Thursday, March 5, 2015

Automatic (John Murlowski, 1995)

E-mail? Dental scans? Self-healing automatons? Ponytail-sporting badasses wielding CornerShots? Annabelle Gurwitch playing a character with a Japanese surname? Either, I've totally lost control of my faculties or Automatic is the best movie ever. It can't be both, but I'm leaning towards... What's that? Ah, I see. Well, this is kind of embarrassing. I've just been informed that I have indeed lost control of my faculties. Which is a shame, really, because having control of my faculties was one of my strong suits. Nonetheless, this mid-90s motion picture does contain the things I listed at the start of this review. Sure, it's nowhere near as awesome as Nemesis (not much is), but this sci-fi action flick can hold its head high, as it poses some deep, philosophical questions. The most important being: Would Olivier Gruner have a film career if it weren't for cyborgs? Granted, I've only seen two Olivier Gruner films, this and the aforementioned Nemesis. But the fact that he plays cyborgs in both has lead me to believe that Olivier Gruner is the Laurence Olivier of cyborgs.

Now, you might think that calling someone "The Laurence Olivier of Cyborgs" would be taken as an insult. But that's not the case at all. You see, Olivier Gruner has very little in the natural charisma department (the shelves are bare). However, by casting him as cyborgs, having natural charisma is a negative, not a positive.

That being said, you can't make a movie filled with cyborgs with no natural charisma. Okay, that's not entirely true, as I've seen plenty of films that boast tons of charisma-challenged bores. But this is not one of them.

In a shrewd move, the makers of Automatic have surrounded Olivier Gruner's "tin man" with talented actors.

Along with personal favourites like, Jeff Kober (Demolition High), John Glover (Life on the Edge, a.k.a. Meet the Hollowheads) and Marjean Holden (Dr. Caligari), the makers of this film were smart to pair Olivier Gruner with Daphne Ashbrook, an actress who is not only leggy in all the right places (thanks to a short ecru skirt that is put through the ringer), but brash and plucky. I know, brash and plucky.

After kicking things off with a pretty decent fake-out (we're shown a family being attacked by bandits, but it's actually a slick commercial for a revolutionary new security system), we're whisked into the boardroom of Robgen Industries, the makers of 'Automatic,' a line of state-of-the-art robot servants who all look like Olivier Gruner.

Quickly looking over some of the people who at this board meeting, I can already tell that Dennis Lipscomb's character is going to be a toadying yes man and that Stanley Kamel's character is going to be an annoying thorn in the side of John Glover's Goddard Marx, the cheerful president of Robgen Industries.

On top of being a sycophant of the highest order, Dennis Lipscomb is also a scumbag. Asking Nora Rochester (Daphne Ashbrook) if she could stick around to work on an "important project," Dennis Lipscomb clearly has more than work on his mind. Yep, it turns out this so-called "important project" involves gratification-based relief for his unloved penis and nothing much else. Since overseeing the needs and wants of Dennis Lipscomb's penis isn't in her job description, Nora resists his attempts to mount her sexually.

While walking by Dennis Lipscomb's office, an Automatic named J269 (Olivier Gruner) hears the fruits of Nora's resistance. Asking Dennis Lipscomb if everything is all right, J269 is told to basically get lost. Which he does. But when Nora's screams grow louder, J269 decides to help her (he throws Dennis Lipscomb onto the floor). This, as you might expect, angers Dennis Lipscomb, who downloads a firearm from his desk. That's right, if you need something in a flash, whether it be a stiff drink or a gun, you simply ask for it and your desk will serve it up for you.

Anyway, J269 ends up killing Dennis Lipscomb during their confrontation. Informing the building's head of security (Troy Evans), that he had just killed Dennis Lipscomb, J269 asks that the authorities be notified. When Goddard Marx gets wind of what happened, he immediately goes into damage control mode. Since Automatic's aren't supposed to kill people, Goddard decides that both J269 and Nora Alexander need to be eliminated.

What transpires next are a series of poorly staged action sequences involving J269 and Nora trying their darnedest not to be killed by a gang of mercenaries lead by Jeff Kober, a "primitive brute" with a ponytail.

Wait a minute, I think I should clarify something. It's not that the action is "poorly staged," it's that their poorly lit. Seriously, the film is so freaking dark at times, I couldn't even tell if Nora's skirt was a grayish to pale yellow or a light grayish-yellowish brown. I mean, c'mon people, let's set up some lights.

Repeatedly stymied by J269, who is determined to protect Nora from harm, Jeff Kober calls in reinforcements. And would you look at that, one of these reinforcements is played by Marjean Holden. I liked the few scenes Jeff Kober and Marjean Holden had together, as their relationship reminded me of the one between Private Jenette Vasquez and Private Mark Drake in Aliens; except instead of "smart guns," they wield CornerShots.

I will say this, the Die Hard-ish scene in the elevator was well done. And, no, I'm not just saying that because we get some great shots of Nora's grayish to pale yellow/light grayish-yellowish brown skirt. No foolin' the scene is quite thrilling.

Meanwhile, while all this is going on inside, a reporter named Gloria Takamatsu (Annabelle Gurwitch, Pizza Man) is holding court outside with a group of protesters; Automatic's are not popular with the "unwashed masses." At first I was like, why do all the non-Asian reporters in this movie have Asian names? But then it dawned on me, they married Asian dudes. Either way, I love the fact that Annabelle Gurwitch plays a character named "Gloria Takamatsu."

I don't know what else to say about this movie other than it boasts some modestly intriguing ideas in the regard to the future; the ability to download objects directly to your desk is kind of cool. But as far as being a sci-fi action flick, I'd have to declare Automatic a mild, poorly lit failure.

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