Thursday, April 30, 2009

Film Review: TRANCERS (1985, Charles Band)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 76 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Tim Thomerson (Altman's A WEDDING, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, RHINESTONE) , Helen Hunt, Richard Herd (F.I.S.T., ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN), and Art LaFleur (FIELD OF DREAMS, WARGAMES).
Tag-lines: "2247 collides with 1985 . . . when a 23rd century crime fighter heats it up in L.A., today!"
Best one-liner: "Welcome to the twentieth century, Jack Deth!"

Of all the Full Moon franchises (PUPPET MASTER, SUBSPECIES, DEMONIC TOYS, etc.), TRANCERS is probably the best. Well, perhaps that gives it a BIT too much credit. Instead, let's say it's the most charming. Kind of a straight-to-video fusion of BLADE RUNNER and THE TERMINATOR (with later installments drawing more on HIGHLANDER and XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS), its aim is not REALLY quality- its sights are set a tad lower. It's not trying to give you your money's worth on a 1985 movie ticket ($2.75), it's trying to give you your money's worth on the 25¢ rental, and in doing so, it succeeds. The DVD even (unintentionally) duplicates the experience with a flawed transfer that looks like a well-loved, ratty VHS.

But on to the movie: what we have here is a pretty hamfisted one-liner fest in the vein of (but lacking the wit of) Shane Black and Fred Dekker. As a side note, it happens to be set at Christmastime in L.A., and prefigures, in this aspect, both DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON.

Anyway, actor/comedian Tim Thomerson is rather likable as Jack Deth, as is a young Helen Hunt (who continued to appear in the series through its third installment).

There's the requisite 80's punk club scene ("Looks like a room full of Trancers!"); a Tangerine Dream rip-off score; weak jokes ("Dry hair's for squids!"); not one, but two awesome time-stopping sequences; a washed-up hobo ballplayer; futuristic ruling councils; and then it somehow all ends on a freeze frame. Inexplicably, all of these things add up to something I consider fairly effin' sweet entertainment. (Funny, the same thing happened when I saw HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN.) So if you like your 80's fare inundated with bad one-liners, equal doses of low-budget creativity and cretinous cliche, and the delightful magnetic warpings of a defective VHS, then, by all means, help yourself to some TRANCERS. Three stars.

-Sean Gill

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