Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Film Review: Cyborg (1989)

Cyborg (Review)
United States/1989
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...most of the story feels hollow and the world never reaches its full potential."

In a post-apocalyptic future, a mercenary, Gibson (Jean-Claude Van Damme), attempts to save a cyborg from a band of marauders...

Cyborg is a fairly simple film. The population has dwindled and society has crumbled due to a deadly plague. A cyborg holding the key to the cure is captured by a group of bandits led by Fender (Vincent Klyn). Fender loves the current state of affairs and wants the cure for himself so he can rule as King. So, Fender plans on taking the cyborg to Atlanta — her original destination. Fender is tracked by Gibson, who seeks to free the cyborg and relish in his vengeance. It may seem like a lot to chew, but that's practically where the story stops evolving, which is really only the introduction. The rest of the film follows Gibson as he follows Fender and occasionally fights his goons. It leads to a solid final fight, but the ending really isn't satisfying.

In fact, the story really isn't satisfying as whole. There's an interesting-albeit-cliché world here, but it's never developed. You see crucified bodies, heads on sticks, and ravaged towns, but nothing distinct or exciting. The characters don't fare much better, either. Sure, we get a look at Gibson's tormented past, but it's really only one event. We actually see this through flashbacks — one of these scenes actually humorously repeats. Otherwise, we hardly know the guy — we hardly know anyone in this film. The titular cyborg hardly has any screen time, too. The story also feels very disjointed, like if complete scenes are missing. One minute your watching Gibson wander, then Fender is attacking a town, then he's on a boat — there's a severe lack of balance and fluidity in the storytelling.

The story is mediocre at best. However, despite the world never meeting its full potential, there were a few ideas I actually liked. The retractable blade in Gibson's shoe, for example — that's awesome. I also liked the design for Gibson's gun. There are other bits and pieces like this that I appreciated. Of course, there are also some good action scenes. This is a Van Damme flick, after all. As usual, I enjoyed the agile movements and the ferocious kicks. I did feel the martial arts aspect of the film was underutilized, though. Again, like the narrative, it felt hollow, like there should have been something else. This film — characters, world, and action — probably would've benefited from an extra 30 minutes. It simply feels too compressed.

The acting is mostly bad. This is due to both the performances and the dialogue. The supporting cast are the worst offenders. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself; the action scenes are great, but Van Damme doesn't leave his comfort zone for this character. Vincent Klyn is always groaning and shouting, and his dialogue is bad. In fact, most of the dialogue is either passable or cringe-worthy. This causes a few unintentional chuckles. Some of the special effects are good, some are bad. However, I always appreciate practical effects. The music is forgettable. The cinematography is okay. Director Albert Pyun lacks a strong and consistent vision. This world, these characters... It all lacks a sincere passion for the science-fiction and post-apocalyptic genres. The uninspired narrative, the bad acting, the same old martial arts scenes... It all feels like a quick cash-in.

Overall, Cyborg is a mediocre film. I liked some parts of the world and the action scenes were solid, but most of the story feels hollow and the world never reaches its full potential. Top this with mostly bad acting, a forgettable score, and a lack of any visual stimulants (other than Deborah Richter skinny dipping), and you've got a mediocre flick. Some may argue it's "so-bad-it's-good," but i didn't feel like it had that charm — and I enjoyed The Incredible Melting Man! Van Damme's agile kicks can't save this one.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, and nudity.

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