Saturday, 5 June 2010

Future Zone (1990)

Director: David A. Prior

After the bullshit masterpiece that was Deadly Prey, I was keen to experience further work from director David A. Prior and the production company behind it, Action International Pictures, a name you can trust when it comes to shitty movies released on VHS in the 1980s-1990s. Working in the tradition of Roger Corman by sticking a name actor low on funds into a cheaply made genre picture, Prior directed the sci-fi cop movie non-classic, Future Zone (1990), a sequel to the film, Future Force, where David Carradine plays bounty hunter John Tucker and was more than likely hired for only three days of shooting, slouching around like John Wayne with two holstered revolvers, the kind of hero who walks into a room of three drug dealers and quick-draws them to oblivion with fast-shooting. "You have the right to die!" he quips like a soft-spoken Judge Dredd. Yet when the situation is too hairy for conventional weapons, such as when another drug dealer attempts a getaway in a van that is going nowhere, Carradine pops his trunk, unlatches a secret case and takes out a Nintendo Power Glove! Yes, a mechanised glove that acts as a lethal weapon by shooting BLUE LIGHTNING straight out of a Thomas Dolby music video, which Carradine uses to shock the runaway drug dealer into an elliptic fit. All hail the Fist-o-matic 3000! However, as my co-viewer, The Genius, pointed out, “If the glove is so awesome, why isn’t he using it all the time?” Well, a glove like that probably sucks up a lot of energizer batteries. Be judicial in your Power Glove usage.

When not exploring the A and B buttons of a power glove, Carradine cruises around his rusty pick-up truck, receiving orders from the sassy Southern babe on dispatch through their two-way TV intercom, which seems to be the only signifier that this film is set in the near future. The actual “future” in Future Zone relates to the presence of Billy (Ted Prior, the hero from Deadly Prey) who is zapped down to Earth like Starman but is actually from the future, arriving in cowboy boots, leather jacket, mesh muscle shirt and mullet power! Beamed in to kick-start the lame buddy cop comedy engine this film is powering on, ducking bullets and trading stilted quips with his new partner, Carradine. Why? Because Ted Prior is Carradine’s son from the future, but it takes the whole movie for Carradine to figure it out, and Ted Prior is there to save his father's life. Ah, like The Terminator but in reverse and quite lame. Otherwise Future Zone is pretty generic stuff even opening with what The Genius termed to be “the scene of a hundred action movies from the 1980s”: a meeting down at the docks, a double cross with a subordinate...

Subordinate: “Hey, what’s this?”

Erudite evil boss, Hoffman: “A gun.” [shoots him dead]

Then Hoffman and his henchman assassin hit a switch and detonate an explosion on a docked ship, which keeps exploding on and on for five minutes like a sketch from The Naked Gun series. Usual buddy cop action movie bullshit follows with nerdy businessmen suspects dying in car-bombs, witnesses killed in protracted Russian Roulette torture sequences, lines of dialogue like ‘Would you like me to take him out of the picture?” and “All the loose ends have been tied up except one!” and then there’s also the great shark-smile of Charles Napier as a corrupt official caught in the middle named Mickland (!).

What distinguishes Future Zone as an Action International Picture is the lame-ass action sequences where guys run around abandoned locations to fire off blanks and stagger uncertainly when their squid-pack goes off. For example, Carradine heads to a warehouse set-up where Hoffman tries to kill him with a dozen henchmen, all hiding behind pylons, firing off a dozen weapons, but completely unable to hit the looping gait of a 50 year old codger. Prior busts in with his van to rescue Carradine and they’re shooting crooks left and right then having an “intense” high-speed chase down an empty city street, which culminates in Carradine and Prior standing in the centre of the road, waiting for henchmen in two cars to ram into them at high speed, man versus machine, man victorious with a slow-motion quick-draw. Along with the stock music score, which sounds like it was lifted out of a generic 1950s-era thriller, the whole film feels like an old western with a bit of “Future” paint splashed over it. Anyway, Carradine’s wife who looks zonked out on painkillers and is pregnant with their son, the future Ted Prior, well, she is kidnapped by Hoffman to be exchanged for confiscated drugs (no, not the wife’s painkillers, but lots of A-Grade dope from the streets). Carradine and Prior hit the weapon room with the one-liner, “Grab some of this stuff. We got bad guys to catch!” A bumper sticker could be made of such a carefully written piece of dialogue like that! A climactic junkyard confrontation occurs that eventually ends with Hoffman holding a gun to the wife’s head and threatening her death. Carradine says, “You let her go, you’ve got a chance to live.” So Hoffman lets the hostage go like the genius criminal that he is, placing his faith in these renegade cops upholding the democratic rights of due process. Carradine and Prior look at each other.... “Nahh.” Then they blow him away! Wah-wah-wah. Thankfully a helicopter with a bad guy firing a machine gun offers some more interest after that stupid scene. The Power Glove returns! Carradine hits a button on his key ring and the glove flies out of its case onto his hand and then he zaps with BLUE LIGHTNING the helicopter, turning it into an explosion. Then he tosses it aside once evil is defeated with the carefulness and respect of used washing gloves; ahh, it’s just a highly sophisticated piece of technology that saved your life twice, but yeah, hey, leave it lying around for a junkyard dog to use as a chew-toy.

Carradine is younger than he was in Kill Bill but he is in poorer shape in this earlier movie and isn’t trying too hard on the acting stakes. After his seething muscular performance in Deadly Prey, Prior is surprisingly subdued and somewhat alright as the cocky asshole he plays here. There’s some lacklustre action scenes, a boob shot here and there, some unmemorable dialogue, a lot of unnecessary pauses and grinding pointlessness. You can watch the whole 80 minutes on YouTube if you have nothing else happening in your life, but you’re better off watching the trailer and thinking of the power glove of blue squiggly line power appearing in every second scene. Now that would have been some Future Zone shit right there!

5 comments:

Mitch said...

Great review. You didn't leave out anything interesting. That movie was like a boring episode of Macguyver stretched out to movie length or something.

Mitch said...

Also...

"Hunted, Hated and Destined to Die...the future was the only way out."

That tagline sounds like it's taken from a movie with a lot more depth than the one we watched.

tristan said...

Haha. Yes, I had all those notes but when I looked over them, I was struck by how little actually happened. The glove was the best bit!

Jessica McLeod said...

Ted Prior?!? Grug never told me he was in crappy action movies!

tristan said...

Haha, Ted Prior. That never occured to me, Jess!