Omega Doom (1996)

A mysterious stranger drifts into a little town controlled by two rival gangs who reached an uneasy truce.  Before long, he’s manipulated the gangs into fighting each other…

If you’re thinking this sounds somewhat…familiar, there is a reason for this:

It is.

Now it should take long to figure out that this is a version of the classic Japanese Samurai film, Yojimbo.  Or of the classic Western, A Fistful of Dollars.  Or that gangster film with Bruce Willis…

Well, you get the idea.

It is a familiar and well worn plot, although that is because it is quite a good one.

This time around, we’re talking about a Post-Apocalyptic Android movie directed by Albert Pyun.  Pyun is one of those directors who worked very hard in the industry, turning out a lot of B-movies, which range from the acceptable to the surprisingly good, to the completely dire — with a nicely eccentric touch or two in most of them and a few bold and experimental films thrown in for good luck.  I’m never quite sure what to expect from one of his films — although he did make quite a few post-Apocalyptic films featuring more than his share of androids, and a lot of kick boxing films.

And, yes, quite a few post-Apocalyptic Kickboxing Androids.

This is one of his good ones.

Even if there is no kickboxing.

Instead of Jean Claude Van Damme, or Olivier Gruner, it stars Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty from Blade Runner), as a mysterious Android, Omega Doom, one of the military robots from the big war that destroyed everything.  The human race has vanished — and may even be gone — leaving the androids alone in what’s left of the world.  They keep hearing rumors that the humans are still out there, and plan to come destroy the surviving androids, but have never seen anyone.

Two rival gangs of robots — the simple soldier models, the Droids and the more sophisticated Roms — have come to this town in search of a lost cache of human weapons.  They no longer have guns and explosives and fight by brute force and throwing light up knives.

But neither one knows where the weapons are, and after lots of casualties on both sides, have settled down to an ugly truce — and a bit of entertainment beating up on the surviving civilian robots and any passing strangers….

I have to admit that it’s hard to imagine how this would have turned out with JCVD instead.  Rutger Hauer gives his peace loving warrior a sense of weariness that a younger, less battered — and less skillful — actor couldn’t have pulled off.

Plus it probably helps that he’d played weary Android soldiers before.

He’s one of the main things that makes this film work so well, although there is an intriguing and complex backstory to this particular future and many of the androids are given a bit of personality.  Then there’s Norbert Weisser (who was quite good — and funny — in Deceit) as the robot teacher who’s fallen on…well, let’s call it “reduced circumstances.” He’s gets some of the best comic bits, although the effects are a bit rough in places.

And, I’ll confess, I particularly liked the moment when a leader of one of two gangs tries to combine two of items from the lost treasure.  You don’t see that sort realism in most movies.  You might also notice the curious fact that the two gangs are rather small.  As they’ve got to eliminate most of them in a fairly short running time, it does make sense, and it gives them a chance to spend a little more time building up the characters of the gangs’ leaders.  But they go through them awfully fast and it is one of the places where the low budget is painfully obvious.

The effects are mostly good, even if a bit too digital at times.  Still, unlike what you’d find in a similar film these days, the fighting and stunts are mostly practical

They look far more real than anything you’ve seen with super powered robots or superheroes lately.

Although I do have to give Albert a little credit because, just as in a Samurai film, or an old Western, the duels tend to be over very fast, with the set-up and aftermath far more important than that brief moment of violence.  Like those films, violence offers us the briefest moment of catharsis before we return again to the action.

And that was one of things Albert Pyun always excelled at.  No matter who was playing his latest Android hero.

This one is a simple and straightforward B-Movie, with a solid cast, a bit of humor and a great leading actor — and there are times when we can all use one of those…

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