Shadowchaser (aka Project Shadowchaser)
To say ‘Shadowchaser’ wears its influences on its sleeve isn’t just an understatement, it is pretty much an outright lie. ‘Shadowchaser’ wholeheartedly pilfers from ‘Die Hard’ (1988) and ‘The Terminator’ (1984) and even grabs a little bit from ‘Escape from New York’ (1981) on the way. It manages to take all the fun of 1980’s style action movies and smashes them together, recklessly producing a concentrated ninety minutes of surprisingly engaging, if never particularly original or intelligent, entertainment.
At some unknown date (but we can tell it’s the future because the buildings are very tall and the cars look like they are from outer space), a cyborg leads a group of terrorists to take over a hospital. This hospital also is currently the location of the President of the United States’ daughter (Meg Foster). The police decide the best possible solution is to unfreeze the architect of the building, who happens to be doing time for a vague crime, and send him with a group of commandos to infiltrate the building. Two things wrong with this plan: (1) The commandos are terribly inept and manage to get killed after being inside the building within three minutes and (2) they unfroze the wrong guy. Now it’s up to an worn out football player and the walking calamity that is the President’s daughter to take down the evil cyborg who has them trapped in the building.
At no point does ‘Shadowchaser’ pretend to be anything other than what it is, a low budget, direct to video action movie made to cash-in on some some more well known movies. Fortunately that means what narrative exists is extremely lean and to the point. Very little time is wasted on exposition (save for near the end) and the movie sets up one gun battle or fist fight after another. There is also plenty of humor, which helps many of the more ridiculous developments go down a little easier.
The cast is all together better than you would expect. Martin Kove as our hero, Desilva, creates an enjoyable underdog to root for as he dukes it out with the emotionless cyborg, Romulus, played by Frank Zagarino. Everybody has a few good lines, and even Romulus’ thugs have some character developing moments here and there to make them a little more than just cannon fodder.
Some of the special effects don’t quite work, especially a character falling to their death over a badly matted bluescreen. I have no idea why Romulus starts whirring and clicking as he moves around during the climax of the movie. Also, denying us a look at a partially burned Romulus with an exposed endoskeleton is just plain bad form. The music sounds like a slowed down version of Danny Elfman's ‘Batman’ (1989) theme.
‘Shadowchaser’ is a quick-paced action film with a lot going for it, and a final freeze frame moment that is so hokey, it completely sealed my love for this movie. It’s always a treat to run into a low budget film that ends up being very entertaining even if it doesn't have an original bone in its body.