Title: The Vindicator (1986)
Director: Jean Claude Lord
Cast: Pam Grier, Maury Chaykin, David McIlwraith, Teri Austin
The Vindicator feels like Robocop’s cheap cyborg clone because so many of the elements seen in The Vindicator popped up again in Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (1987) that you feel like somebody read the script for Robocop and liked it so much they decided to rush and make their own version of it before Robocop could be released. Could it be just pure coincidence that both films are so similar? I seriously doubt it. The proximity in release date makes me think that one copied ideas from the other, but who knows how that really went right? If you got any inside dirt, let me know! But if intuition serves me right, I’d say it was The Vindicator doing the rip off here. Now as far as 80’s sci-fi action films go, how was The Vindicator?
Story goes something like this: scientists are designing a cyborg meant for space exploration. The lead scientist in this project, a scientist named Carl wants to blow the whistle on a bunch of corporate douche bags who are stealing money from his funds. So of course, he gets killed for threatening to blow the whistle. So after they get Carl killed, they decide they want to use his body to create the prototype of their space cyborg! Which they do, unfortunately, because of a bunch of scientific bullshit that I won’t go into right now, the cyborg cannot control its emotions and simply goes berserk whenever anyone touches it. Yes my friends, simply touching it will get this bad boy to go on a city wide killing spree! Too bad for the evil scientists; Carl is hungry for revenge!
The Vindicator feels like a mash up between Robocop (1987) and Darkman (1990) which makes perfect sense to me because both of these movies drew inspiration from the old Universal monster movies, mainly Frankenstein (1931). Did you ever see Robocop as a modern retelling of Frankenstein? I know I did! I mean, they take a dead guy, bring him to life, he is confused, he feels rejected by society, by loved ones. These movies deal with becoming ‘a monster’. In these movies, the old question pops up: can a monster be loved even though he is a monster? Same as Darkman and Robocop, this is a monster that used to have a loved one before he was wronged, and same as these two movies, the creature goes back home to try and reconnect with his wife, only to find out she is now horrified by the way he looks. As you can see, these movies have almost exactly the same plot. In Hollywood that’s called a formula, and it’s a formula that The Vindicator follows to a T.
In films such as this, you’ll always find the monster looking at themselves in a mirror, or a puddle of water, and hating what they see, screaming in frustration. Kind of how like Darkman breaks down and cries when he takes a look at his charred hands and starts screaming “My hands! My hands! They took away my hands!” The filmmakers also recognized their connections to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; by naming the project that the scientists are working on ‘Project Frankenstein’. And if you know your Frankenstein films, then you know the monster is always a misunderstood creature, society just wants it dead; which is really what this movie is all about, the bad guys trying to recover the runaway robot so they can erase their mistake. It reminded me of Short Circuit (1986), which also had the same basic premise.
The makeup effects were done by legendary make up effects man Stan Winston, this was one of his first films and I’d say that Winston’s make up effects are the best thing the film has going for it. I mean, The Vindicator looks fairly cool and there’s this scene where he takes off his mask and we can see a mixture between robot and human that was pretty awesome, I mean for the time it was made anyways. The big problem for me was that whenever The Vindicator walked, he didn’t make any robotic sounds, it was not as cool as Robocop in that sense. Also, the actor playing the cyborg didn’t move like a robot, he walked around like a regular human being, again, something that Robocop did better. Peter Weller had that robotic walk down flat! In the battle between The Vindicator and Robocop, Robocop comes out the winner because it is simply a better made film; obviously the talent behind the camera on Robocop was superior. The Vindicator sadly feels like a television show at times. The coolest thing you see The Vindicator doing on this film is lifting and crushing car with his hands, that’s about as amazing as this film gets. The final fight scene, which involved The Vindicator fighting other cyborgs was directed in a very boring, boring fashion. Final words on The Vindicator: extremely similar to far better films and directed in a very banal fashion. If anything, watch it for seeing Stan Winston’s early work.
Rating: 2 out of 5