“You know the rules. No fraternizing with cyborgs.”
CYBORG 2 has a totally different feel from CYBORG. Apparently it didn’t even start out as a sequel to CYBORG, it was supposed to be something called GLASS SHADOW until they realized the only way I was gonna rent it 20+ years later would be if it was connected to an existing Jean-Claude Van Damme series. It looks more expensive than Albert Pyun’s original (though still in the low budget realm) and plays much more traditional, not an art film at all.
The disease that had ravaged the world in part 1 must’ve been cured. The ROAD WARRIOR type wasteland has become a poor man’s BLADE RUNNER dystopolis with Max Headroom type boardroom villainy. There’s way more talking and stunt doubles and things that happen. And while I took part 1’s robo-lady as a traditional cyborg – human with machine add-ons – now they’re using the C3PO definition: just a robot. We see how it works in a cool opening credits sequence of liquid flesh injected into a female casing over a robo-skeleton.
Van Damme does not return, except in the form of a fuzzy clip that the characters watch on a screen. Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie stars as Casella Reese, aka “Cash,” a robot warrior who’s told she must find “a hero,” a human guy like Van Damme to help her, if she’s gonna escape the Pinwheel Corporation and be free. They built her, but they keep her locked up in their building and also put a bomb in her to keep her in line.
She chooses Colton “Colt” Ricks, (Elias Koteas from CRASH and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) as her hero and eventual boyfriend. He’s her fight trainer but doesn’t seem to have much to offer. She has super-strength and is better at handsprings. What’s he gonna do?
This is young Angelina’s first lead role, and though she can’t ever seem to shake the seductive pout off of her face, she doesn’t just seem like some dumb model playing dress up. There are rough hints of her future acting skills when she has to get a little manic or go into a robo-seizure. But she will certainly get better as she ages, not just at doing more natural emotions and complex roles but also by mastering this sort of larger-than-life asskicker archetype.
By the way, have you guys ever noticed that in movies if anybody is ever kicked against an electrical box then sparks spray out and they’re immediately electrocuted? Not once has anybody in a movie ever said “Ouch, I hit my back on this electrical box.” No, it’s a death sentence. Somebody really needs to figure out a way to make those things safer.
Their escape is led by the mysterious Mercy (Jack Palance), usually depicted as a negative image of his mouth or eye appearing on TVs anywhere they go, egging them on in kind of a beat poet type cadence. He does exist bodily, though, as we find out when a scene of him sadly looking at a photo of his daughter or somebody is intercut with a hot Jolie-Koteas sex scene. Possible boner killer there fellas. Or enhancer. Is that a fetish? Mourning Jack Palance?
I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to know who the lady in the picture is. I thought at first it was somebody from part 1, but I don’t know. I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe you guys can tell me.
In this city there’s no flying cars or Daryl Hannas, but the streets are dark and wet and multi-cultural. There’s a robot assassin lady after Cash, and Cash might be terminated for trying to escape, and their biggest adversary is I guess a blade runner, Billy Drago (DELTA FORCE 2: THE COLOMBIAN CONNECTION, MARTIAL LAW II: UNDERCOVER, LADY DRAGON 2) as Danny Bench. He shoots up and wears a fedora and mega-acts and pampers his sensitive skin while Mercy tries to lead our heroes to a boat that will bring them to the last place on earth that allows unlicensed cyborgs. Robot Amsterdam. Or Robot Liberia?
There’s not alot of momentum to their journey, but occasionally there are great moments. I like when a dog, who we learn from his computerized POV is another cyborg, leads them into a sewer tunnel. When Cash tries to climb up a ladder and out a manhole a voice asks her if she has reservations. The maitre’ d. She looks to the dog for advice, and he barks. Eventually a man with no legs welcomes them to some kind of haven for outcasts, a place made of piles of scrap metal and showers of sparks.
To get passage Colt learns he has to fight in “The Blade,” a death match circuit that happens beneath the spinning propeller of a huge ship. It’s less impressive than it sounds and would work better if JCVD was still in this. All those flying and spinning kicks aren’t as cool when you never see anybody’s faces.
I know the corporate bad guys were already a cliche by the time of this movie, but they get a certain amount of mileage out of them here. I like in the end when the CEO or chairman or whatever is being villainous while wearing a ridiculous golfing outfit in a futuristic office decorated with plundered artwork. Wait, is that Nardwuar?
And the opening scene is about a guy fucking a sex robot (in a room lit from behind large, spinning fan blades, of course). The whole escapade is being controlled by men in a control room and monitored by the bosses in a board room. It’s a good illustration of a demeaning, scarily impersonal future for us all to look forward to, even before the poor robot’s orgasm blows them both to smithereens and the guys watching are just like “Well, shit, more work for us.”
After that I don’t think there’s much in the way of “it figures it would be something like this,” but it’s an okay collection of the post-BLADE RUNNER sci-fi tropes. And I give it credit for a surprisingly sentimental ending that acknowledges the folly of an ageless robot falling in love with a mortal man. It also tells us to appreciate the time we have with our loved ones. Whether or not that should include watching CYBORG 2 together I don’t know. I usually watch that kind of thing by myself.
Director Michael Schroeder checks out all right because he was second unit director and unit production manager for AVENGING FORCE. Writers Ron Yanover and Mark Geldman later worked on the Stephen Sommers version of THE JUNGLE BOOK, their only other credit. Angelina Jolie, who played Cash, is the niece of Chip Taylor, who wrote the songs “Wild Thing” and “Angel in the Morning.” In 2007 she was nominated for the Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Association Award for Best Actress.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.