A Van Damme-less sequel to a Van Damme film that manages to be worse than the original? Jings...
Subtitled The Recycler this is the seemingly final sequel to the initial 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Cyborg. The box sleeve seems quite keen on giving Malcolm McDowell top billing, which is a tad strange given that he's on screen for under three minutes and his role is eminently dispensable. The rest of the cast aren't at anything approaching his level, which pretty much sinks any hope this had of being good.
Apparently the character of Cash returns from Cyborg 2, although a brief search indicates that a different actress is used here taking over the role from Angelina Jolie, no less. I feel I'm getting ahead of myself. Allow me to introduce you to an odd looking chap called Anton Lewellyn (Richard Lynch), The Recycler himself. His purpose in life is to hunt down cyborgs and harvest their parts. However, as the cyborgs for once aren't evil, this makes him the bad guy. Lewellyn hails from London, or Birmingham, or Melbourne, depending on the time of day or so his ever-changing accent would imply. We first see him tracking down a farming cyborg, who is understandably running the hell away from Lewellyn's Jump Ship, which cynics would say is more of a Truck than a Ship. Anyhow, on approaching their quarry Lewellyn orders his cyborg slave/muscle Jocko (Andrew Bryniarski) to nip out the ship/truck on a scramble, which is later revealed to be the weapon of choice for hunters such as these. No explanation was offered. Lewellyn joins him in his Mad Maxesque buggy. They hunt down the cyborg and Lewellyn removes his eye to add to his big necklace o' eyeballs.
Alrighty then. He's now in possession of a scrap cyborg to sell, like some kind of post-apocalyptic Steptoe and Son. Oh, had I neglected to mention that this is set after civilisation fell? No explanation was offered. Lewellyn flogs his ill-gotten gains to Lord Talon (McDowell), who tries to kill Lewellyn after taking umbrage at his attempts at haggling. Lewellyn manages to reach for his undefined weapon that I will henceforth refer to as a holo-whip, and kills Talon while Jocko takes care of his assorted lackeys. And that's the sum total of McDowell's involvement, which probably pleases him no end. He plays the role the same way he tackles every role, show up and speak his lines relying on the fact that he has an English accent to portray the evil and menace required. Even with a disinterested performance as this, he easily outclasses everyone else on show here.
Now Lewellyn enters an establishment that piqued my interest in this movie in the first place, the Cyberdello, in search of some Mechano Whore action. My hopes of grand perversity are dashed when it turns out to be a poorly lit strip-club. Bah. Anyhow, Lewellyn spies a cyber-hooker that catches his eye, Alexia. In a private room a little later, he catches her eye in a rather more literal sense. So far they've made the mistake of giving Lynch a few good lines, which make it difficult to hate him too much, especially when our heroes are so bland.
Speaking of which, while these mindless events take place, we are introduced to Cash, who's off to see a certain Dr. Edford. They make a discovery as to why Cash has been feeling run down of late - she's pregnant. This puzzles them, as Cash is a cyborg. No explanation was offered. She points her in the direction of a programmer who now lives in isolation out in the badlands.
She's leaving just as Jocko and Lewellyn leave the Cyberdello. The wonder aloud what a cyborg is doing running around alone in dangerous territory such as this, and resolve to torture the doctor to find out. She doesn't talk, so they kill her and track her by some undefined other means, rendering the whole scene a tad pointless.
After what would seem to be a day of travel, and after one run in with the lads which she escaped by using some kind of strobe grenade, Cash reaches the cave that the guy responsible for creating these cyborgs' programming in holed up in. Evans initially doesn't believe her, but a quick scan with some unconvincing instrumentation reveals she is indeed preggers. Before anything too important like explaining why on earth this would be designed into a cyborg can happen, Lewellyn and Jocko approach their little cave in the Jump Ship/Truck. They have apparently taken stupid pills over the course of the night and end up letting them escape. Evans decides to take her to the only safe cyborg haven, Cytown, a near-mythical protected town in the Free Zone. They head off in Cash's buggy, but have to walk the remainder of the way on hitting a force field which seems to disable all mechanical things that aren't part of a cyborg, probably using Future Technology 7. Lewellyn follows, but first decides to call in a few alliances. He also offers his explanation of sorts for his actions, being that it's his calling. I didn't care enough to think about why he'd be doing this, so the information is superfluous.
On reaching the complex that is grandiosely labelled a town, given that it's a few shacks in the middle of nowhere, the cyborg denizens react with distrust to Evans arrival. He wins them over by fixing a few minor glitches in some of them. Nonetheless, on finding out of Cash's position and the trackers after her they have a debate on whether to help them or turf them out. Some exceptionally flaky arguing from the now eyeless ex-hooker Alexia convinces them to let them stay and fight the forces of darkness.
The forces of darkness basically consist of about fifty chaps on scramblers, which isn't the (Neo) apocalyptic force I'd envisaged. After a morale-boosting rally, he sends Jocko off on an infiltration mission to knock out the force field, otherwise all those bikes will be useless. At Cytown, Cash falls ill, interrupting a truly awful acting session of the various cyborgs moaning about their missing limbs, etc and the hopelessness of being a cyborg. It seems she's gone in to labour, calling for a swift cyber-caesarean section. She is then the proud mother of...a small box with a blinking L.E.D on it. Apparently it's a spontaneously generated incubation chamber or something, but it's such an unbelievably daft concept that'll I'll just nod politely and carry on.
Disaster strikes for our heroes as Jocko crashes in, knocking out the force field with remarkable easy, stealing the 'baby' and returning to Lewellyn. As Evans works feverishly to patch the cyborgs up into some kind of effective fighting force, Cash slinks off to try to recover her kid, but is quickly captured. She is left in the care of Jocko, who she convinces to try to remember his former life before being reprogrammed by Lewellyn. Turns out he used to be a doctor. Ooooh. Distracted by this, he allows Cash to escape back to Cytown.
Everything is now nicely set up for the main humans vs. cyborg war, which turns out to be one of the most incompetently handled action scenes I've witnessed. The human's main plan of attack seems to be to ride about on their bikes until they get shot, which is pretty much doomed to failure. A few braver souls venture into hand-to-hand combat with one of the cyber-chop-sockey-cyborgs, allowing us to see another kind of poorly handled action scene to alleviate the tedium.
The final confrontation sees Lewellyn and Jocko face off against Evans, Cash and the cyber-chop-sockey dude who I don't think was ever named. The unnamed menace attacks, and Jocko kills him before fully rebelling and promising never to kill for Lewellyn again. Spoilsport. Lewellyn gambles that no mother would dare shoot him as he'd previously nipped in to kidnap Cash's box, but Cash opens fire indiscriminately anyhow, revealing that that was merely a decoy box.
A voice over tells us that the birth of this child is the end of a dark age and the beginning of a new golden one. No explanation was given, although that's not much of a criticism as I doubt there could ever be an adequate explanation.
Strangely this movie starts off alright, mainly due to its fast pacing not giving you time to think about how bad it is. And boy does it have its bad bits. The soundtrack is possibly the worst thing I've ever heard, ranging from appalling techno to appalling 80's poodle rock rip-offs. The script is quite awful, explaining nothing at all. The film reduces to a series of loosely connected events, happening seemingly on the basis of it being something to do. The only character that has any real motivation to do anything is Cash, trying to understand what's happening to her, then suddenly figuring everything out despite not being told anything (or telling us, more to the point.) The conclusion has to be taken on faith as at no point does it begin to describe why this cyborg baby is a good thing and will lead to a new golden age, whatever that is. No explanation is given as to why this cyborg was designed to get pregnant some decades after her creation - why has it waited until now? How is this lil' cyborg growing? Where'd that incubation chamber come from? It wasn't there in the scans. There are far more questions but I'm not sure I care enough about it to be too bothered.
Richard Lynch is pretty much a staple fixture in these low budget sci-fi affairs, and to be honest he's by no means the worst actor in the world. There are a few times when he's forced into dubious territory, but the fault for that lies more with the scripts low quality dialogue than Lynch's ability, although I doubt he'll ever be in contention for an oscar. The rest of the cast however may well be the worst actors in the world, being by turns appalling, boring, unsympathetic, stilted and laughable.
The direction is similarly poor, with the action scenes totally botched and even the plain vanilla on-camera dialogue scenes being best described as slapdash. Being set in the post-apocalyptic wastelands, at least the choice of ruins and shabby buildings is appropriate, although it does beg the question of exactly what Lord Talon was Lord of, as it appeared to be a bit of dusty ground. He must be so proud.
The fast pacing for the most part stops you having to think about how poorly defined everything is, so it's not an unbearable film but not one that I would recommend to anyone while there's monkeys to watch as an alternative. Monkeys are funny.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 1/5 TippyMarks.
Khrystyne Haje (Casella 'Cash' Reese)
Richard Lynch (Anton Lewellyn)
Andrew Bryniarski (Jocko)
Malcolm McDowell (Lord Talon)