Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Eliminators (1986)

When mad mastermind Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice, whose British accent clearly denotes his evilness) doesn't need the pilot he turned into a memory-less cyborg he dubbed Mandroid (Patrick Reynolds) for his time travel experiments anymore, he tries to kill him. Fortunately for Mandroid, Reeves main scientist Takada (Tad Horino) has developed a conscience and helps the human garbage can escape, paying for it with his life.

Takada has given Mandroid (does it show how much I like writing "Mandroid"? Mandroid!) the name of a Colonel Hunter as his best bet for help taking Reeves down. Colonel Hunter turns out not to be a brilliant military lawyer but highly competent scientist Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby). Nora is shocked when she realizes that Reeves has used some of her inventions for EVIL. So off she, Mandroid and her little surely not R2D2-inspired scout robot that can turn into a ball of light go to Reeves base somewhere - and I quote - "in the wilds of Mexico" to kick evil mastermind ass.

They have to fight through evil lesbian river guides, a tribe of Neanderthals, Reeves's security force that isn't led by Richard Lynch but by a fat guy named Ray (Peter Schrum) who is fond of lumberjack shirts and a suspected escapee from a Burt Reynolds movie, and their own lack of a decent plan.

Fortunately, the duo also makes new friends in form of roguish river guide Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine channelling his inner Han Solo), and Takada's son Kuji (Conan Lee) who just happens to be a badass ninja. But will even the awesome power of cyborg, scientist, rogue and ninja combined be enough once Reeves - as part of his plan to go back in time to ancient Rome and become god king of the world - has turned himself into Cyber Cesar?

I know I'm beginning at least two thirds of my write-ups of Charles Band productions that don't feature dolls, puppets, or muppets with declarations of happiness regarding their absence, but you know what? Eliminators does not feature dolls, puppets or muppets, and I am pretty happy about it. Even better, Eliminators is that rare exploitation film that keeps the promises its marketing material makes, as it does in fact feature a team of a cyborg, a mercenary, a scientist and a ninja in an awesome attempt to try and milk (at least) four slightly different exploitation markets at once, just as its poster promises.

It's awe-inspiring to say the least. Of course, that sort of character mix can only lead to a movie full of classical comic book silliness (a fact the film even jokes about) with cartoonish humour, cartoonish characters, and a decidedly cartoonish plot. Naturally, if you go into a movie like Eliminators expecting anything else, the joke's on you right from the start.

I for my part was mostly surprised by how generous director Peter Manoogian provides all the semi-thrills his budget allows for, with quite a few not exactly riveting but enthusiastic fights (when your only vaguely talented on-screen fighter is Conan Lee, you have yourself a problem; let's not even start talking about him not being Japanese), equally enthusiastic action scenes, and a whole lot of moments of gratuitous strangeness. While the former two elements make for a pleasant enough watch, it's the last which truly brings Eliminators charms to the surface. This is, after all, a movie that shows Roy Dotrice donning a plastic version of the Iron Man armour without a helmet but with a red cape as part of his plan to go back in time and conquer Rome all on his own, and a film whose Mandroid is a) called "Mandroid" and b) in possession of an awkwardly awesome tank "mobility unit" (off go his legs and on goes the rest of him onto a mini-tank thing) that to describe properly goes beyond my abilities and that will turn out to be good for nothing but making him less mobile.

You can't argue with that (nor with a tribe of Neanderthals that has invented whooshing powder and bow and arrow), and really, why should you? Eliminators is a movie that enjoys its own cheapness but isn't lazy about including everything it can afford, leaving a boy like me with the pleasant impression of having watched a film made by people who may make horrible nonsense but who also care about making said nonsense as entertaining to their audience as they can.

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