Friday, May 9, 2014

MAY-DE TO BE MOCKED: Robowar (1988)

Note: Throughout the month of May I will be watching Mockbusters, those low-budget movies which are made purely to cash in on a recent successful blockbuster. I call this May-de to be Mocked!

Robowar (1988)
Director: Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Starring: Reb Brown, Catherine Hickland, Romano Puppo, Jim Gaines
Format: Streaming (YouTube)

Plot: A team of American commandos is sent into the Central American jungle to rescue hostages captured by guerrillas. But it turns out their real mission is to recover a top-secret cyborg fighting machine, Omega-1, who lurks in the jungle and hunts them one by one.

If the synopsis above isn't enough of a clue, let me make it clear that this is a complete rip off of the Arnie blockbuster Predator, just with a government-made cyborg replacing the alien hunter. We're talking about complete scenes ripped off by Italian filmmaker Bruno Mattei, with a mostly Italian cast, shot probably on the budget of a small buffet meal in the land of awesome 80s action, The Philippines!

The early proceedings are fairly run-of-the-mill jungle action, but once Omega-1 turns up, oh boy do things get silly. And awesome!

Omega-1 is a cross between the Predator and Robocop in concept, but he has a costume which looks like a low-budget Power Rangers villain (I realise Power Rangers is low budget enough, but this is even worse). Naturally they attempt to pull off something akin to the "computer-assisted POV" of both the Predator and Robocop, but it comes across extremely cheaply. And the inane robotic chatter of Omega-1 sounds like a cross between Twiki from the 70s show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and 80s hit Max Headroom. Just bizarre. See if you can watch any of the scenes involving this so-called killing machine without laughing your ass off.

The acting is pretty bad across the board, but the standout is Reb Brown, who plays Murphy Black, the leader of the commandos. He's our pseudo-Arnie, only with acting that's more wooden than anything the Governator himself ever managed (I know, incredible right!), and with a hell of a lot of yelling. If you haven't seen Reb in action before, he just looooves to yell at the top of his lungs. Most of his lines are along the lines of "Come on, we have to move!" or "Get out of here" or just plain old "Arrrghhh!". Reb can portray any emotion, as long as it involves yelling at the top of his lungs.

This was my first time seeing Reb Brown in action. I knew the name from reading about the two Captain America TV movies in which he played Steve Rogers/Cap in the 80s, but after watching RoboWar I definitely need to see more of this guy! If he's like this in all of his movies, I've found another inductee for the Crappy Action Star Hall of Fame.

There's a twist in the ending, but really the plot isn't anything special. If you've seen Predator or any other jungle warfare movie you know what to expect. But don't let that put you off. This bad boy is action packed with gun battles and explosions, and the unintentionally-hilarious robot design and Reb Brown's over-the-top goofy acting make this an easy recommendation.

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