Thursday, April 6, 2023

Future Kick (1991)

In the distant future, the earth is a wreck, controlled by sinister corporations and feeding on chaos. The rich elite live comfortably on the moon, including a virtual reality developer. After a philanderous trip to earth ends with his murder at the hands of a serial killer, his wife Nancy goes down herself to find justice. She teams up with Walker, the last remaining Cyberon, and together they try and find this maniac and put a stop to his plans...

Future Kick is a movie that promises cheesiness. This is clear simply from looking at its poster. A blatant Terminator ripoff, made all the funnier by seeing Don 'The Dragon' Wilson in the famous Arnie pose. It has some pretty bad reviews online, but I usually give low budget DTV films like this a bit of slack. However, Future Kick is every bit as bad as its worst reviews say!

The plot here is pretty packed, yet also empty in a way. We're first introduced to this dystopia and these fugitive 'Cyberon' robots. Then virtual reality, a woman investigating her husband's death, then an organ harvesting serial killer! It's like two or three movies in one. Unfortunately the film doesn't juggle these well. Many plot elements are undercooked or barely present, and often intrude on each-other.

Future Kick has shades of The Terminator and Total Recall, but to say it's a copy of either would be overselling it. It feels like a much more interesting movie happened before this one. We even see flashes of what's described as an epic space battle! Definitely a far cry from low-scale alleyway shootouts.

Despite the promise of the future, much of the movie is set in a variety of of strip clubs. We also see this world's favourite pastime-A betting game where the players make funny faces at each-other while trying not to look at at a killer light ball. The film really has a Cafe Flesh vibe, with its nihilistic future and sexual grotesquery.

If there's one thing Future Kick really excels at, it's showing just how truly scummy this world is, with the street level setting showing us what life is like for your average citizen. In fact it does such a good job that not only is the movie a lot less fun than it could've been, but we also have little desire to see this world get saved! You also wonder how a single kickboxing robot can help fix all this.

You might think from the poster and leading credit that this is a Don 'The Dragon' Wilson film, but actually he only has 3 short scenes in the first half hour. Future Kick is barely over an hour long! Things don't improve, with only one further scene in the next 10 minutes. He only appears consistently by the halfway mark.

It's actually Nancy who's the true lead, although even her screentime can get spotty. She's tenacious in her search for her husband's killer, saying things like 'I'm very sorry your friend was killed, but my husband is more important, so you need to help me'. Who does she think her husband is? In one scene she even gives the 'helpful' description that he's tall with sandy brown hair, to a bartender who is tall with sandy brown hair! We're gonna need a few more details than that. Maybe mention the moustache at least!

In her quest for answers, Nancy appeals to several people, with little regard to their safety. She even gets a sweet old man killed! Then there's a frosty lady who I liked. She's eventually helpful, then dies immediately when Hynes reads the script and knows exactly where she'll be.

Some info she gives though. She doesn't even give a proper address, she just says they'll be hunting near the so-and-so bar. The same place they were already hunting in. The same nightclub the heroes have been in the whole movie. God, can no-one in this movie just give straight directions?

Brooding cyborg Walker is an alright hero, and wears sunglasses at night. The last of his kind, he still insists on arresting criminals, despite there being little reward in it, and being a wanted man himself. But I guess anything's worth getting to the moon.

The history of the Cyberons is pretty cool. They were developed by the corporations as a personal police force, but soon realised the corporations were the biggest criminals of all, so fought back in a revolution till they were gradually all hunted down. It's not 100% clear what they even are, if they're actual robots, or just cyborgs. Cause they don't act robotic. They seem to rely on sunglasses, but I'm not quite sure why when they just seem like regular sunnies. Only one Cyberon besides Walker is alive by the film's start, and has what amounts to an 'only 2 days before retirement' moment before he's gunned down.

Much of this cool history is offscreen, with a lot being relayed to us in an infodump near the end, using sci-fi footage so upscale it must be from different movies. One of the few good parts of Future Kick is the really effective melancholy. There's one scene where Walker is being repaired by a mechanic, who says "We were so sure you guys were gonna replace us all."-"Yeah, we didn't even make it 10 years.". And another when Walker is by his last buddy's tombstone, and ruminates about how weird things are getting.

The villains are plentiful and unexplored. The evil corporations are mostly unseen, besides a single Japanese CEO, the anti-Cyberon cops (who always feel like they're in a different movie) barely do a thing, and the regular cops are corrupt. Together they're part of a black market scheme to get new organs for the rich. To this end they hire a single serial killer to collect them, which seems...unhelpful? Funnier is that he's said to make these gruesome deaths look like suicides!

The odd thing is how much power he holds over them, especially when they want to fire him for being too out-of-control. In a dystopian world where corporate hit squads are prevalent, one random serial killer is able to pick these chiefs and CEO's off with impunity, despite them knowing who he is. Just blow up his house, or shoot him!

Hynes is by far the main villain. He has a few ok scenes, and is certainly crazy enough, even if he comes off as ridiculously untouchable. He also has an interesting relationship with his cyborg buddy. Unfortunately it's too unexplored. Like, how is there another robot? The film's been pretty clear on this! Who is he and how'd he end up so chummy with a serial killer?

The climax is where the bottom completely falls out. Since Hynes has killed every other villain in the film, the heroes find him and do battle, destroying his robot and mortally wounding him. Then a police raid sends everyone crashing down a lower floor, where they have a laserball game to the death. How is a game down there, and why do they play it to kill a man who's already dying from 3 gunshot wounds? Won't playing this game prove deadly for the heroes? Especially when the police are seconds from busting in! This is when Future Kick unveils its worst treat-The twist ending! Yep, it turns out that the whole movie was a VR simulation. None of it really happened, none of it mattered. Nancy wakes up, her alive husband asks how the game went, and the movie just ends.

I went into this expecting shortcomings. I was hardly thought it was gonna be a big budget thought-provoking art piece. But I did think it'd at least be a cheesy sc-fi romp with lots of kickboxing. I mean, that's hardly a tall order, is it? If you've got a world famous kickboxer, some LED lights, and a rickety cardboard set, you're good to go!

Future Kick is a visually ugly film.To show how dystopian it is, everything is lit really dark, and the action is shot primarily in dingy back-alleys, or seedy nightclubs. Not even offices or homes are lit well, despite belonging to the few rich characters in this world. There are a couple of brief exceptions, but not enough to write home about.

The film pilfers stock footage (presumably from other Roger Corman flicks), and it's spliced in pretty well. While you know these are from films with a higher budget, it isn't too obvious, even if only because everything is so murky.

The effects range from pretty neat, very neat (and therefore not from here), to quite bad. The best/worst moment is a hilarious decapitation, one of the only times the film made me laugh, let alone smile.

The action is pretty boring. The fight scenes here are minimal, and lame. There's little effort coming across, and most conflicts are obscured anyway. It's a shame to see talent wasted like this.

The acting here is okay at best, and sometimes really bad, especially the reactions. I put the blame for this at the feet of first and last time director Damien Klaus (who may or may not even exist). Meg Foster gives an alright performance, but overacts in places, with one hilariously off-pitch "You son of a bitch!". Wilson does what he can, and gets some of the film's best acted moments. Eb Lottimer is ok as the crazy main villain. Also present as the bad robot is Chris Penn! For the first hour he only gets two short scenes, and is so bathed in shadow it's hard to even tell it's him. It sounds odd at first that he's playing a kickboxing robot, when he's known for his...ummm, girthy weight. Here though he's slim enough to be reasonably believable (apparently he had a black belt in real life!), and the pitch black lighting makes it hard to make out anyway.

The score here is boring. Just your typical one-note action beats (Dun, dun dun. Dun, dun dun.), though there are a couple of alright pieces here and there. Where it gets interesting is the apparent involvement of Wall of Voodoo frontman Stan Ridgway! Various places online credit him as a co-composer, but to my disappointment nothing in the film sounds like him, and I didn't see his name anywhere in the credits. It's a shame, this is the perfect kind of movie for his more experimental tunes!

I went into this with high hopes of cheesiness. But imagining Future Kick and actually watching it are two different things. As an avid fan of Don The Dragon Wilson's films, this is a real disappointment, and I flat out don't recommend it. The poster is as far as you need to go!...

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