Friday, September 9, 2011

Cyborg (1990)

Title: Cyborg (1989)

Director: Albert Pyun

Cast: Jean Claude Van Damme,


Sometimes films get made for the strangest of reasons. Take for example the film I’ll be reviewing today: Albert Pyun’s Cyborg. Now here is a film that would never have gotten made had a special sequence of events not occurred. What this films story ultimately ties into is the death of a production company that proliferated during the 80’s called Cannon Films. You know them, they were the guys who brought us films like the Deathwish sequels, The Delta Force (1986),  Invasion U.S.A. (1985), King Solomons Mines (1985), Cobra (1986), American Ninja (1985) and even Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985). Let’s not forget they also gave us the masterpiece that is Breakin’2: Electric Boogaloo (1984). A pretty cheesy slate of films no doubt, but that’s what Cannon Films were all about, producing scripts that no body else wanted to produce. They focused on making b-films on a low budget so they could make a profit out of them, and they did for a while. But after a string of highs and lows, the studio started confronting financial troubles. Two straight flops brought the studio to its deathbed: Masters of the Universe (1987) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). A lot was riding on the success of Masters of the Universe, so when it didn’t make as much money as they expected, it left Cannon Films almost completely dead. But they still had one bullet in the chamber; from a proven franchise, which just might make money and save the studio. That film was Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, which ended up being another gargantuan failure for Cannon Films. But was the studio ready to die yet? Nope! That’s how Cyborg was born.

 Cyborg came to be because Cannon had already spent 2 million dollars building sets and costumes for Masters of the Universe 2 and their proposed Spider Man film, both of which were to be directed shot simultaneously by Pyun if you can believe it! Thankfully, both of these projects never came to be. And I say thankfully because one look at Pyun’s Captain American (1990) film will let you know just how disastrous a Spider Man by Pyun could have been. So anyways, in order to not let those 2 million dollars they had already spent go to waste, Cannon films had Pyun write Cyborg over the course of a weekend. Seriously! Then they shot the film in 24 days and for less than 500,000 dollars! So it was this strange chain of events that got Cyborg made. And hey, I gotta say that a pretty entertaining film came out of that ordeal. I mean, Cyborg isn’t the greatest film ever made I’ll give you that. It’s a very simple film with lots of characters screaming and grunting and kicking the hell out of each other. But credit goes to Pyun for making chicken salad out of chicken shit. I mean, it proves that a filmmaker doesn’t really need much in order to make a film. Give him a couple hundred thousand bucks and willing actors and he’ll go out there and have some fun making a movie, which is what Pyun did here.  

 The film feels like a mix between Mad Max and Conan, both of which are revenge films, which makes Cyborg a bonafide revenge film as well. Story goes something like this. A plague is killing the human race. Only a few humans have survived amongst the rubble of a post apocalyptic landscape. Humans have reverted back to animalistic survival mode. This means that it’s literally a dog eat dog world out there, you stumble upon the wrong crowd in this post apocalyptic future and you are likely to get tortured, killed or raped. Meanwhile, a group of scientists from Atlanta have apparently found the cure to the plague! But they need data from other scientists in New York. The scientists from New York have sent the data on a Cyborg named Pearl. It’s Jean Claude Van Damme’s job to make sure that the cure for the plague arrives to the good guys in Atlanta so that humanity can be saved. Also, JCVD is looking for some pay back on the gang of hoodlums that killed his entire family, which just so happen to be the same gang that is trying to capture the cyborg. You see, the bad guys want the cyborg because they don’t want to cure the world. They like living in chaos. In the words of Fender Tremulo, the leader of the bad guys “I like the Death! I like the misery! I like this world!”   

 So that’s basically as far as the plot goes. Get the cyborg to its destination; protect it, save the world from the plague. So it’s one of these movies where characters are on a journey across a vast land filled with many dangers. One of the dangers of this post apocalyptic world are the crazies that roam the land. The gang of bad guys that inhabit this film like living amongst the chaos because there are no rules, nobody tells them what to do, and they can intimidate and kill their way through any situation. They reminded me a lot of the type of gangs that could be seen in George Miller’s Mad Max (1979) where we have a bunch of real nasty looking bad guys who have nothing better to do than destroy everything in their path. The more you watch this movie, the more it will fill like a Mad Max rip off, only without the cool cars and car chases. On this world things are so messed up that there are no cars! People go everywhere on foot! But seriously folks, the same exact reasons that motivated Mad Max Rockatansky in his film motivate Gibson, Van Damme’s character in Cyborg. This film was influenced by others. For example, at one point, Gibson get’s sent to the “tree of woe”, the same tree where they put Conan so he could contemplate on his mistakes in Conan The Barbarian (1982). Same as Conan, Gibson titters on the brink of death while hanging, crucified like Jesus. So yeah, Van Damme in this movie is a mix between Conan and Mad Max

 One things for sure about Cyborg, there’s a lot of fighting in this movie! People run from each other, then stumble with each other along the way, fight, then run, stumble and fight some more. Ad nauseum. There was so much fighting in this movie that in one scene Van Damme actually injured a stunt doubles eye! The stunt double sued and got 485,000 dollars for his eye. This means that the stunt double’s eye cost more or less the films whole budget! There was so much fighting on this film that some of the violence had to be cut back in order for the film to get an ‘R’ rating instead of an ‘X’. Don’t know how many of you guys can see the difference between modern fighting in movies and old school fights, but the fighting in some of the older movies was so lame. Sometimes in comparison, it feels like they weren’t even trying in some of these older films. On Cyborg what we get is a lot of dudes posing to look like tough hombres. The main bad guy, played by Vincent Klyn is always walking around with his muscles all tight. You get the idea that he was thinking “Must…keep…muscles tight! Gotta…look tougher….than Van Damme!”  It’s kind of hilarious to see him walk that way.

 The film feels like it was shot with one story in mind and later fixed in the editing room with dubbing. But don’t mistake this for a film that gives dialog any importance, this is first and foremost an action film, and its emphasis is on the action, the fights. In fact, Pyun himself originally envisioned the film in black and white with lots of action and visuals, with no dialog. This no dialog idea, held true for most of the film. Long patches of this movie go on without a word being said. Then when dialog is spoken, you wish they’d never spoken it. The dialog is pretty cheesy, but I guess it’s something to be expected from a script that was written over the course of a single weekend. Also, let’s face it, bad dialog is what makes watching a movie like this one fun. Bottom line with this movie is that, it’s fun to watch because it’s so damn cheesy. The dialog is so bad, specially when spoken by Van Damme who hardly speaks through out the movie because he couldn’t speak English very well. One seen has him say “I don’t want to see die”. Its funny because he leaves out the “you” and sounds like a complete buffoon while saying it.

 Hey, at least Cannon Films went out with a winner because even though this was the last film they made before going bankrupt, the movie made a profit. It only cost 500,000 (including Van Damme’s salary if you can believe it!) and yet went on to make over 10 million at the box office. This was one of those films that let Hollywood know that Van Damme was growing in popularity. When this film was made, it was the day and age of the muscle bound action hero and Van Damme was on the rise. I still watch this one because I saw it a kajillion times when I was a kid and I must admit I still have a fondness for it, but now I mostly watch it for laughs, which is really what its good for. A good hearty laugh of a film to remind us how silly 80’s films could be. Personally, I miss the silliness from the 80’s movies. Plus, I’m a sucker for post apocalyptic films.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5      


Manuel Marrero said...

I dont want to see die...Priceless. Dont forget about the magic campfire smoke shot in reverse, that was funny as hell.

Direct to Video Connoisseur said...

I love this movie, and Pyun's Director's Cut is even better. Van Damme and Cannon took the project away from Pyun in the editing process, changed the score, and made it more Van Damme centric with an emphasis on Van Damme fighting, so that's the movie you see here-- which I still love though.

I think the thing that would've torpedoed a Pyun/Cannon Spiderman wouldn't have been Pyun, but the budget. They wanted to make it for $10 million, that wouldn't have even covered the catering on a new Marvel flick. I love Sam Raimi, but even he would've had trouble making Spiderman Spiderman on $10 million.

Franco Macabro said...

@Manuel Marrero: Yeah, the smoke goes in reverse in that one campfire shot.

@Direct to Video Connoisseur: I figured something like that had happened to the film, but I still enjoy it the way it is, it's the only version I've ever known, and I still love it. But I am incredibly curious to see the directors cut, I remember reading about it in your review for it.

Agree, ten million dollars would've gotten us a really crappy Spidey film, similar to that crappy Fantastic Four film that Roger Corman produced all those years ago, wow is that one a laugh riot!

Thanks for commenting!

Unknown said...

Heh, I remember watching this many times on VHS with friends. It's the kind of film that works well with a room full of people laughing along with and enjoying all the crazy stuff in this film.

The one thing I always remember from this film is how freaky looking the bad guy's eyes were! Very weird. If memory serves, I believe he pops up in POINT BREAK as one of the bad guy surfers that Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves beat up halfway through.

Franco Macabro said...

@That's true J.D., the main villain on this film the one called "Fender" does appear in Point Break. Funny how all the characters in this film are named after brands of musical instruments...Gibson, Pearl, Fender..

Thanks for commenting J.D.!

venoms5 said...

It didn't become widely known till long after this film came and left theaters, but VD had seriously injured a man on the set stabbing him in the eye with a blunt weapon during a fight scene. The court case was held here in NC in Wilmington. I have some articles on it in some old martial arts magazines. When this news broke, it was discovered VD had lied about a lot of things. I recall him on Arsenio Hall show proclaiming there had never been any accidents on any of his sets and then this news broke about a year later.

But regarding CYBORG, I didn't like it at all and not sure what I'd think of it now. I do remember seeing the trailer on TV, though. For me, Pyun's best movie will always be THE SWORD & THE SORCERER (1982).

Franco Macabro said...

Yup, the injury was serious, the guy got about 500,000 for his eye, and that was cheap if you ask me, the guy lost a whole freakin eye!

I think I saw The Sword and the Sorcerer when i was a kid, but I dont remember it so well. I would love to re-watch it because I enjoy those 80's style low budget fantasy films, they are fun to watch. Im talking about Stuff like Hawk: The Slayer or Dungeonmaster. I'll see if I can get my hands on Pyun's Sword and the Sorcerer.


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