The Outsider (1997)

(aka, Gangster World)

And once again, we’re looking at an eccentric kickboxing martial arts-heavy science fiction thriller which Avi Nesher produced.

While he isn’t quite as interesting a filmmaker as Albert Pyun, he produced, directed, or wrote a few genre films which are notably strange, not to mention two absolutely bizarre films, She (1984) and Savage (1996).

Wellll, he also made a few more or less routine films, and somewhere in the nothings, went back to Israel and started making Hebrew language drama films again.

So one approaches The Outsider with the expectation of a lot of Kickboxing (it is, after all, a low-budget action sci fi hybrid from the late Nineties — and Nesher himself made quite a few of them) and the possibility that it might be interesting enough to be worth a look.

And the setting is definitely interesting.  In a not too distant future, genius businessman, Dr. Greenstreet (played by none other than David “I’m Joe Isuzu” Leisure) claims he’s solved all the problems of violence in our society by creating Gangster World, an adult theme park where you can do anything you want

It’s supposed to work off your aggressions by letting you beat up, kill or rape whoever you want.  Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard these sorts of claims before, but if you ask me, the most likely result is that you’re just going to get in the habit of violence, murder and whatever else (and, ironically, we eventually learn that we should be skeptical of Doctor Greenstreet’s claims.  Wow, who would think we can’t trust the CEO of a major corporation?).

If this sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is basically Westworld, only with dubious therapeutic claims.

And gangsters, of course.

As you’d expect, we have yet another martial artist turned star.  He even has a French accent.  However, even the most dedicated fan of the kickboxing action films of the Nineties might not be familiar with Xavier Declie as he only starred in two films (even if he did play quite a few bit parts along the way).  He’s even reasonably good, although it helps that he doesn’t have a lot to say and most of his part consists of either hitting or shooting people.  The mysterious Kingpin has used Gangster World’s tank full of spare robots to create a deadly assassin, and sent him after the park’s chief programmer, Garland Widmark (Gabriel Dell, Jr., who isn’t as annoying as he was in Nesher’s Mars).

Only something goes wrong, and the Outsider has become sentient and really wants to know why the Kingpin wants him to kill Garland.

This means the film turns into a classic buddy film, with the two trying to track find out who the Kingpin is and what he really wants.  There are a few surprises along the way, and Babylon 5‘s Jerry Doyle makes a welcome appearance as one of the gangsters (although he isn’t given a lot to do).

If you are looking for an in-depth exploration of all the many moral and ethical questions about A.I.s, well, you’re not going to find it here.  The Outsider doesn’t exactly ignore those questions, just says “that’s interesting” and moves on.  At times — particularly at the very end — you get the impression that they’re winking at the audience and playing it as a joke.

When we finally learn what’s going on, it isn’t exactly a shock, we’ve seen the same idea before (and come to think of it, not that long ago).

But, I don’t know, even if it is familiar territory, it’s a likeable bit of fluff, with plenty of fights, some so-so digital effects, and a few interesting ideas (mostly recycled).  It’s definitely better than your average kickboxing robot movie, with a great setting, some halfway decent fights, and a few pretty goofy bits along the way (although the Outsider’s complaints about Garland touching his balls aren’t as funny as the movie thinks they are).  It never achieves the totally off-the-wall weirdness of Savage, and isn’t as good as another Nesher team up with Olivier Gruner, Automatic.  It’s light-hearted, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  If you are looking for a Kickboxing action sci fi Nineties movie, then it should be exactly what you are looking for.

And it is a nice change to see a new face on the latest robot with deadly feet…



Check out our new Feature (Updated February 16, 2022):

The Rivets Zone:  The Best SF Movies You’ve Never Seen!



This time featuring a brilliant lost film by Brett Piper…

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