Monday, December 17, 2012

The Cyberpunk Week, Day 1: Nemesis [1992] (sci-fi, action, thriller, obviously cyberpunk)

Studio: Imperial Entertainment,
Director: Albert Pyun,
Screenplay: Rebecca Charles,
Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Thriller, Cyberpunk,
Starring: Olivier Gruner, Tim Thomerson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Merle Kennedy, Yuji Okumoto

Let's start the Cyberpunk Week with something obscure, but good. I've learned about Nemesis in the infamous 'Video-ASU' magazine (no, I won't call it 'Video-ASS', no matter how hard you ask) circa 1993, maybe. There was an article about Olivier Gruner, just back in the times when he was a promising action star. Just like the review you're reading now, there was a poster above the text that instantly reminded me of good old Deus Ex. Besides, I'm a real cyberpunk diehard, so I knew I had to see this. Thank God, it looked like someone employed at our local TV has heard my pleadings, so I checked this movie out and rightfully filed it under the 'most badass action B-movies' category.

Welcome to the Uncanny Valley, sucker!

While on one of my regular nostalgic surges, I watched it again a few months ago, well after seeing all the other genre classics such as Blade Runner, 13th Floor, Tron, etc., and fancy that, it still was as watchable and fun as those few millions of years ago when I was a little kid! Usually, the sci-fi B-movie directors (including A. Pyun himself, who was responsible for other cybertrashy classics such as Cyborg featuring J.C. Van Damme) don't pay much attention to the ideas and ideology of their movies, mostly focusing on violence, visuals and tits, even if the movie is supposed to be taken as true hardcore cyberpunk. Well, Nemesis does have enough violence and tits, but at the same time it manages to follow all the necessary canons to not be classified as simple sci-fi.

Oh, hi Molly!

The plot revolves around a cop named Alex, whose primary job is tracking and assassination of cyber-terrorists (oh, hi Blade Runner!), meanwhile turning into a cyborg himself due to the prosthetic implants in his body. During one of the regular assignments, he suddenly gets his augmented ass handed to him by a gang of rebellious cyborgs fighting against the government. The mission proves to be such a disaster that Alex gets retired and settles down in some random shithole village. Then, one day he's visited by his ex-girlfriend from the police who is asking him to come back to the force for some urgent stuff to accomplish. He refuses. Some flashy special effects later, the cops finally manage to convince him to work for them, so they send Alex to his presumably last mission - to recover a microchip that unlocks some very sensitive classified data maintained by the government, from a terrorist group. But once he arrives there, his sailing quickly stops being smooth.

Really quickly.

Despite sounding as corny as it all sounds so far, the movie still offers a series of classic cyberpunk questions: what's the difference between human(e) and machine? How different are the rights of 'real' humans as opposed to the ones who are cybernetically altered? Can a machine be able to fully replicate a human personality, and how can this can be used? None of these questions are answered directly, nor the movie follows the 'machines are evil' motto - after all, the main character himself is a partially automatic killer...

...who has a stupid mullet in this shot.

Olivier Gruner is actually pretty good in his role - he's a classic badass hero who doesn't speak much, but manages to say many things - it's all in the emotions, the suspicious look in his eyes, animal agility and grace; the traits that make the French actor a perfect candidate for his role of neo-Messiah. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is also great, as usual - he plays a sort of Yakuza Godfather, whose business decisions are always brutally calculative. All the female characters (and this movie has a lot of them) are consistently ranging from cute to hot, and the villains are just as ferocious beasts as the main guy, making them the perfect rivals.

Yay, they even rip off Johnny Mnemonic's melancholic virtual cocktease!

The action scenes - I'm not gonna lie here - are some of the best I have ever seen, and I've seen a lot of action movies, you can be sure about that. The special effects are really neat too, for 1992 at least. My most favorite scenes are the opening shootout and the construction yard battle - when our hero is shooting the crap out of the bad guys with akimbo guns, there's even some kind of the 80-s John Woo flavour strongly felt throughout the entire flick, and that's no way a bad thing. The animatronic cyborg effects also deserve a mention, especially the stop-motion sequence at the end, obviously having something to do with the first Terminator.

Who needs an avatar? ...But the robot designs kick ass in this, in all seriousness.

So all in all, here's the resume: Nemesis is a solid action-packed sci-fi flick with decent acting, some kind of sense, intense plot, to-the-point dialogue and all in all a jam-packed treat to any old-school sci-fi/B-movie/cyberpunk fan. I recommend!