Sunday, December 7, 2014

American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (Boaz Davidson, 1993)

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. Yeah, but they didn't say anything about these soul-baring windows being bay windows, now did they? Just to make sure that my analogy made sense, I looked up "bay window" utilizing the latest technology about five minutes ago. And it would seem that I was absolutely right to use that term the way I did. That's because Nicole Hansen's eyes are like bay windows. In that they project outward from their ocular housing, much like a bay window projects outward from the walls of a building. Now, I wouldn't say Nicole's giant eyes were the best thing about American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, but they were... Wait a second, why wouldn't I say that? I mean, think about it. Sure, the lingerie-clad thugs who harass our ophthalmically abundant heroine are pretty awesome and the fact that the male lead seemed to base his entire look on Daniel Day-Lewis' character from The Last of the Mohicans is on the cusp of being noteworthy as well, but nothing beats the excessive girth of Nicole Hansen's whirlpool-esque peepers.

Judging by the way you're looking at me, you're probably think to yourself: There's no way this glorified mental case could possibly have anything else to say about Nicole Hansen's saucer-shaped eyeballs in regard to this movie, one that has the distinction of being the last produced by The Cannon Group Inc.

Oh, can't I, eh?

Um, you know what? I think you might be right, I don't have anything else to say. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop referring Nicole Hansen and her large, expressive eyes every now and then. And why would I? Take away Nicole's humongous eye holes, and this movie, directed by Boaz Davidson (The Last American Virgin), would simply be a somewhat decent Charleston, South Carolina* set post-apocalyptic thrill ride.

However, it would seem that John Saint Ryan's balding cyborg character doesn't agree with me at all, as he spends the entire movie trying his best to close her eyes, or at least diminish their inherent twinkle.

Created by the computers who have taken over sizable chunks of the world (which has been ravished by nuclear war), the cyborg is ordered to "terminate" a woman named Mary (Nicole Hansen) with extreme prejudice. Of course, they don't want her dead because they're jealous of her ability to make hunky rebels and discerning lesbians fall in love with her by simply–you guessed it–batting her fan-like eyelashes at them, they want her dead because she's the only woman on earth with the reproductive fortitude to create human offspring.

You see, the computers want humanity to die off. And in order to expedite this process, they force them to live out their final days in a ruthless totalitarian police state ruled by cyborgs.

Since the film's budget won't allow for shots of human skulls being crushed by robot tank treads, we're given instead a rusty South Carolina license plate and the sound of thunder. Nevertheless, one of the enforcers of this new world order, an unnamed cyborg played by John Saint Ryan, has just received orders (from one of the cyborg information kiosks sprinkled throughout the city) to eliminate the rebels.

Hiding in their subterranean head quarters, the members of the rebellion seem to be buzzing with excitement. And why wouldn't they be? Tonight's the night they transport Mary and her baby (which is kept in a jar) to the port in order to rendezvous with a group of Europeans, who will whisk them across the pond to safety; get this, in this universe, Europe is the bastion of liberty, not the United States of America.

Anyway, with 37 hours to get across hostile territory, the group synchronize their watches and are each given a baggy filled with "RZB", an anti-radiation drug. Unfortunately, just as they're about to leave, a cyborg with a receding hairline bursts into their underground lair and starts shooting at them with his machine gun.

This may sound a tad harsh, but I'm glad the rebels were wiped out. Just for the record: My glad tidings have nothing to do with being a fan of "The System" (remember citizens, "The System is your friend"), but because the prospect of having to remember all their names was rather daunting.

Luckily for me, only Mary and her foetus under glass managed to survive the cyborg onslaught. On the down side, the cyborg will stop at nothing until Mary's dead and he's scraping her foetus off the wheels of his car. I know, the cyborg doesn't drive a car, I'm speaking metaphorically.

To make matters worse, Mary and her foetus must contend with lingerie clad thugs. At first I was like, these guys look like they raided the closet of a dedicated fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But then I saw their leader and said, fuck that, these guys were obviously influenced by Frank Doubleday's Romero from Escape from New York.

It's no secret, but if I was going to write a review of Escape from New York, the bulk of my attention would be focused on Frank Doubleday's Romero, as his bizarre mannerisms are the best thing about that movie.

Just as Mary is about to get rolled by these lingerie-wearing dandies, a guy named Austin (Joe Lara) steps in to give her hand. Making short work of them, Austin rejects Mary's post-dandy beat-down request to escort her to the port and takes off. It would seem that Austin wasn't helping Mary out of the kindness of his heart, he actually had a score to settle with the cross-dressing wrongdoers.

Since there would be no movie if Austin didn't assist Mary in her quest, they eventually team up. Though, you'll notice that Mary doesn't tell Austin she's carrying a foetus in her backpack. In fact, she straight up lies to him; she promises to give him all RZB tablets he can carry when they arrive at the port.

At this point, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior can be broken down into two simple modes: #1 - Fighting the cyborg. And #2 - Running from the cyborg. Actually, I'd like to add a third mode to the mix, if that's all right. And that is: #3 - Recuperating from modes one and two. Given that Austin and Mary inflict major damage on the cyborg every time they encounter him, this allows them to recuperate. It also enables them to get to know one another better.

While Mary manages to keep the truth under wraps (Austin still has no idea she has a foetus in her backpack), it would seem that both are guarding secrets. The only difference being, Austin has no idea he's guarding one as well.

Someone better give the leader of the radioactive cannibals a mint, because he's about to have foetus on his breath.

You're probably wondering, how did Mary manage to be taken prisoner by a gang of radioactive cannibals with Austin at her side? Well, let's just say, Austin doesn't react well when he finds out the truth. Even though Mary tries her best to explain the importance of her mission (the future of humanity is at stake), Austin nonetheless feels betrayed, and runs off in a huff.

Will Mary and Austin be able to put aside their differences in time in order to save the human race from extinction? I guess. Either way, I found the film's straight-forward, no-nonsense approach to dishing out cyberpunk thrills and spills to be quite refreshing. Other than the wide-eyed Mary, the musclebound Austin, the ruthless cyborg killing machine, and few minor characters here and there (Helen Lesnick plays "Carp," Austin's on again and off again lesbian sidekick), the film isn't stuffed with extraneous filler. No, American Cyborg: Steel Warrior is a lean, mean, cyborg ass-kicking killing machine. Oh, and the music score by Blake Leyh rocks, or, I should say, it synths. 

* The film was shot in an abandoned tractor factory near Tel Aviv.

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