From the Archive – Omega Doom (1996)

OMega

Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring Rutger Hauer and Shannon Whirry

You can hear the pitch: “It’s Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars. With robots!”

A gang of servo-hissing, electric, killer breakdancers engage in a good, old-fashioned Mexican stand-off against a clique of reverb-voiced, moody, lethal proto-Goth New Romantics over a cache of guns supposedly buried under a patch of post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Rutger Hauer, as a robot reprogrammed by what appears to be a bunch of druids to protect a resurgent humanity from the robot gangs, enters the fray. As an ‘Upgraded Model 5.5’ he is half-way between the older ‘droids’ (breakdancers) and the more sophisticated ‘roms’ (proto-Goths), and plays the two gangs off against each other, aided by a talking head and a robot bartender.

What’s wrong with it?

The direction in Omega Doom is pretty lacklustre. The tension-building shots are overlong and do less to build tension than to breed boredom. Perhaps an effective score would have helped here, but there isn’t one. All of the music is pretty forgettable really. Also, while the relative brevity of the film is perhaps something to be grateful for, it rather does away with the slow-burning nature of the essential story.

What right with it?

The different robot factions – droids, roms and drones – are nicely distinguished in terms of look, although the droids are never given much to do. The idea is also not without merit, and the film hides a great deal of potential behind its facile surface. As is often the case however, the presence of such potential in such a fundamentally misbegotten film is more of a points against than for.

How bad is it really?

Pretty poor.

Best bit?

There really, really isn’t one.

What’s up with…?

  • The funky energy-knife things? They seem pretty lethal; why is everyone so hung up about getting guns? Moreover, we’re never given any kind of idea what they are.

Ratings

Production Values – Not bad over all. There isn’t much in the way of special effects, aside from a few energy blasts and a bunch of mechanical hissing and reverb, but this is definitely to the film’s – ultimately wasted – benefit. The sound quality isn’t great, meaning that much of the dialogue is indecipherable, although some might see this as a redeeming feature. 7

Dialogue and Performances – Pretty naf. Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning Rutger Hauer not at his worst, but certainly pretty damned wooden. Second-billed Shannon Whirry – following fellow former soft-core porno actresses Tracy Lords and Shannon Tweed in a bizarre bid to become respectable via tacky DTV action movies and thrillers – is almost completely without expression, and while Anna Katarina and William Zieggler as the Bartender and the Head show some talent, they aren’t given much to work with. The remainder of the cast are acceptable, but absolutely nothing to write home about. The script isn’t great and is filled with bizarre snippets of pseudo-philosophy, which detract more than they add to the atmosphere. 12

Plot and Execution – It’s as if having made the pitch, no further work went into the plot. There’s almost no characterisation either, so we don’t really care much who lives and who dies. The duels all tend to involve over-long staring matches (maybe not so long as in Fistful of Dollars, but then they don’t have an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, and that makes a whole lot of difference), and because there isn’t much of an effect for the funky plasma knives they fight with, they tend to be shot so that the impact point is obscured, and all we really see is a flash of light just off the screen. It might also have been nice to have some attempt to explain what these weapons are and how they work. The worst thing about the execution of the film is that it seems to be the major stumbling block for an otherwise fair concept. 18

Randomness – Well, in a lot of ways the whole damn film is pretty random, but often in a good way. While the breakdancers vs. new romantics shtick is a bit weird, in aesthetic terms it does actually kind of work. On the other hand, we are given no real explanation as to why Omega Doom was reprogrammed by druids (I mean; druids?), and in fact we only know he’s called Omega Doom from an opening and closing narration. In the film itself he calls himself Guardian Angel, which makes it sound like he should be a futuristic interceptor pilot chick in a white catsuit. 16

Waste of Potential – Hell yeah. The film has solid potential, bearing a tried-and-tested storyline, with a perfectly workable twist. And it has nothing much going for it. Could most definitely try harder. 18.

Overall – 61%

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