Monday, April 1, 2013

Cyber Monday: The CYBORG COP series (1993-1995)

If you’ve found your way to our blog, then chances are pretty high you’ve already seen a Nu Image movie.  They first jumped to fame with their animals-gone-amok films (SPIDERS series, OCTOPUS series, CROCODILE series, SHARK ATTACK series) starting in the 2000s that conned unsuspecting DVD renters into enduring poorly rendered CGI creatures attacking poorly paid actors in Bulgaria.  Amazingly, this success allowed them to start backing bigger films and soon you could see their logo theatrically on Stallone films (THE EXPENDABLES films) and other big budget stuff (the recent OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN).  To quote the old Virginia Slims ad, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  Indeed, the company founded in 1992 initially shot and distributed cheap direct-to-video action flicks in South Africa and was built on the backs of guys named Bradley and Zagarino playing robotic warriors.  Yes, they are the “House the Cyborg Cop Built.”


No doubt inspired by the huge international success of ROBOCOP (1987) and TERMINATOR 2 (1991), CYBORG COP was the perfect project for the fledgling company to kick off with. The film focuses on Jack Ryan (David Bradley), a DEA agent alongside his brother Philip (Todd Jensen).  Yes, his name really is Jack Ryan.  In the opening minutes, Jack and Philip show up at a hostage situation (not sure why this is a DEA gig) where a psychotic guy is screaming about wanting his mommy. Oedipal issues obviously irritate Jack and he shoots the baddie dead and saves the female hostage.  Bad news as it turns out this guy was the son of some publishing magnate and a pesky newswoman just happened to show up to capture Jack’s face on camera.  Damn it!  This incident results in him being banned from the organization (why?) and wallowing in self pity.

A few years later, Jack is hanging out with Philip, who mentions he is heading down to the Caribbean for a top secret mission.  He tells Jack not to worry and that he will be back in time to finalize the paperwork on adopting the orphan Frankie (Steven Leader).  OH CRAP! Philip is a dead man.  Indeed, his team’s siege on the top secret fortress of international baddie Kessel (John Rhys-Davies) ends in complete disaster as nearly everyone is blown up and Philip is captured.  This is especially bad news for him as Kessel just happens to be experimenting in creating cybernetic soldiers that he hopes to sell to the highest bidding countries (preferably of nefarious nature).  So Philip soon become a cyborg DEA agent, er, cyborg soldier.  Of course, the bad guys didn’t expect that Philip sent a package to Jack telling him he thinks things are going to go bad (no idea when he sent this as the film shows him jumping right into his mission).  So big brother is on a plane to find his kid brother faster than Schwarzenegger pouncing on the help.  Once arriving, Jack finds the local authorities to be corrupt and the only person he can trust is a, ugh, newswoman named Cathy (Alonna Shaw).

Initially announced in Variety as CYBORG NINJA (see ad below), CYBORG COP is the film that kicked off Nu Image’s, er, image as a direct-to-video action staple.  Catering to the world’s cinematic cybernetic cravings, the production is never going to be mistaken for one of the big boys (although I’m sure many a clueless father came home with it as a rental over the years and was scolded by his son with “dad, I said I wanted ROBOCOP!”).  The producers obviously had a Cannon state of mind going when they founded their company and it shows right down to casting David Bradley, perhaps the last Cannon star thanks to AMERICAN NINJA 3-5.  Bradley is adept at martial arts and all of his action scenes are well done.  It also shows in the hiring of Cannon staple Sam Firstenberg to direct the picture. He follows the Cannon model of “bigger is better” in terms of the explosions.  The film’s finale features the entire compound being blown to bits.  Another highlight is probably Rhys-Davies as the villain.  He is obviously having the time of his life hamming it up. $50 to the first person who can figure out just what the hell kind of accent he is trying though. South Africa plays the fictional Caribbean island well enough, although it does result in some laughable “eh, mon” bits.  Also, there are some great bits like a hotel clerk telling Bradley to stay away from a rough bar because he is a white dude and when they cut to the place, it is filled with white folks and a happy reggae band playing.

"You will never see a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."

Of course, my personal favorite bit was Kessel’s top secret underground lab having “exit” signs.  Yes, I’m a low grade villain bent on world domination, but I don’t skimp on building standards.

Thankfully, the producers didn’t skimp when it comes to the cyborg bits.  Now don’t go in expecting James Cameron level stuff, but you do get the gradual destruction of an evil cyborg (Rufus Swart) and the required cyborg arm.  I did laugh when they outfitted Philip with his new arm and opted to leave on the armpit hair.


Bradley and Firstenberg are back!  The first CYBORG COP must have fooled a lot of renters as this sequel hit shelves just over a year after the first film.

Part 2 wastes no time getting to the action as bad guy Jesse Starkraven (Morgan Hunter) and his goons lay the smack down on some rival drug dealers (who, naturally, make the workers do their duties in the nude).  Sounds like a job for the DEA and soon Jack Ryan is on the scene. Wait, how did he get rehired? Anyway, Jack and new partner Mike get prepped to take on this bald headed baddie.  Wait a sec…new partner…friend of Jack…and he’s black?  This dude is a dead man!  What they don’t know is Starkraven is welcoming this clash because the DEA killed his brother.  Sure enough, Jack gets his man but not before Starkraven kills Mike (told ya!) and swears his revenge.  No biggie for Jack as he gets to head home to his adopted son Frankie.  HOLY CRAP! Frankie is back.  Yes!  See kid, losing your first adoptive father ain’t so bad after all as now you have David Bradley as your dad.

Anyway, Starkraven is now the State’s problem, but things get weird when he is transferred by the ATG (Anti-Terrorist Group) in the middle of the night to a top secret facility that performs under the guise of hurricane research.  What is going on this lab?  Well, they just happen to be creating cyborgs out of inmates and soon Starkraven is rechristened Spartacus by the custody sounding Dr. Owns (Douglas Bristow). As in “I owns you cyborgs!”  Obviously, Spartacus is an advocate for robotic rights and decides to break his group of oppressed brothers out of their cybernetic confines.  What an ingrate, like we all wouldn’t kill for a weapons-replaceable hand.  And he couldn’t have picked a worse time as he decides to lead his rebellion when a bunch of VIPs are visiting to see the program’s progress. Nothing sells your backers like watching a cyborg rip off someone’s arm. Naturally, this is a job for Jack Ryan and he is soon tracking this metal militia, while butting heads with the corrupt sheriff and ATG bureaucrat Liz McDowell (Jill Pierce, so bad that her acting must be seen to be believed).  And he better hurry because Spartacus not only wants his revenge, but he is prepared to unleash it in the form of a nuclear bomb that will decimate all of Des Moines, Iowa.  Wait…this is set in Iowa!?!

"We gonna walk down to Electric Avenue..."
Like the TERMINATOR films, this opted for a “bigger is better” approach for the follow up. And I’m not lying when I say CYBORG COP II is better in every regard than the first film. Not that the first film was terrible or anything, but it seems like Firstenberg got a chance to reflect on what he did right and what fans responded to from the initial entry.  And apparently what fans responded to was action, action, action!  So we get double the amount of scenes of Bradley kicking people in the face.  In fact, Bradley is given a bit more of a smartass persona in this entry, to the point I’m shocked they didn’t have him do a DIE HARD 2 “how can the same thing happen to the same guy twice” line.  And we also get double the amount of explosions.   The film’s ending (in an abandoned factory, naturally) proves to be a virtual explosion orgy as everyone gets blow’d up real good (look for the same footage of one dummy being blown up getting used twice).  However, it is a showdown at a gas station during the middle of the movie that is the film’s highlight.  Not only do we get tons of huge explosions, but we get guys flying through glass windows and Bradley getting his John Woo on with two guns a blazin’.  If you see only one CYBORG COP film, make sure this is the one.


Fans of the Bradley/Firstenberg team will no doubt be disappointed to learn that neither one returned for the third (and final) entry in this series. Perhaps Bradley didn’t want to be typecast a guy who repeatedly kicks cyborg ass, so instead he went on to make films where he kicked human ass. Anyway, the third film tenuously tries to connect to the other films as the acting reigns are turned over to Frank Zagarino, who was helping Nu Image’s coffers as a cyborg in the PROJECT: SHADOWCHASER series they distributed, and Bryan Genesse, who also co-starred in PROJECT: SHADOWCHASER II.

CYBORG COP III or NRA wet dream?
Zagarino and Genesse star as Saint and Max, a couple of U.S. Marshalls who open the film by chasing a hillbilly pot farmer in an airplane. Their boss is soon offering them $5,000 each to find a female news reporter named Evelyn Reed (Jennifer Miller).  Wait, I don’t think U.S. Marshalls even do this kind of work.  Anyway, the guy who wants her is Sheen (Ian Roberts), owner of a top secret company in Iowa that is – you guessed it – dealing in human cyborgs. Seems Evelyn got a tip from conscience driven scientist who didn’t agree with their experiment of turning physical education students into emotionless robots.  Our intrepid reporter not only got some undercover footage of a cybrog in action (even killing her cameraman), but she also stole the main computer chip that allows the whole program to go forth.  Why?  Because, like I said, she’s intrepid.  So our heroes are on the case and battling a bunch of Sheen’s guys along the way.  Wait, isn’t Sheen the one paying to have her found? Why is he sending his own guys to kill the guys he hired?  Maybe he is a real cheapskate. Anyway, as you can tell, the resulting scenario ends with lots of stuff going boom.

Fans hoping for more of CYBORG COP II’s over the top metallic mayhem will probably be disappointed in this entry. Naturally, the first thing is fans will be missing David Bradley. I cried not knowing what happened to Jack Ryan and his adopted son Frankie.  It is equally strange that Zagarino, a man known for playing cyborgs in his sleep, is the hero this time around.   He and Genesse (woah @ his Southern accent) make a good team though. Director Yossi Wein cut his teeth on the first CYBORG COP flicks as the director of photography, so he definitely knows how to shoot an action scene.  And, believe it or not, this entry might have the biggest explosions (see pic) of any of the trilogy. So this film has plenty of explosions but they really skimp on the cybrog aspects. In fact, outside of some robot-o-vision screens, the only proof you get of a cyborg is the main guy having a tiny sliver of metal exposed on his face.  Not cool.  It was also about halfway through the film that I realized I was being lied to – there are no cyborg cops on display!  I guess the title CYBORG KINESIOLOGY STUDENT just didn’t have that ring to it.  It is this kind of schizophrenic nature that resulted in the film coming out on US video in 1996 under the generic title TERMINAL IMPACT rather than CYBORG COP III (to further confuse matters, a double feature DVD of this and CYBORG COP II calls it part III, yet the cover refers to them as CYBORG SOLIDER and TERMINAL IMPACT).

1 Reactions:

  1. "Cyborg Cop" is one of the first movies to turn me onto the joys of low-budget, grime-bucket DTV action films. I have never been the same since...


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