Friday, February 1, 2019

The Vindicator

The Vindicator
Jean Claude-Lord

The movie opens with scientist Alex Whyte (Richard Cox) killing a chimp so that we know for sure he is a complete asshole. He arranges for the maiming of his colleague Carl Lerhman (David McIlwraith), whom he then makes the basis for his new project, a cyborg who kills when touched. This requires that all his fellow scientist go along with his plan, which they seem to have no problem with doing. Carl aka Frankenstein awakens not happy at all about all this, kills someone with monkeys and escapes into a garbage incinerator which partially burns and melts his new robot body. The robot monster (no not you, Ro-Man), vows revenge of those who made him, but he also finds himself trying to protect his wife and her unborn twins.

Oh come on, that's pretty cool, right?
Yes, The Vindicator pre-dates Robocop (1987), but so does the Six Million Dollar Man (1973-1978). Stories of men being made into machines have long been a staple of fiction, so when calling Robocop or The Vindicator a rip-off of the other, it doesn’t hold a lot of weight. At the core of these stories is really the question of what makes us human, and while Robocop is a masterclass in addressing the question, The Vindicator is more like preschool. That is not to say The Vindicator is bad, it’s just very limited in what it does.

As The Vindicator begins, it looks like it is going to be some pretty grim stuff. Carl’s situation is dire, there is the tragedy of his expectant wife and the betrayal of his co-workers. Combine that with the fact that he will kill anyone who touches him whether he wants to or not and it looks like this is going to be a dark story. Around the half-way point, the movie switches gears to become much more of an action adventure film as Carl befriends a kid in a junkyard, and Alex hires a mercenary in the form of Pam Grier to kill the cyborg. Grier’s Hunter is an over the top collection of 1980s action tropes that lightens the mood considerably. The movie tries to swing back to something darker by the climax, but a multi-cyborg battle doesn’t quite get it there.

Jiffy-Pop Man
The look of the movie isn’t especially notable, it’s dark to the point of being under lit in scenes. It does manage to achieve a sort of grimy claustrophobia in parts. The Vindicator’s gold space suit didn’t engender much confidence in me, so it was nice to see a movie live up to the poster when he emerges scarred and smoking from the flames in one of the film’s few iconic shots.

The Vindicator is an entertaining if flawed riff on the man or machine science-fiction story. It seems largely forgotten despite being a syndicated TV staple in the 1990s. If you are interested in seeing a low-budget cyborg action film that doesn’t come anywhere near the razor sharp satire of Robocop or the kookiness of R.O.T.O.R. (1987), this is not a bad one to seek out at all.

Any excuse to post of a picture of Pam Grier you take it.

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