Friday, February 12, 2010

Nemesis (Albert Pyun, 1992)

In a world where blood splattered walls and arterial spray have been replaced by sparky embers and frazzled circuit boards, Nemesis exists solely as pornographic wish fulfillment for those whose dream it has been to live on the fringes of society as a human-machine hybrid with conflicted loyalties. A Front Line Assembly album cover come to life, this cutting edge science fiction action flick will no doubt test one's tolerance for overlong shootouts, shoddy Germanic accents, and the act of diving off a cliff in a tropical setting. But those willing to look past its inherent wonkiness, the rewards are immeasurable; especially in terms of watching comely cyborg chicks in short skirts shoot automatic weapons at a wily French dude. A series of cleverly demented fire fights punctuated by William Gibson-esque dialogue and bluntly-worded one-liners, this film is a bouncy trip into the near future that will surely keep your gears oiled and your mind in a constant state of perpetual motion. If the expression "sparky embers" sounds familiar, well, that's because I also used it to describe the gun battles that take place in Radioactive Dreams, a post-apocalyptic adventure film from 1985. Which of course makes perfect sense seeing as that both are directed by Albert Pyun, the master when it comes to creating iridescent shootouts. (If I'm not mistaken, the gunplay featured in his version of Captain America were kinda sparkly as well.)

Anyway, taking spark-replete firefights to whole another level of... sparkiness, Mr. Pyun gets downright nutty with the pyrotechnics this time around. And what makes it so great is that he is completely justified. I mean, what do you think would happen if a room full of cyborgs started shooting metal projectiles at each other at an accelerated velocity? Exactly. The amount of sparks produced as a result of this bullet-fueled mayhem would be off the sparky charts.

Getting us from one spark-emitting encounter to another is the blank expression of Olivier Gruner, a Parisian kick boxer turned actor. Playing Alex, a L.A. cop in the year 2027, the monosyllabic tough guy is constantly being upgraded with mechanical parts after each assignment. These tuneups have become so commonplace, that he has started to worry about the structural integrity of his everlasting soul. At what point does he stop being human? Deep, mildly philosophical stuff.

Tired of hunting down cyber-terrorists and hackers, the conflicted cop moves down to Rio de Janeiro to start a new life as a black-market dealer of cybertronic doodads. The net may be vast and infinite, but this doesn't prevent his old employers from tracking him down. Forcing him to partake in a dangerous mission to locate a rogue agent named Jared (Marjorie Monaghan) in Shang Loo, Java, his bosses Farnsworth (Tim Thomerson) and Maritz (Brion James) install a small bomb in his heart to ensure his cooperation. Upon arriving in Shang Loo, Alex quickly becomes an unwilling pawn in an epic battle brewing between humans and cyborgs. And since he's somewhere in the middle, Alex must choose which side he's on.

Helping him make his decision is a rebel leader (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), a big-haired cyborg in a trench-coat (Deborah Shelton), and a limber rapscallion named Max Impact (Merle Kennedy). These three characters (especially the Lori Petty-esque Miss Kennedy) are essential to the non-shootout scenes, in that they utter the majority of the film's spoken dialogue. Don't get me wrong, he can blast his way out of an awkward situation like nobodies business, but my confidence in Olivier Gruner as an human actor is a tad on the sketchy side.

Strangely, Marjorie Monaghan is quite clumsy as an actress while in the flesh – though I did enjoy the shortness of her skirt (and the equally short skirt sported by her blonde friend, a leggy Marjean Holden)–yet, she was rather competent while compressed in the digital realm. It's weird how that happens.

It's true, I never saw Nemesis in its entirety before now, but the "cyborg fucking shootout" in the Shang Loo hotel has been in contact with my illustrious eyeballs on several occasions over the years. I first saw the infamous shootout on cable while volunteering over at a community centre for wayward she-male's with low self-esteem back in the mid-90s and more recently in an online setting.

However, seeing it in its proper context–you know, with the rest of the film in tow–has elevated it to a somewhat legendary status.

The sheer number of sparks employed during this sequence alone is enough to glorify it with exaggerated praise, the fact that Olivier Gruner escapes his hotel room by shooting his way through the floor–rendering a cyborg inoperative along the way–is what makes this scene the awe-inspiring spectacle that it truly is. Seriously, the person who came up with the idea of having him create his own personal elevator utilizing his guns is a freaking genius. And just the mere thought of Deborah Shelton exchanging an inordinate amount of gunfire with those two lumbering cyborgs, all the while, Gruner mows his way through the floor, never fails to bring a misguided tear to my eye.

video uploaded by hail2theking4051



  1. That trailer's surprisingly ambitious about hyping the hero's existential plight. Then you remind youself that the hero's Olivier Gruner, whose acting often poses existential questions. In more than one film I've wondered whether he was really human or not.

  2. Yes. My first experience with this film was recent and wonderful. After so much foulmouthery I was surprised to find that I love this film. Being a the contrarian that I am I have thence been compelled to watch everything Pyun. Urgh.

  3. Now I have that Shriekback song stuck in my head. Thanks.

    Sorry, I had no idea you commented on my Oscar predix post, and I only noticed when someone posted a reply in Chinese. ?????

    Even I ran the Fright-ful Films category on College Jeopardy! And African History. :)

    I was rooting for the Canadian girl in Moguls yesterday. The American media won't shut up about the "no Canadian has won a gold medal at a Canadian Olympics" story.

  4. Samuel Wilson: I thought the exact same thing while watching the trailer. In that, I don't recall hero's dilemma being that complex or detailed. Personally, I just remember a lot of shooting and stuff blowing up.

    The Goodkind: Someone should put out an "Everything Pyun" DVD box set. I'd definitely think about buying it.

    "Foulmouthery" is a cool word.

    Karim Amir: No problem. Parthenogenesis!

    My blog thingy gets the odd Chinese comment. I usually delete them, especially if they have lots of hyperlinks.

    Nevertheless, I was proud of my category sweep. :D

    I guess NBC/American media need that particular angle to sell the games to jaded sports viewers.

    A friend of mine calls the "Moguls" the "Mongols."

    I got a tad moist in the eye area at the end of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, am I sad and completely deranged? ;)

  5. I just reviewed Pyun's VICIOUS LIPS over at MMMMMovies, and this one sounds about a million times better. Must be the sparks. Though knowing your love of 80s/futuristic all-girl rock groups in peril, Yum-Yum, I think you might get more out of it than I did.

    Incidentally, do you know who that actress is in your first screengrab? She looks like the lovely if dramatically challenged Dru-Anne Perry of VICIOUS LIPS, but the flick isn't listed on her brief imdb page.

  6. Your review of "Vicious Lips" reads like I check list of all things I like. Hell, you even mention Margaret from Liquid Sky.

    That is either Borovnisa Blervaque or Jennifer Gatti.