“Future Beware: The Soul is in the Software”
Directed by Michael Schroeder
Starring Elias Koteas, Angelina Jolie, Jack Palance and Billy Drago
In the future, cyborgs have replaced humans in all jobs (except for all the ones we see anyone doing in the film) and two corporations struggle for dominance of the cyborg market. Casella ‘Cash’ Reese (Jolie) is created and trained to be the perfect corporate infiltrator, with the goal of inserting her into Kobayashi Electronics and destroying their entire board with an undetectable explosive, called Glass Shadow, loaded into her circulatory system.
80% of this plot setup will never be relevant in any way, as with the aid of the mysterious Mercy (Palance) and her human combat instructor Colt (Koteas), Cash escapes. Hunted by fellow cyborg Chen (Karen Shepherd) and cyborg-hunter Daniel Bench (Drago), she must find a way to get rid of the Glass Shadow then make her way to the Cyborg Free Zone in Mombasa.
There’s a whole Romeo and Juliet thing with Colt and Cash, but… meh.
What’s wrong with it?
Well, it’s a super-cheap, video-shot dystopian action movie from the early 90s, so the picture quality is for shit and the cyborg PoV shots are hilarious. I’m pretty sure they’re running DOS.
Jolie – in her first starring role – is… okay, but nothing to write home about, and with Koteas being pretty bland the lack of chemistry is pretty crippling for a Romeo and Juliet flick. Plus, he’s about thirty and she’s seventeen. It’s hard to put that out of your mind in the sex scene.
Oh, and yes, there’s another sex scene which even the movie admits is gratuitous. The Glass Shadow demonstration takes the form of a female cyborg who detonates at climax, and the lead creepy scientist admits this is because ‘it seemed the most entertaining way’.
What’s right with it?
Jack Palance is… pretty damned awesome in this one. Sometimes he chews on the scenery, but here he’s nicely reserved. It’s quite surprising. Billy Drago is… Billy Drago; he’s a smiling psychopath, just like always.
In fairness, Cash is pretty badass; no faux action credentials here.
How bad is it really?
It’s mostly just dull, especially in the bits which have neither Jack Palance nor Billy Drago in. It’s also pretty nonsensical, and spends an awfully long time setting up a plot which has almost no relevance whatsoever.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Having spent most of the film as a disembodied mouth on a TV screen, Mercy shows up to lay some hurt on the Pinwheel Robotics goons hunting Cash. He steps out of the shadows, chuckles dryly at the heavily armed opposition, and growls:
“If you want to dine with the devil, you’re gonna need a long spoon.”
And somehow he makes it work.
What’s up with…?
- The universal prevalence of cyborgs, when we don’t actually see that many of them?
- Mercy’s cyborg beagle?
- The palm reader? Cash wanders into her consulting parlour unbidden, she gives a slightly sinister reading, says she can offer Cash a job, and then Cash beats her and her assistant up and leaves. Why?
- Danny Bench and his plastic surgery? There is apparently some major backstory there, but it’s not really explained that well, and certainly isn’t tied into the rest of the film. Neither does it have anything to do with Cyborg, despite the clips of Van Damme.
Production values – The effects are cheap, and only saved by the low resolution of the 90s video shooting. Film; it just ages better. 13
Dialogue and performances – Jack Palance is stealing the show here with a low key performance. He also gets the only real quotable of the film. 14
Plot and execution – The setup is overly complicated and largely pointless, and the Romeo and Juliet plot is largely unconvincing, but it’s pretty much by the numbers and that’s hard to screw up too badly. 12
Randomness – Cyborg dog? Random palmist? Cyborg flashbacks? 16
Waste of potential – A sequel to Cyborg could at least be a sequel to Cyborg, you know? 13