Sunday, September 14, 2014

TC 2000 (1993)

The world has ended (cue lots of “again”s) thanks to our destruction of the ozone layer. Our betters have fled into a place cleverly called “The Underground”, where they are protected The Controller (Ramsay Smith) and his security forces.

Jason Storm (Billy Blanks) and his partner Zoey Kinsella (Bobbie Phillips) belong to the part of the security forces known as TCs, tasked with scouting and surface police operations. The Underground hasn’t been very secure in these last few weeks, though, for surface gang leader Niki Picasso (Jalal Merhi) and his merry band have been making attacks on Underground operatives and even incursions into Underground territory. Why, you might start thinking Niki has outside help.

While she and Jason are battling one of these incursions, Zoey is shot in the back by a shadowy figure (spoiler: it’s the Controller!). Because he seems actually interested in the death of his partner, the Controller fires Jason and sends his men out to murder him. Of course, Jason escapes to the surface where he decides to destroy Niki and the Picassos, teaming up with martial arts master Sumai (Bolo Yeung).

Once Jason’s away, the Controller and his pet scientist turn Zoey’s remains into an ersatz-Robocop – the TC 2000 – re-imagined as a Californian 80s aerobics teacher with a penchant for leather and high-heeled boots. Zoey’s supposed to team up with Niki to get access to a chemical weapons facility and cleanse the surface world from its population.

I wouldn’t exactly say T.J. Scott’s – made before he started a rather interesting and fruitful looking career as a TV director – TC 2000 is the cheapest looking post-apocalyptic martial arts movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly among the top (bottom?) ten, seeing as it takes place exclusively in boiler rooms, boring warehouses, boring warehouses dressed up as grey corridors, and other industrial buildings I really wouldn’t have needed to see. At least, it’s more than one industrial building, or the production takes care to pretend it is.

It’s also – need I even say it? – a patently ridiculous film, with the post-apocalyptic world seemingly mostly populated by beefy men with frightening haircuts who like to grimace a lot and dress as sillily as possible (favourite: Niki Picasso and his gang who aren’t quite as beefy but prefer some kind of pseudo-punk hipster garb and Picasso-like face paintings to make up for their lack of muscles). Everyone’s an idiot, too, though that might be the steroids. The plot, such as it is, does (no surprise here) make little sense even as an excuse for the fight scenes, and is presented in the least efficient way possible. The fights themselves are pretty bland, with choreography of little interest or inventiveness, which is a bit of a shame with a cast consisting of people who know what they’re doing in a screen fight, well, and Jalal Merhi who makes his usual creepy imitation of a speaking wooden puppet while hogging a position in the film’s credits he doesn’t deserve.

On the positive side, there are many shots of Blanks and co grinding their teeth during the fights in ways human teeth were never meant to be ground, there’s a lot of bad emoting, a bunch of stupid ideas, and Bobbie Phillips working very hard at making even more ridiculous fight faces than everyone else. I think she even wins the competition.

I’d be a liar if I pretended I didn’t enjoy at least half of the film quite a bit. I just can’t resist the bargain basement charm of a film that does one-liners so embarrassing they overshoot becoming cool again and become doubly embarrassing, and that tries to sell post-apocalyptica with production values so low, most Italian post-apocalypse films look lavish in comparison. Plus, there’s Bolo (doing Bolo finger gestures), and Billy, and Matthias Hues, sweating, losing shirts, wearing idiotic sunglasses, and, in Billy’s case, doing an off-screen monologue that suggests we’re listening to a first read-through done by someone who – how shall I put it? – isn’t a very good reader, Bobbie Phillips still sounding like Minnie Mouse even when she’s a killer cyborg, and a lot of ideas that are completely outside the film’s reach. What’s not to like?

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