Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sci-Fried Theater: FUTURE KICK (1991)

It’s hard to believe that this will be our first full length review of a Don “The Dragon” Wilson flick. Outside of Tom’s capsule write up of RING OF FIRE II (1993) and my box office piece on the first BLOODFIST (1989), our tales of “The Dragon” have been limited.  Just because we’ve been busy, not because we don’t love the man and his direct-to-video filmography.  Not only was his work entertaining and prolific, but it is a testament to a completely different time when lower tier stars could be built outside of the studio system. Go ahead – give me the biggest star born exclusively from a Redbox?  Exactly.

FUTURE KICK was Wilson’s third feature for his benefactor Roger Corman and his Concorde studios.  The first two were the BLOODFIST films and it looks like Corman decided to spice things up a bit with his new leading man. Perhaps hoping to follow the Schwarzenegger pattern, this third film cast Wilson as a cyborg in a sci-fi flick. By the time the filmmakers went into production in September 1990, they also had some healthy dashes of BLADE RUNNER (1982) and TOTAL RECALL (1990) mixed with some rather unhealthy sampling of NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983).  The end result is one of the most unique films of Wilson’s “kick you in the face” oeuvre.

The year is 2025 (according to the back of the DVD case, not the film as a date is never mentioned) and, of course, Earth has gone to hell thanks to endless war. The 1%-ers bolted for the moon and established a place for the wealthy to forget humanity’s troubles and live in opulence.  Wait, isn’t that the same plot as ELYSIUM (2013)?  A corporation simple referred to as The Corporation has taken over on Earth and they developed a series of bio-mechanical soldiers called Cyberons.  When those machines went rogue, they were hunted down to be destroyed and now only two – Walker (Don “The Dragon” Wilson) and Andrews (Jeff Langton) – remain.  Oh, sorry, Andrews just got killed in the opening chase, so only Walker remains.

Back on the lunar surface, wealthy computer programmer Howard Morgan (Jeff Pomerantz) lives here with his wife Nancy (Meg Foster) while his V.R.S. (Virtual Reality Systems) sell like hotcakes back on Earth. He’s putting the final touches on his latest program and is scheduled to fly back to Earth to meet with his publisher.  Now why his publisher is living in that hellhole or they can’t do it via video chat is never explained.  He tells Nancy not to use it because it still has some bugs (like a bit where someone rips out your heart), but she just can’t resist and dials up some “Dreamweaver” program.  Glad to know the ‘70s are still big in 2025.  Once back on Terra soil, Howard meets up with his publisher (who wows him by showing only the fourth known copy of “David Copperfield” in the world) and tells him he has some juicy secrets about the corporation New Body, which, according to commercials, will replace organs for those who can afford it.  He tells his friend he is going to get a disc of top secret info and says, “I know this doesn’t make sense, but New Body isn’t science fiction, it’s science fact.”  You know what, I’m going to agree with ol’ Howard here – this doesn’t make sense.  Why is a VR programmer investigating a parts-for-profit corporation that runs New Los Angeles?  (Believe it or not, there is a wonky sort of answer for this in the film’s end.)  In addition to corporate espionage, Howard shows he isn’t exactly the doting husband as he hooks up with lady friend Elana (Hayden Conner) to paint the town rosa as they visit some sleazy clubs.  In one of them he sees Walker capture a fugitive and figures he is the right man for the job.  What job we never know.  He gives him half a $50,000 bill and tells him to meet him at his hotel the next day for the other half and his assignment.

Of course, the night isn’t over as Howard has to get in his fix of what every wealthy person wants – bloodsport!  After getting the disc, he and Elana go to check out Laserblade, a virtual reality death-sport where two people are locked into chairs and zap a deadly laser toward each other. To lose is to die, so you don’t see too many quarters lined up designating next play on this machine.  After getting his fill, Howard runs into Hynes (Eb Lottimer) and his henchman Bang (Chris Penn…yes, that Chris Penn).  They’ve been sent by New Body to get that disc back at any cost and that means ripping Howard’s heart out with a big hand-blade.  You see, Hynes doesn’t only work for New Body, but he supplies them with fresh inventory. When Nancy gets word on the moon of her husband’s death, she must jet back to Earth and try to solve his murder.  Naturally, this will lead her on a path where she must team up with last-of-his-kind Walker to get the job done.

Ah, FUTURE KICK, where to begin?  I saw this back in the day but didn’t remember a damn thing about it. Honestly, all of the Wilson flicks I’ve seen blurred into one long movie in my head.  It was Tom who prompted me to do give this one a revisit and I’m glad I did.  It’s a fun film and incredibly ambitious for a Wilson flick.  You’ll wonder just how the hell Meg Foster (Tom: “Acting her little heart out.”) and Chris Penn ended up in this.  Yes, Chris Penn.  It makes a little more sense when you realize Wilson was training Penn at the time and they were best friends.  But it is still insane to see.  Writer-director Damian Klaus does a decent job creating the future dystopia and delivers what might be the goriest non-slasher Corman produced (he trumps CHOPPING MALL by offering us two exploding heads).  (A quick aside: I’m not sure if Klaus is a pseudonym or not.  All information listed in Variety had him as the writer-director from the get go, but this is his lone credit.  To be one-and-done is quite odd, especially in Corman’s world.)

MAJOR SPOILER IN THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH! The director may have also pulled off the impossible as this film is one of the few where an “it’s all a dream” ending works for me.  Yes, the film ends with Nancy waking up from a VR session.  So pretty much everything that happens from the time she inserts the disc into the machine is not real and that actually ends up working in the film’s favor.  You’ll marvel how Nancy walks into bar and she finds the only person on Earth who witnessed her husband’s murder.  Normally you’d assign that to lazy scripting, but then when you realize everything happening to her is just part of the virtual reality program, it becomes clever.  So all the top secret mumbo jumbo is just stuff to advance a VR plot and it makes sense.  It also helps with the film’s choppy nature.

The film is filled with footage from other Corman’s productions.  Most of the stuff involving the Corporate police is from CRIME ZONE (1989) and we also gets segments from Corman’s space epics like GALAXY OF TERROR (1981) and nearly every stripping scene from STRIPPED TO KILL II (1989).  As always, you have to admire Corman’s ways (he was totally into recycling before it was a Hollywood fad!), but you kind of almost wish he had given a bit more to this production.  Running only 72 minutes, FUTURE KICK could have been an all out classic if it had the budget (and explosions) of something like Albert Pyun’s NEMESIS (1992). Hell, give it the budget spent on Schwarzenegger’s cigars on TOTAL RECALL (1990).  If I had to guess, I’d say Corman felt the extra cash plunked down for stuff in FUTURE KICK wasn’t worth the effort (I can hear him say, “Do we need to waste money on spray paint for graffiti?”). After this one he relegated Wilson back to a series of films (including a billion BLOODFIST sequels) that were contemporary-set and the biggest production value was Wilson’s spin kicks.  Too bad as I would have love to have seen Wilson in some more sci-fi sets up…remembers SCI-FIGHTER (2004)…oh, nevermind.

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