Knights (1993)

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I was impressed.

Okay, now we all know this was yet another of the long series of post-Apocalyptic kickboxing cyborg movies Albert Pyun made.  In fact, it was originally meant to be a sequel to Von Damme’s Cyborg.  And, yes, it is very familiar territory, with lots of action, lots of sparks and metal bits flying when those cyborgs get killed, and lots of over-the-top villainy.

But the action scenes truly are spectacular, because it is perfectly obvious that most of it was shot without wirework  — and without the sort of digital animation and touch up work we’d get today.  There is no substitute for real, no matter how much you’re willing to pay for those physics defying stunts in the current crop of action films.

As Tia, the usual post-Apocalyptic survivor with mad fighting skills, we have Kathy Long who, surprise, surprise, had been a five-time world champion kickboxer.  She is impressively physical and believable — at least until the end when she fights dozens of soldiers as well as killing quite a few cyborgs. I’m not sure she’s a great actor, but fortunately, she doesn’t have to do much acting that doesn’t involving hitting people.  She’s backed up by Kris Kristofferson’s memorable performance as her cyborg mentor, Gabriel.  It does remind me more than a little of Kris’ take on Whistler in Blade a few years later.

Although his finest moment comes in the grotesque and somewhat absurd sequence when he rebuilds his damaged body.

Lance Henriksen gives a truly manic performance as the villain, Job, a character he once described as his ‘cyborg Richard III’, and Scott Paulin — who got my attention with a wacky two-faced performance as Brick Bardo in Pyun’s Deceit — has a lot of fun playing an insufferable and childish cyborg who is the first to die.  Or get shut down, depending on how you look at it.

The title “Knights” is just a touch odd as there aren’t any Knights around.  The cyborgs do ride around on horses, but their head scarves and long flowing robes remind me far more of the Moslem soldiers the Crusaders fought.  I suppose that makes Gabriel and Tia the knights, but it may just be that someone thought the name sounded cool.

I’ll admit I find that far more probable.

The ending, however, is rather…well “disappointing” seems a mild word.  The sinister main villain who’s been lurking in the background all along gets away without our learning anything about him, Tia’s brother is kidnapped, and we’re told that her quest will take her to Cyborg City and then through time and space to the end of the universe with a great many adventures along the way.  To say this is setting up a sequel is like saying that Godzilla is “tall.”  I almost have to wonder whether Albert had any thought of pitching this as the pilot for a TV series.

I think, though, that one could forgive this film anything for no other reason than its dazzling images of Monument Valley, that stunningly beautiful location where so many John Ford Westerns were shot.

Well, almost anything.

This isn’t the best post-Apocalyptic cyborg Kickboxer film ever made.  Nor is it the worst.  But it was made with a great deal of skill and care, even if it did go straight to video.  And it is one of those films which never lets the audience get bored.

After all, there is always someone getting kicked.

Or hit.  Or thrown off a cliff.  Or bursting into flames.

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