Cyborg (1989) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA rated R for strong violence, brief nudity and language
Running time: 86 min.
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Deborah Richter, Vincent Klyn, Alex Daniels, Dayle Haddon, Blaise Loong, Ralf Moeller, Haley Peterson, Terrie Batson
Director: Albert Pyun
Screenplay: Kitty Chalmers
Review published January 20, 2012
In the future, New York, after the dreaded nuclear holocaust, is a wasteland of lawlessness and gangland thuggery. Jean-Claude Van Damme (Timecop, Street Fighter) plays a skilled martial arts warrior named Gibson Rickenbacker, who fights for and rescues a woman named Pearl Prophet (Hiddon, North Dallas Forty) from a horde of marauders. It turns out that the woman is no woman, but rather, a cyborg transformed in order to gather information and transport it to Atlanta in the hope of turning the tide on the widespread plague that has threatened humanity with extinction. However, the leader of the marauders is the fearsome psychopath, Fender Tremolo (Klyn, Point Break), a man who has history with Gibson and has ruined his life in the past. Fender steals her back because he wants the cure for himself, and it's up to Gibson, along with his newly found tagalong Nady Simmons (Richter, Promised Land), to become Earth's last hope.
Gibson? Fender? Rickenbacker? Tremolo? Pearl? One would gather that screenwriter Kitty Chalmers (Journey to the Center of the Earth, Deceit) is a big fan of music, given that nearly everyone's name can be traced to music and major instrument manufacturers.
Filmed on a shoestring budget by Cannon Films' Golan and Globus, Cyborg's only selling point is that it is a starring vehicle for Jean-Claude Van Damme, not quite at his peak of popularity. Fans may be forgiving, but this is far from his best work, both as an actor and as a martial artist, and it doesn't help that the editing is choppy and gives little real sense of what's actually going on during the film's many action sequences. As his nemesis, Vincent Klyn's Fender is little mots than Kurgan from Highlander in personality, whose only original move is taking off his sunglasses sporadically so his victims can be intimidated by his piercingly fierce eyes. His voice also appears to be dubbed over to sound like the vicious but eternally amused Kurgan as well. Albert Pyun, who would go on to direct many other similarly premised post-apocalyptic martial arts b-movies, focuses solely on the action, eschewing much in the way of dialogue and storyline in order to pit good guy vs. bad guy in a fight for survival.
With silly costumes (flashback scenes from Gibson's youth sees Van Damme sporting the a truly ridiculous looking blonde mullet wig), questionable weaponry (Gibson's switchblade-tipped boots seems out of place), cartoonish characters, awful music and sound, and unconvincing special effects, this is the kind of film that should only be attempted by unabashed Van Damme fans and sci-fi heads who love their post-apocalyptic tales to be as cheesy and violent as can be. The entire production just looks cheap and plays like amateur hour at the movies. Road Warrior it is not.
-- Followed by the Van Damme-less straight-to-video sequels, Cyborg 2 (1993) and Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994)
©2012 Vince Leo