Friday, April 26, 2019

Droid Gunner

Droid Gunner (aka Phoenix 2 aka Cyber Zone)
Fred Olen Ray

After a devastating earthquake and a global war, androids are now illegal on Earth. It just so happens that four pleasure models have been smuggled into New Angles. Jack Ford (Marc Singer), The Droid Gunner, has been hired to find them and bring them back. His boss assigns him an assistant, Beth (Rochelle Swanson) to keep an eye on him and make sure he does his job. He’s not happy about that, but he’s even less happy when he uncovers a conspiracy led a New Angles business leader.

Droid Gunner is tasked with a delicate balancing act of trying to be a) a low-budget action/SF movie and b) a tongue-in-cheek goof on Blade Runner (1982). To its credit, the movie performs this genre high-wire act pretty well. It helps that the movie is a lightweight affair and knows when to toss in copious amounts of nudity if things threaten to become dull. Droid Gunner even manages to create a few character moments that are surprising.

A romance for the ages.
Marc Singer of Beastmaster (1982) fame has a lot of fun as the deadpan Jack Ford. He gets to strut around, get in fist fights with a budget-minded Terminator, shoot a helicopter out of the sky with a revolver, and generally be gruff and sarcastic to everyone. In true film noir tradition, Jack is on the receiving end of a quite a few beatings. Jack's companion Beth, takes the fish-out-of-water role of a sheltered corporate drone thrown into a violent cartoon hellscape, she's made to suffer some indignities but the movie never really indulges in anything too grotesque. Beth does seems pretty game to throw herself in ridiculous situations such as impersonating a sex droid. The most interesting turn comes from Hawks (Matthias Hues), who initially comes across as a potential adversary, but ends up joining Jack and Beth on their mission to return the smuggled androids. This turns the third act into more of a buddy action film and Droid Gunner is better for it, Singer and Hues have fun chemistry.

For a movie about androids and future cities, there is very little in terms of special effects. There is some spaceship battle footage that has been endlessly recycled from various Corman productions, and a robot suit from Fred Olen Ray’s Starhunter (1996). Brinke Stevens makes a delightful appearance in some mutant cat-human make-up (and not much else). I understand budget limitations and using what you can to make a low-budget film work, but I would have appreciated just a little more android action.

Siouxsie and the Pussycats
Droid Gunner sets out to be a weightless time-filler with some humor, action, and sex. It achieves all three of these goals admirably and manages to do so with a zippy pace that never slows down long enough to drag. There are better Blade Runner rip-offs out there, but there are none more fun than Droid Gunner.  No other movie could get away with a line like, “I get sexual pleasures by having women follow me single file down the hallway.”

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