November 19, 2008

DVD Review: Cyborg Soldier

Way back in 1992 there was a film that brought together a couple of action stars for a tale of science fiction run amok. The story centered on a pair of soldiers who were killed in Vietnam. Sounds like the end of the story, right? Wrong. A military experiment back in the States takes custody of their remains and they are rebuilt into stronger, faster, smarter killing machines. One of those soldiers regains some of his memory, escapes and begins to search for the truth. He teams with a reporter in the discovering the truth, as well as bring a stop to the project that brought him back to life. By now, I am sure you guessed what film I am talking about. That's right, Cyborg Soldier. I kid, I kid. It is Universal Soldier, from which Cyborg Soldier borrows liberally, watering the whole thing down in the process.

Cyborg Soldier opens right in the middle of the action. A man (UFC fighter Rich Franklin) fights his way through a cliche, complete with flashing red lights, darkened government issue hallways, and anonymous uniformed fist fodder. The man easily dismantles his attackers and runs off through snowy woods and down the road. I guess the facility does not have any mobile units on the outside prepared to prevent just such a situation.

Before long, a small town deputy, Lindsey Reardon (Tiffani Thiessen), comes across him running down the road. Before she is able to get any information from him, black van rolls up, opening to reveal the military's clean up crew, a motley assortment of unsavory looking mercenary types with big guns. A shoot out ensues, ending with the man and Lindsey racing off in her cruiser, leaving the head merc spitting mad.

With the chase safely underway, the complex (ahem) plot begins to unfold. The man is named Isaac (actually, it is an acronym: Intuitive Synthetic Autonomous Assault Commando), and he acts rather stiff. His actions are with good reason, the mad scientist (more like upset scientist in this case) Simon Hart (Bruce Greenwood) reveals that he is the creator of the runaway man. He used all of his scientific acumen, and millions in government money to create the perfect soldier (much like Universal Soldier) and that he is very anxious to get him back. Hart's actions are hampered by Janice Fraser, a suit from some other branch, also eager to get Isaac back, but willing to bring in other agencies, like the FBI. Sounds odd for someone I have assumed to be further up the food chain, being so willing to bring others in and allowing their project to become known.

Anyway, bad mercenary types chase and catch up from time to time, a fight ensues and our protagonists escape. Lather, rinse, repeat. Eventually we learn a little bit about the background of our programmed commando, which leads him to want to go back to the facility. The whole thing ends in an explosive showdown inside the top secret bunker where this whole thing began.

Want to know it ends? You've probably already guessed.

If you could not already tell, this is not a good movie. Even with my low expectations for quality, this was disappointing. It is billed as an action film, however, it is strangely devoid of much action. What action there is, is poorly staged and executed. We get standing shootouts with a mixture of squibs and digital blood (which looks bad), and hand to hand fights which are amateurish and far from exhilarating. It's sad. They have a former UFC champ in Rich Franklin as their star attraction and he just looks slow and not terribly convincing as a bad ass (which I am sure he is in the ring).

The acting is just as bad. Franklin does not have the charisma or presence to pull off the role, and Tiffani Thiessen in a big flannel shirt trying to play cop doesn't help. Bruce Greenwood appears to know he is in a stinker and his performance is of the scenery chewing variety, not good, but at least he knows the score.

Story wise, this is a straight rip from Universal Soldier, which was also culled from other sources but at least knew to be a fun action romp. This story is so watered down that it is nearly non-existent. There are a couple of tent poles but nothing in between them. We never learn much about the secret project that spawned Isaac, only the bare minimum is told of who Isaac really is, and forget about anything else.

Audio/Video. This direct to DVD release is fine on the tech side. It is a lower budget affair and doesn't have that Hollywood sheen, but it is crisp, clear and free from any defects and the sound is always crisp and clear. The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the audio is Dolby Digital 5.1.

Extras. Nothing, save for the original trailer and a few other coming attractions, including the new Steven Seagal flick, Kill Switch.

Bottomline. You would be better off going back to the likes of Universal Soldier, Terminator, Robocop, or even Solo for some action. This film fails to deliver on any level, unless you like to make fun of the movies you watch (which can be fun once in a while).

Not Recommended.


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