Friday, March 2, 2018

Bionic Boy

Bionic Boy
Leody M. Diaz

Sonny Lee (Johnson Yap) is already an expert martial artist and certified genius at the age of ten. His dad is an Interpol agent and Sonny aspires to be one too. Things go sideways for Sonny when his family is bulldozered by a gang looking to take over the Philippines from the luxury of their disco fortress. Sonny’s arms and legs are crushed, but no worries, a wealthy industrialist pays to have them replaced with powerful bionic substitutes. Once Sonny recovers, he only has one mission in mind, find his parents' murderers and engage them in Kung-Fu battles.

Bionic Boy is a pleasant surprise, all too often you run into a film that touts its premise but does not bother doing anything with it until the final 5-10 minutes. Bionic Boy delivers on exactly what the poster and title imply, a super-powered ten-year-old beating the snot out of bad guys. What is unexpected is how little of the movie is played for (intentional) laughs. Sonny is out to murder people by any means necessary and that includes flinging people off cliffs so that they smash their skulls open on the ground, launching coconuts from 300 yards, and delivering underwater beatings to make sure some guards drown.

Ming the Merciless: After Hours
Bionic Boy’s straightforwardness works in its favor. If the film had been a jokey parody, I think it would have become tiresome quickly. Johnson Yap is a great martial artist, easily the best one on display. None of the fights are astoundingly great, but they are usually well choreographed and never drag on long enough to outstay their welcome.  Other big stunts in the film work well too, the bulldozer attack is brutal, and the final act is pretty much a non-stop shootout with lots of explosions and falling bodies.

All this serious business is undercut by the music and costumes. The whole film is peppered with bith cheery uptempo jazz numbers that feel like they wouldn’t be out of place in a 1970s car commercial, and gritty funk that oozed out of a nearby porno flick. The gang’s henchmen are all decked out in identical red berets and sweaters, while the gang themselves like to sport big mustaches, open shirts, giant sunglasses, and a selection of fun hats. Sonny himself is a big fan of brightly colored leisure suits complete with butterfly collars and massive bellbottoms.

Even his wardrobe is bionic.
Bionic Boy is an enjoyable cash-in on the then popularity of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, and it really does end up being a fun if slight action movie on its own. It keeps the momentum moving, and never really bogs down in overly talky scenes. It is more violent than I would expect from what seems initially to be a kid’s movie. Make no mistake, Bionic Boy is a full-on action movie albeit with a ten-year-old in the lead part. Bionic Boy spawned a sequel, The Dynamite Kid (1979) that I am curious to see.

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