If there is one great truth about the film industry that you need to remember, it is that there is always someone out there who will go out of his way to mess up a perfectly good film.
Now, if you’ve missed that, you need only look at all the director’s cuts out there, often for films which did badly in the theaters, but which their directors still believed in (just to name a few, Ultraviolet, The Chronicles of Riddick and, of course, the Snyder Cut). Or you could go out and buy the Criterion collection version of Brazil and watch the so-called “Love conquers all” cut, which, fortunately, was only shown on television.
Now I mention this because Adrenalin: Fear the Rush usually gets appalling reviews from the critics.
So it shocked me a bit to find a review from The Schlock Pit which called this film by direct-to-video auteur Albert Pyun “A Superlative Surge of Pyun.”
I know, some of you are thinking, there’s always someone who loves a film, no matter how bad it is (although sometimes I suspect that person may be the director’s mother). However, there’s a lot more going on here than that.
The basics are simple enough. Pyun, working from his own script, shot a taut, nearly documentary-style thriller, following a team of cops through a maze of streets, tunnels and crumbling buildings, in an attempt to stop a deadly serial killer who doesn’t seem all that human.
The problem was that Dimension Films had the contract to distribute the film, so their head, Bob Weinstein, shot new footage which didn’t match the original, slapped new music on it, cut over half an hour from the original film and crammed it all together into a nearly incomprehensible mess.
This is the film the critics hate. And frankly, I have no intention of seeing it.
But it isn’t the only version that’s out there.
Pyun has talked about releasing his director’s cut, but, frankly, I doubt if we’ll ever see it, particularly now that he is desperately ill.
However, there is another.
The Euro version of the film is twenty minutes longer and has very little of Bob Weinstein’s new footage. It doesn’t entirely match Albert’s original intent for the film.
But it is awfully close.
Now I need to point out that it wouldn’t exactly be a shock if Pyun had made a terrible film. He’s had a fascinating career of making endless direct to video films for very little money. And some of them, like Heatseeker (1995) are seriously bad.
But then, if someone hires a director to turn a kickboxing tournament in Manila into a movie, then I doubt if even Orson Welles could have done much with it.
And certainly a lot of Albert’s many post-apocalpytic or kickboxing films are a bit…uninspired.
But at his best, in films like Dollman (1991) or Omega Doom (1996), he brought something interesting and unexpected into his work that lifts them above the endless herd of Nineties vintage robotic kickboxers, post-Apocalyptic nomads and French speaking martial artists.
And then there are a few — only a few, mind you — like Deceit (1992) or Invasion, or The Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper (2014), which are bold filmic experiments of the sort that you’d normally expect from some film student or Indie director.
It’s a strange, one of a kind career. And he deserves a lot more respect than he usually gets.
This time around, Natasha Henstridge, trying to build a post-Species career for herself, stars as a rookie cop in a broken down world who only signed up in the hopes of getting her son safely across the border and into the what is supposedly future Boston. One suspects this mostly came from the Weinstein version, but it is handled nicely enough.
Only, when she and her partner (played by Xavier Declie not long before he didn’t become a major kickboxing action star) go to check up on another police patrol which ran into trouble, they find lots of dead cops and a killer who moves ridiculously fast.
Another team, led by Christopher Lambert, arrives to assist, but things go from bad to even worse when they corner the mysterious suspect in an old prison.
But what none of them realize is that there is another team after him, a squad of hazmat suited special forces soldiers who have to stop the killer before he becomes infectious with a disease which might destroy what’s left of this horrible world…
Now I need to point out that there are very few answers here. If you aren’t happy unless your science fiction painstakingly explains every detail you will not like Adrenalin: Fear the Rush. There are a lot of hints about who and what the killer is — but they are never explained to us in much detail, and we know the leader of the Hazmat team is lying and can’t beleive everything he tells us.
But you really don’t need to know any of this. Although the film does gradually release a series of hints and shocking revelations.
Not that they explain much.
Instead, this is an intense, brutal film, in which our desperate team pushes its way deep and deeper into the mess, with tight intense shots and the great widescreen cinematography that Pyun and his regular DP, George Mooradian, always insisted upon. It’s a dark thrill ride, where danger can leap out unexpected from any murky corner, and the most frightening moment comes when we realize that there is someone standing perfectly still next to another character.
Although those eyes and teeth are pretty creepy.
For those who enjoy a good action movie as much as they enjoy mystery or horror, Adrenalin: Fear the Rush deserves a look.
But only if you can find the Euro cut.
You know, the one that’s an hour and a half long?…