibson along with his reluctant sidekick Nady Simmons (Deborah Richter) set off after Fender and his team to save the mission.

Now the what, why’s and how’s of this story are somewhat jumbled under the premise of a eventual battle between hero and villain. We get plenty of confrontations, between Gibson and Fender (mostly under the guidance of his gang of thugs) while also learning of Gibson tragic back story.

Gibson we find, was also subjected to Fender’s brutality years ago which took the lives of Gibson’s wife and child. Now, years later Gibson appears to be much more equipped to take on challengers often putting his skills against the entire gang.

Deborah Richter as Nady Simmons, is the token hottie of the film who decides to accompany Gibson on his journey (and after Fender’s gang murders her entire family). A tough fighter herself, she seems skilled enough to take on a few of Fender’s female members while Gibson takes care of the rest.

Though as you would expect from a film like this, the drama here is secondary to the real purpose of this film, which is seeing Jean-Claude kick a few bad guys in the face and then repeating the motion for added visual impact.

Cyborg, in the end is a simple premise that uses the pretty familiar formula of good vs evil to the ultimate conclusion of good overtaking the bad guy. The idea is nothing new and often repeated in may of the films of that era under different settings. The basis of a futuristic science fiction film only provides a slightly different arena than the usual setting of fight ring or car chase encounter.

Films that come to mind include: “Roadhouse 66” and “Savage Streets” which follow a similar means-to an-end format.

Cyborg, while not Jean-Claude Van Damme’s best work is still a worthy Jean-Claude Van Damme film that showcases his unique martial talents. The film did well in box offices due to the interest on Jean-Claude Van Damme work at the time but was less favorably received by critics. In all, it’s a staple of the film styles of that time and the general direction of premise often served to movie fans. Years later, I still found enjoyment in its simplicity while remembering the direction of films of that time.

The film went on to make 2 sequels which were less than worth your time but still worth noting for the franchise. Cyborg 2 did in fact feature a much younger and lesser known Angelina Jolie.

Bonus Features

  • NEW 4K Scan From The Original Film Elements
  • NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Albert Pyun
  • NEW A Ravaged Future – The Making Of CYBORG – Featuring Interviews With Writer/Director Albert Pyun, Actors Vincent Klyn, Deborah Richter, And Terrie Batson, Director Of Photography Philip Alan Waters, And Editor Rozanne Zingale
  • NEW Shoestring Fantasy – The Effects Of CYBORG – Featuring Interviews With Visual Effects Supervisor Gene Warren Jr., Go-Motion Technician Christopher Warren, And Rotoscope Artist Bret Mixon
  • Extended Interviews From Mark Hartley’s Documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS With Writer/Director Albert Pyun And Sheldon Lettich
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Cyborg is now available on bluray per Shout Factory

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