Cyborg (1989): Albert Pyun
In the future, anarchy, genocide, and starvation preceded The Plague, which wiped out an untold proportion of the population. A group of scientists in Atlanta believe they can find a cure, if only they could get the information lodged inside a cyborg in Manhattan, fleeing a gang of bullies.
Fighting for the cyborg is JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME.
ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: A rogue “slinger” takes revenge on the man who killed his adoptive family, and there’s also a cyborg for some reason.
I forgive you for thinking that Jean-Claude Van Damme would, as the star, play the cyborg in the movie’s title. I spent all 80+ minutes (what a drag they were) expecting a final reveal of his character’s cyborg-ness.
Nope. Van Damme plays Gibson Rickenbacker, a so-called slinger (short for gunslinger, I think) who helps people flee the plague-ravaged hellscape of Manhattan. Gibson carries a four-barreled rifle and plenty of emotional baggage that we see again and again…and again and again.
Seems in earlier days Gibson escorted a woman and her two children from the city, only to fall in love with the mother and lose them to a pack a roving lunatics headed by the villain named Fender (Vincent Klyn).
Many scenes (at least four) in Cyborg are flash backs to those halcyon days of love, lust, and some peace in the turbulent future. Gibson, best we can tell, liked mother and children, and those emotions were enough to make Gibson put down his slinger tools.
Fender changes Gibson’s plans, forcing him to return to that life and to track the killer along the east coast. I don’t have to tell you that Gibson’s path involves many roundhouse kicks, some shirtless flexing, and very bad acting. That’s the Van Damme way.
I do have to tell you that Gibson survives crucifixion. Perhaps the most remarkable feat in world history, Gibson spends an entire night nailed to a cross and not only lives through it, he kicks himself free by snapping the cross in two with the heel of his boot.
Gibson reluctantly joins with another decent person named Nady (Deborah Richter) to travel from Manhattan to Atlanta. On foot. Chasing a boat. Yes, while Fender sails along the east coast, the two heroes walk the same route and do so as quickly as the ship.
Gibson finally reaches Atlanta to fight Fender, and they do so in shirtless, wet-muscle-rippling glory.
Fender, narrating the opening exposition, explains both the world and his worldview. A lot of people died, and the living want a cure. Not Fender. “I like the death,” he says.
Fender gets wind of the cyborg with the cure and wants to catch her, not to save people, but to control them. Control the cure and the world is chaos. It’s the only idea that makes sense in this movie.
There’s no doubt that Fender is a brutal war lord. He impales a man through the mouth. He nails Gibson to a cross. He forced a young girl to hold a line of barbed wire wrapped around her family, telling her that as long as she held on they would live.
In New York, Fender captures the cyborg and transports her to Atlanta. He plans to use the information the cyborg contains to make himself into a god amongst men, capable of doling out life and (most likely) death.
Fender wears sunglasses no matter the time of day or the weather, which subsumes his villainy, because his eyes are white. They intimidate, but his shades cover them up. It’s a major mistake in filmmaking that might have improved this movie. Anything would have improved this movie.
Here are some things that occur in Cyborg.
- Gibson does a split to hold himself above a walkway, where he stabs a guy sneaking below him.
- Gibson has a knife in the toe of his shoe, which he uses to slice and dice bad guys.
- A villain wears a gas mask.
- Gibson swings like Tarzan on a metal railing.
- Gibson throws a knife into someone 20 yards away.
- Nady cuts off the left hand of a woman.
- Fender has a six-barrel rifle.
- Gibson, wrapped in barbed wire, survives falling down a well and climbs out of it.
Many high-flying kicks landing on dudes’ faces give you something to watch for. There’s also some nudity tossed in for fun. The fights are the only thing going for Cyborg.
The titular cyborg is a woman named Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon), who we first see fleeing Fender’s gang in a dirty Manhattan. Gibson saves Pearl only to walk away from her because he thought she was someone else. Pearl is then captured by Fender and taken to Atlanta, and we only once hear from her again.
Gibson reluctantly travels south with a woman named Nady. These two hook up outside the city, in a village the day after Fender pillages it. For the first night they spend most of their time either asleep, in Nady’s case, or sharpening a knife, in Gibson’s case, as he flashes back to the reasons he’s chasing Fender.
Nady was one of the few bright spots in Cyborg. When the lights are dim to none, a bright spot means very little, but you notice it. She convinces Gibson to not ditch her because he might need her help later. Indeed he does, needing aid after Fender crucifies him.
Nady tries her best at seducing Gibson, digging him as being “pretty good” at fighting and telling him she likes scars. Gibson doesn’t bite, but he does allow her to help him so he can help her later. Sounds like a good deal. I liked Nady for her spunk, but, Jesus, Cyborg sucks.
Fender’s crew is a scuzzy bunch of louts who wear dusty leather and obey their boss. They have few lines and fewer actions, save to die at the hands of Gibson.
If Van Damme is aboard, expect a big fight, no matter the length of the movie. One such fight sequence occurs while he and Nady walk toward Georgia from New York.
The pair is assailed by mask-wearing highwaymen in a leafy green forest somewhere on the east coast. Gibson, being a slinger, gets the jump on two of them in the woods, stabbing one and breaking another’s neck with his bare hands.
Nady, meanwhile, rushes to the top of the unfinished brick building, which turns out to be a big mistake. She’s soon surrounded by four of these maniacs, each carrying different weapons, and one man wearing a gas mask, which seems pointless in a gas-free environment, because it hinders sight and breathing. This gas mask fool takes Nady.
Gibson and his quad-barrel rifle sneak to the top floor, its walls open to the surrounding woods. He shoots one goon in the chest before anyone knows he’s there. The next goon uses his rusty chain to snatch the rifle away, but he lasts only long enough for Gibson to roundhouse kick him in the face with the blade extending from the toe of his boot.
Gibson grapples with another goon and stabs him in the back. Another guy joins the fight, and Gibson backs him into a concrete column with a chokehold after blocking two punches. When a second man approaches from behind, Gibson slings the chokehold guy into the path of an arcing knife to block the slice with his enemy. Smart move. Even smarter, Gibson kicks the knife-wielder out of the building.
Gibson now turns to deal with Nady. He rudely stares down the gas mask guy and draws a knife. First, he deals with the other remaining goon, catching and cutting a pole in half. Nady helps herself by crunching Gas Mask’s balls to get free of his grasp. Gibson throws his knife into Gas Mask’s back. Then, Nady, from the ground, kicks Gas Mask in the gas mask and calls him “Bitch” so he screams and falls down five stories.
Gibson and Nady actually beat Fender and his crew to Atlanta, despite traveling on foot and spending a night nailed to a cross. It’s best to just let that go, or to stop watching!
Nady helps Pearl escape from Fender and fights a battle of her own until she’s killed. Gibson gets his chance to oppose Fender. Here are some things that happen in the final fight sequence:
- Gibson kicks a guy 10 times in the gut, unable to knock him down.
- That same man is set on fire and falls onto a car that explodes.
- Fender removes his chain mail shirt (the mark of a serious villain), to fight Gibson.
- Fender and Gibson, both shirtless in the rain, breathe at each other before fighting.
- Fender throws Gibson through a car windshield, then bashes his head with a car door.
- Unable to speak, Fender shouts a lot, and he sounds like Sloth from The Goonies. He’s also kicked in the back by Gibson.
The two men fight more. They trade blows without bothering to block punches. That makes sense. Fender draws a secret knife and slices Gibson’s face, a wound that will stop bleeding in seconds. Gibson takes the knife from Fender’s hand. There’s literally a shot of Gibson uncurling Fender’s fingers to remove the knife, which he quickly stabs into Fender’s gut, tossing the body into the rain.
Now, you probably thought Fender was dead. That was stupid of you, because he comes back to roaring life long enough to choke Gibson, throw him through a wall, and punch him more. Only when Gibson thrusts Fender’s exposed back onto a meat hook does Fender die.
Now, about the actual cyborg we barely saw. Gibson delivers Pearl to the scientists working in Atlanta. The scientists don’t even give Gibson a shirt. Pearl, who has the knowledge to cure the plague in her circuitry, says, regarding Gibson, “I feel he’s the real cure for this world.”
And the movie ends. We have no idea what the cyborg knew. Goddamn it.
Good God, no.
Cyborg visits actual American east coast beach locations, and ones that are unpopulated and windswept. One of the characters mentions the location “Hatteras,” which I’ve never heard in a movie ever. Tar Heel pride.
The sets were ostensibly located in Manhattan and Atlanta, but you’d never guess that. They are trash heaps with cheesy backdrops and open flames, even in a storm.
Let’s get this over with.
- (-1) If you were paying attention (and why were you after a few minutes of this crap fest?), you noticed that the chief characters were named for guitars.
- (1) Bonus point for repping North Carolina.
- I can’t figure out why this movie was called Cyborg. The cyborg has maybe five lines and fewer scenes. The Plague or The Slinger would be better titles.
- The cyborg carries information essential to curing The Plague. This information is delivered four times in the opening minutes.
Summary (12/68): 18%
God (Van) Damme this movie blew. The cyborg is barely involved, there’s repeated flash backs and exposition, the movie is less than 90 minutes, and the villain growls more than he speaks.