Cyborg Cop 2
The law of diminishing returns applies to this unnecessary sequel.
Against all expectations, I actually enjoyed the first Cyborg Cop, mainly through John Rhys-Davies' performance as the most evil Lancashirian of them all. Unfortunately he ended the last instalment with an extra hole in his head, so he cannot return for the follow up, much to its detriment.
The film opens with a shot of a drug processing operation, with many operatives processing cocaine in some nondescript fashion. The most unusual thing about this is that the no-doubt highly trained personnel work topless. Stranger still is that exactly the same scenario occurs in the first film. I hadn't commented on it, dismissing it as an entirely gratuitous way to drop some nudie shots in, but it's reappearance leads me to question if there isn't some symbolism here that I'm missing. Perhaps the freely swinging bosoms represent, um, mans inhumanity to mammary glands. It seems more likely that it's entirely gratuitous.
Not that this has any time to sink in as an unsavoury character by the unlikely name of Jesse Starkraven arrives with his heavily armed posse in the back of the truck. They waste on time in shooting up the place and killing a fair number of goons in their search for the drug boss, Fats. Fats wouldn't look out of place in Miami Vice, but doesn't have the class to back it up. His opening line to Jesse is "Dickhead! You looking for me, you bald f**k!?", which certainly isn't polite. Jesse and gang teach him to show the proper respect in a terminal fashion just as the D.E.A police forces arrive. Never ones to pass up an opportunity for a gunfight, Jesse and co open fire on the rozzers, leading to a standstill.
When situations like this arise, there's only one man to call, Jack Ryan (David Bradley) now back as part of the D.E.A. after his Caribbean excursion in the first film. As a reward for his sterling work he is now deemed worthy of a surname, although he still sports the same biker-chic leatherclad look which served him so well before. He disregards his boss, Captain Salerno's order to stay put and wait for the SWAT team in favour of going in alone under the flimsy cover of being the police negotiator.
Starkraven isn't fooled by this, immediately recognising him as the man who killed his brother one year ago. He wants revenge, and heads down to get it. Jack's partner, Mike stops Starkraven from shooting Jack, but is himself shot in the back by one of Starkraven's henchmen. The resultant fighting goes back and forth, but Jack ends up subduing Starkraven by means of repeatedly twatting him with a length of pipe. The aftermath of this incident is that Starkraven is arrested and sentenced to death, while Mike is sentenced to burial in a box.
Before Starkraven's sentence is carried out, we see him being sedated and carted off to a mysterious military installation, the Hurricane Research Centre. The newspapers, however report him as having escaped, much to Jack's chagrin. He vows to track him down and recapture him, despite Captain Salerno's insistence that he shouldn't.
In the research labs, Dr. Owns helpfully throws some exposition our way as he shows a group of delegates round the labs, pointing out the latest and most advanced, yet curiously cheap looking technology the military has to offer. He's building a new generation of cyborg soldiers, and has new improved and unconvincing looking bolt-on weaponry to give them, including a Gattling gun, a pulsating laser generator and a flame-thrower. The new cyborg has emotions, and can think and feel, at least as well as the actors can portray. It won't come as a surprise to find that the leader of the new Cyborg army is Starkraven, now renamed Spartacus. Dr. Owns shows off a control bracelet that will bind the cyborgs to the will of the bearer, much like Sauron's One Ring. It also has a handy panic button to destroy all the bots, should it be necessary, and you just know it will.
Mike's widow comes round to look after Jack's adopted son, Frankie (back in a shocking display of continuity from the first film) while he's off on a vengeance quest. Mike's widow has no real wish to see Jack risk his life, but Jack insists that he's a cop, and bringing perps to justice is what he does. The trail leads him to find that Starkraven was taken by some government outfit called the ATC, the Anti-Terrorist Group.
At the labs, a tragic incident occurs when Dr. Owns careless drops the control bracelet while getting his mack on with a lab assistant. This activates Spartacus, allowing him to capture the bracelet and take over the labs with his band of cybertroops. He announces that the time of subjugation of the cyborgs is over, while I wonder why the scientists added an internal vocoder to cyborgs. This renders their already silly speeches nigh-on inaudible. Anyhow, Spartacus moves his team out taking Dr. Owns with him as he'll be needed to build the cyborg army. Spartacus orders the labs destroyed, allowing one of his troops to test the unconvincing flame-thrower, burning the unconvincing lab to the ground while the unconvincing scientists inside scream unconvincingly.
Jack has a brief chat with an ex-Sheriff of the area, Sam Pickens, who was working on similar cases before getting too close to the truth and being retired. He points him in the direction of a building out of town he suspects to be a front for the ATG. Jack visits the ATG offices, and after being stonewalled by the pencil-pusher behind the desk he goes down the unusual route of beating officers up until he gets answers. He leaves empty handed, but with quite a few unconscious officers in his wake. Truly, Jack's violence knows no limits, nary villain nor law-enforcer be safe from his fists.
The ATG deputy head, Liz McDowell investigates the remains of the lab, using a handy tracking device to locate the rouge cyborgs. On being informed of Jack's antics, she orders a 24 hour watch on him and tells her subordinates to keep him the hell away from her investigation. Jack, being the uber-cop that he is, immediately spots his followers, and beats them up to get some answers. Beating people up is a common occurrence in the film, and that's no bad thing. For the most part the fight scenes are well handled, fast paced and comparatively realistic.
We are, however comparing them to Spartacus's cyborg army. They arrive at the power plant and get busy killing the military bods stationed there using their unrealistic yet powerful weaponry. The Gattling Gun attachment looks about as threatening as those instruments used for piping icing onto a cake. It should be noted that the laser attachment behaves more like a grenade launcher than a laser, causing fairly inexplicable explosions. Using these armaments they liberate another cyborg.
Jack breaks into the ATG archives under the cover of darkness, finding some relevant computer files on 5 1/4 inch floppies, which weren't exactly cutting edge even in 1994. Before fully analysing them he's busted by security, but it's not long before he busts them with his Way Of The Exploding Chop-Sockey skillz.
Next morning, Liz is appraised of the situation over the phone, while her posse and her seem to be going undercover at a New Romantic convention. She orders the fuel lines to the power plant be cut, which will disable the cyborg recharge stations or something. Her monotonic delivery makes it difficult to make out specifics, but lets assume there was a great plan for the sake of argument. Meanwhile, Jack meets with Sam in a biker hangout and appraises him of the situation. Leaving the bar, he nips over to a phone booth and checks in with his boss. The Captain has been receiving angry phone calls from the Pentagon, and as ever ass-kickings filter downwards. His ranting is cut short by an ATG agent driving slowly into the booth knocking it over. His dire warnings to leave well alone are in turn cut short by Sam. If the last film and the events of this one so far have shown anything, it's that telling Jack Ryan to stay away from something just increases his resolve to do it. They really ought to tell him to go right ahead, investigate whatever you want, then perhaps he'll lose interest and take up knitting.
Spartacus and his New Model Cyborg Army discover the human's plans, and move out in search of fuel. Jack spots this from a distance and follows. The cyborgs find the station to their distaste and decide to slaughter everyone in it, in ways which could either be described as 'iconic' or 'stupid', particularly cyborgs #6 and 3 (Mike and Harry) who decide to strangle a hapless mechanic by bending an exhaust around his neck. It looks like tragedy may befall some unsuspecting customers, a little boy and his mother who pull in to get some gas. The boy runs off, as little boys are wont to do, only to be spotted by Cyborg #4, Kevin. As Kevin lumbers towards the little boy with murderous intent, the boy falls injuring himself, forcing him to lumber as well. It looks bleak for the child, but Jack arrives on his motorbike accompanied by the cheesiest of the cheesy Superman theme rip-off music. He snatches him up, and manages a difficult and supposedly impressive moving bike to car transfer. As this non-drama unfolds, the local police force arrives to take on the cyborgs, but their realistic shotguns and pistols are no match for the cyborgs unconvincing weaponry. Jack returns and tries to take Starkraven into custody, but hadn't counted on him being cyborgified. The resultant fight goes poorly for Jack until an unlikely series of events involving some fresh cops results in a car landing atop Spartacus. Not that this has a tremendous effect on him, emerging from under the motor enraged. To vent some steam he blows up an unconvincing model of a police helicopter with his unconvincing weapon. This respite allows Jack to execute his master plan of rolling a barrel of petrol towards Spartacus, knowing his latent cyborg instincts will be to pick it up. Jack shoots the barrel, creating a ridiculous explosion that soon engulfs the entire station. Spartacus is wounded enough by this to order a retreat.
Jack can't follow, as more cops arrive and take him in to the ATG offices and is dragged before Liz, who warns him not to interfere, which we've already established won't work. As two officers 'escort' him out of the offices, Jack casually beats them up and kicks them downstairs while discussing his chances of pulling their boss. This film is infinitely better when the cyborgs aren't around stinking up the place.
Jack returns to Sam Pickens' ranch to get tooled up, but we've gone a few minutes without cyborgs being on screen so two show up to take Jack to Spartacus. Jack fights back, having somehow figures out that flares confuse their optical sensors. At this point the film actually starts getting enjoyable, as we can stop taking these horrifically crappy looking cyborgs as a credible threat when Jack makes jackasses out of the stupid looking robots. Jack deals with one of the cyborgs, Dave, by smacking him about the head with a fire extinguisher for a while before arc-welding him to a bench, which is absolutely the best way to deal with an enemy I've ever seen. I demand it be in Terminator 3. Cyborg #5, Bobby, has been occupying himself while all this merriment occurs by killing Sam. Jack is perturbed by this and sticks a grenade in to a handy compartment in Bobby's chest, causing him to malfunction in a comedy fashion, staggering off bleeping and squawking randomly before exploding.
Liz shows up, late for the party again. She is upset, what with it being her operation and not wanting any loose cannons and any number of other clich?s you'd care to mention. Jack suggests an alliance of sorts which pretty much boils down to the ATG giving Jack some of their own unconvincing weaponry to take on the cyborgs on a level playing field, because you can only arc-weld so many cyborgs to so many benches before tiring of the whole thing. Liz agrees to this and the two infiltrate the plant carrying a variety of utterly unconvincing weapons, including some explosives for which some grandiose claims are made (apparently it has a 'velocity of 2000 pounds per square inch' which wouldn't make sense even if p.s.i. wasn't actually a measurement of pressure) and what appears to be a close relative of Robocop's Cobra Assault Cannon. The unconvincing rocket launcher first seen in Cybertracker makes a welcome comeback. The pair fight through to labs dispersing the cyborg menace with refreshing ease, before Spartacus stops them in their tracks by producing Frankie (remember him?) apparently from out of his ass. Despite their compliance he still threatens to cyborgify little Frankie, so Jack gets mediaeval on the cyborgs ass. He swings over a chasm on a handy chain Spiderman style, knocking Spartacus away, following this by attaching explosives to our cyborg villain. It's Frankie who wins the day though, using a powerful electromagnet to pick Spartacus up, allowing Jack to retrieve the One Control Bracelet to bring them all and in the darkness blow them up. As our heroes run away from the power plant a model shot blows up in sympathy. I think it was supposed to be the power plant, but it didn't have the right number of cooling towers or bear any resemblance to the real thing, so I can't be absolutely sure. Perhaps it's metaphorical.
This is a silly movie. Unfortunately for the first half of the film it doesn't realise this and has delusions of being a proper film, somewhere between Universal Soldier, Robocop 2 and The Terminator. This doesn't work when the cyborg menace is so laughable, with their silly voices, ridiculously oversized hand and foot (yes, singular in both cases for god-only knows what reason), plasticy weaponry, overblown organ-based theme music and dialogue from he generic robot speech generator. The scenes which feature Jack trying to work out what's going on and beating people up in the process are far more fun, with David Bradley getting some pretty good lines in along the way and displaying a fair amount of charisma which is sadly lacking in the rest of the cast.
Once the second half of the movie dispenses with this pretence and gets into the Jack vs. Cyborg battles the movie becomes a lot more fun. I couldn't in all seriousness recommend this to anyone, but it has enough little moments in it to keep me entertained, and Jack welding the cyborg to a bench is worth the cost of the disc by itself.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.
Morgan Hunter (Spartacus/Jese Starkraven)
Jill Pierce (Liz McDowell)
Victor Melleney (Sam Pickens)
Douglas Bristow (Dr. Owns)
Dale Cutts (Captain Salerno)