Thursday, August 10, 2017

Film Review: CYBER BANDITS (1995, Erik Fleming)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 86 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Martin Kemp (WAXWORK II, THE KRAYS, of "Spandau Ballet" fame), Alexandra Paul (CHRISTINE, BAYWATCH), Adam Ant (of "Adam and the Ants," NOMADS, JUBILEE), Grace Jones (A VIEW TO A KILL, CONAN THE DESTROYER), Henry Gibson (NASHVILLE, THE 'BURBS, THE BLUES BROTHERS), James Hong (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, BLADE RUNNER), Nils Allen Stewart (BLOODSPORT 2, FIREPOWER), Robert Hays (AIRPLANE!, CAT'S EYE, TV's STARMAN). Written by James Dale Robinson (THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN) and James Goldman (William Goldman's brother, the playwright who wrote THE LION IN WINTER, FOLLIES, and THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS––here he is credited as "Winston Beard").
Tag-line: "Welcome to cyberspace. Where danger is a virtual reality."
Best one-liner: "Strap him down, boys!" (said by Grace Jones)

In a familiar, darkened alleyway:

"What are we watching tonight?"
–"Tonight, we're going to catch a glimpse the future."
"Oh yeah?"
–"Well, take a peek, kiddo––if you can handle it. It's called CYBER BANDITS:"

Cool Cyber Dudes

Life-Size Cyber Strippers

Pocket-Size Cyber Strippers

Read-only Optical Memory

 "The future kinda looks like 1995."
–"The hell it does!"
"Is that a CD-ROM?"
–"Maybe. But what if in the future they have experimental hard drives that hold millions of terabytes of data and they happen to look like CD-ROMs?"
"Oookay. If it's gonna be watered-down cyberpunk, can we just watch BRAINSCAN instead?"
–"No. Trust me, you're gonna like CYBER BANDITS. For starters, its cast is comprised almost entirely of famous musicians and John Carpenter actors."
"Hmm. Go on."
–"Almost everyone in this film has razor-sharp cheekbones and ice-blue eyes, and it's all accompanied by aggressive house music and fusion jazz noodling. Look at this, it's just three, nearly identical, cheek-bony men staring at each other's cheekbones. It's like being held captive in a hall-of-mirrors at a German discotheque."

"Okay. Is that, um, Adam Ant?"
"Does this movie have a plot?"
"Of course it does. So there's an evil millionaire, played by Robert Hays (who played STARMAN on TV, albeit not directed by John Carpenter), who is financing a device capable of erasing your mind and trapping you in your own catatonic body in a mental hell of your own making. Essentially, it's a jumbo-sized and more malicious version of the neuralyzer from MEN IN BLACK.

He's got Joe Dante and Robert Altman-standby Henry Gibson as his top scientist on the project, too."

"So it's more of a 'Henry Gibson picture' than a 'William Gibson picture,' eh?"
–"Oh, stop. Though, I must give a special shout-out to Gibson, who simpers and leers his way through the picture with sinister refinement, like he's a 1990s Claude Rains."

Hand over the CD-ROMs if you know what's good for you

 "I do appreciate a solid Henry Gibson performance."
–"Me too, brother. Anyway, our hero is Martin Kemp (the bassist from Spandau Ballet), who's, um, a sailor on the evil millionaire's yacht."

"I feel like this character should be played by Jean-Claude Van Damme. Or at least Jean-Faux Van Bernhardt."
–"Oh, hush. So, after a torrid affair with the millionaire's girlfriend (Alexandra Paul, from John Carpenter's CHRISTINE),

Pictured: a torrid affair from the future, and not, in fact, a torrid affair from 1995.

and against the advice of his buddy, rocker Adam Ant,

You'll note that those are the Frank Lloyd Wright tiles from BLADE RUNNER in the background!

the sailor and the girlfriend decide to steal the plans to the millionaire's neural-cyber-weapon-thing and have them laser-tattooed on Kemp's back with a bunch of little 1's and 0's. (The original title of this picture was A SAILOR'S TATTOO.)

Incidentally, this is the first (but far from the last) time Martin Kemp will be strapped down to various surfaces throughout this movie.

Also, it's worth mentioning that the man doing the tattooing is James Hong (from John Carpenter's BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA)

Note his excellent fake mustache.

who, pre-tattoo, offers them a masked, flamboyant Chinese opera performance.

He was clearly having so much fun with it, that they bring him back for a post-credits scene where he performs even more Chinese opera. Take that, Marvel movies!"
"I must say, as far as MacGuffins go, a coded tattoo is not the worst idea."
–"Of course it isn't!  Didn't I tell you who wrote this thing?"
–"Two men. One is the guy who adapted THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN..."
–"...and the other is the playwright who wrote THE LION IN WINTER."
"Er, what?"
–"Who incidentally is William Goldman's brother, James. However, he chose to be credited as 'Winston Beard.' Also, don't be so hard on THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN."
"I'll be as hard on it as I want. Think about it: Sean Connery had such a bad experience working on it that he retired from acting. Therefore, if not for GENTLEMEN, we may have had Connery in INDIANA JONES AND THE CRYSTAL SKULL which fundamentally would have altered its fabric, which means it might not have had Tarzan vine-swinging and CG aliens. The pity is that we'll never know."
–"Okay, that's enough out of you. I'm about to get to the best part: the millionaire has a foil––a woman who leads a rag-tag band of cyber-resistance fighters and plans to bring him down for good: ladies and gentlemen, may I present... Grace muthahfuckin' Jones."

"That's a lot of crazy-eye."
–"It's one of her specialties, as you well know. You can also see her in Christopher Lee's Cher wig from THE WICKER MAN,

shouting things like "Strap him down, boys," feeding her pet mouse to her pet snake (with an extra side of crazy-eye),

setting up a nice cyber-office on the beach (uh... what?)

and wearing really outré outfits that I guess are supposed to be camouflage,

but read more as "Cousin It at Milan fashion week."

SURPRISE––Grace Jones!

"I'm intrigued."
–"It's a lot better than it should be. I mean, Grace Jones alone––despite less than 20 minutes of screen-time––is essentially worth the price of admission. It's like a low-rent BLADE RUNNER/NEUROMANCER with big ideas, game actors, silly costumes, and an A-list soundtrack featuring songs like 'Sploosh' by Ozric Tentacles."
"Wow. I kinda miss the '90s."
–"I think you mean, 'the future'... don't you?"

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