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So the cyber-bug must have bitten kickboxing movies at some HEATSEEKER, which should be called CYBORG FIGHTER we have another take on Matthesen's STEEL, recently remade with Hugh Jackman as REAL STEEL. Only in this kickboxing match, our hero is the 'total human' vs. the evil corporate cyborg in the ring. So it isn't exactly Matthesen's TWILIGHT ZONE episode with kickboxing instead of boxing...and I'm happy of course to root for the human, and so it goes, I'm on board this pro-human, anti-transhumanist fight movie. It isn't the most exciting plot of course, most of it is like watching a match complete with color commentary by some guy off screen the whole time. I haven't watched a lot of kickboxing movies, so maybe this is how it goes every time.

Basically, an evil cybernetics corporation hatches a plot to up their profits by showcasing their cybernetic implants during a sponsored kickboxing competition. Sounds like something they'd do. Our hero is the human champion, free of cybernetic implants...this is like one of those films about the underdog 'clean' hero who never took steroids vs. the big russian who does...anyway, he's a good guy, and refuses to participate in some transhumanist's wet dream. So...they kidnap his girlfriend, implant her with a microchip, and basically do everything they can to force him to join the competition. So in order to save his girlfriend, he agrees to the match... Alright, its a cheap plot, they couldn't think of anything better, but hey, why wouldn't these big corporations hire Blackwater to do stuff like this? Of course they would. Speaking of cheap, it takes place in oh-so futuristic (or not) "New Manilla," and well, while there is some special effects regarding the cyborg villain who is basically almost a complete robot, there's not a whole lot of effort beyond showcasing kickboxing skills to much actual science fiction. I can see the use of this kind of stuff, but a better scriptwriter could have really done something with this material. Human vs. Cyborg in a fight...for the good of all mankind. If the cyborg loses, he will make the corporation look bad and the main reason they're doing this is because they need to sell cybernetic implants and enhancements--they're not doing so well. They do mention a lot of things in dialog about human vs. cybernetics, and basically, they do kind of relate them to drugs or in the sports world and really, isn't that what they would be? Face it, at least some drugs are natural, but cybernetics, you can't get any more synthetic than that. So our clean sports hero refuses to be cybernetic, refuses to even acknowledge their sick little world by refusing to participate in their matches...okay, they could have played up the focus on stuff like this more, and written in every conceivable possible great thing to get this story going, but they rely on simple extortion, and other B-movie cliches, because well, its a B-movie...

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of sillyness to make fun of, its a straight kickboxing movie...which rehashes old boxing movie cliches, mixes them with science fiction, and so you get to see guys kicking eachother in the head, etc. I approve, because I don't even watch kickboxing or boxing movies. Not even Raging Bull or Rocky...though I've seen a couple. Basically, this is a neat idea...taking a genre like this, and of course its obvious...instead of a big bad blond steroid brained genetically-engineered-by-nazis bad guy, he's a blond-haired cyborg...and our hero is sort of "ethnic" its martial arts vs. the terminator...human vs. technology...a genre which never fails to interest me. This is no "STEEL" however, because the character motivations are cliched, and while the human fighter is put to the test, they beat him up on the street, try to tire him and weaken him before the fight, etc, and all of this could have played really well, until they try to force his kidnapped girlfriend to 'love' the cyborg...then it gets pretty stupid. It is all pretty predictable, and not so exceptionally directed, but it is a pretty fair quality movie. It isn't all that special, but it is far from 'bad' and terrible like so many of these crapfests such as Absolute Aggression or Future Fear...this one has no stars, isn't the sharpest film around, but if it was an Outer Limits episode...pretty good, pretty solid, definitely could be edited down to an hour and presented as such. The characters are pretty, but they're pretty dull, and this is really where the movie fails. If you like hot short-haired dominating, yet very thin and feminine chicks, that's about all you get out of this actress, which probably explains why you've never seen or heard of her again. Our main man, and his rival...pretty dull, good at martial arts, but pretty dull, however, not 'terrible' actors really. Believe me there are some really fucking bad performances in some of these B-movies which make you think you're watching a porno these guys did okay. Which is how I'd rate this film, its okay, could be better, but not a god-awful piece of shit. If you like kickboxing, sure, if you're feeling like you're taking on technology single-handedly in life, sure, if you want to see short-haired hot blonds get 'zapped' with remote controlled electronic torture devices...okay then, but if you want to laugh and have fun, both at the expense of the movie and with the movie, might I direct you to Billy Blanks' EXPECT NO MERCY, which is full of insanity. This movie is missing that kind of insanity. So it can be kind of boring, even when they're kicking people in the head. Action CAN be boring, and ultimately the pacing of this movie is part of the problem. The ideas are all great, and the plot not all that bad...but the pacing of the scenes must be finely tuned to get us to the finale, especially since this is a freaking boxing movie, so much could be done. One of the big problems of B-Movies is budget, and in order to make a realist and believable 'future' you need to invest some money in that area of the setting, and so many end up with 1970s cliched 'futures' with beeping computers and flashing lights, this one takes place in "New Manilla" and it doesn't look all that new. A movie like this in order to be truly great requires a full on vision, and character development which reduces the fight between man and machine as the ultimate grounding metaphor, where as here, its really just an excuse to have another kickboxing movie. It probably is to be defined as THE cybertronic kickboxing movie, as far as its entire premise, and is essentially THE cyborg-kickboxing movie if you wanted to see one. A lot of critics hate it when you try to mix things like this, suggesting a fad or a trend, but it truly is inevitable, and an obvious story to be told. Unfortunately, this one is not all that great, but remains to be one of the few CYBORG-FIGHT films with any level of quality. "Cyborgs" simply have to be inserted into every genre in order to make certain ideas known to the world, and this does it just fine for the world kickboxing movie crowd...if someone had offered me to direct a kickboxing movie, I'd say get lost, but if they said, but its about a human vs. a cyborg...I'd be right on it man, and I'd give you not only the best kickboxing movie ever made, I'd give you the best cyborg-kickboxing movie ever perhaps because this movie was probably assembly-line kickboxing cinema, maybe if they had gotten a director who was ready to hybridize the two, one who wasn't a kickboxing movie director it really could have been better and less cliched...

This forgotten film is still only availble on VHS and Laserdisc. Grab em up before it disappears from the face of the earth.

1 comment:

  1. Watching it right now on Netflix!!