Sunday, 27 April 2014


Title: Nemesis
Director:  Albert Pyun
Released: 1992
Starring: Olivier Gruner, Tim Thomerson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Yuji Okumoto, Marjorie Monaghan, Nicolas Guest, Deborah Shelton, Merle Kennedy

Plot: Alex (Gruner) a retired cyborg police officer is pulled out of retirement to track down his former girlfriend and cyborg Jared (Monaghan) who is smuggling data to terrorist organizations plotting to assassinate government officials.

Review: Directed by cult favourite Albert Pyun, who to date has directed over 40 movies while earning a reputation as something of a b-movie hired gun, as if you have a movie that you need to make on a minimal budget then Pyun is your man. He was also responsible for the very first film I reviewed here “Wrecking Crew” which was also for the longest time one of the worst films I had reviewed here, an honour now currently shared between “Deaden” and “Dear God No”. For some reason though it has taken me to now to review another film from his back catalogue but then I can hardly claim that I am the biggest fan of his work, but this is another film from my childhood whose cover I remembered from my misspent hours scanning video library shelves only to never actually get around to watching it until now.

Predictably being a Pyun film, ruined buildings, cyborgs and a post-apocalyptic future are all the order of the day which always amused me about his film, especially considering how Pyun cares little for any of these themes as he stated once in an interview were he essentially cleared up this irony.

“I have really no interest in cyborgs. And I’ve never really had any intrest in post-apocalyptic stories or settings. It just seemed that those situations presented a way for me to make movies with very little money, and to explore ideas that I really wanted to explore – even if they were [controversial].

Honestly I’m not too sure what story he wanted to tell here, seeing how there is less plot development than “Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever” which really is kind of saying something, but here the film goes from one bullet riddled shootout to the next, with seemingly only explosions and scenes of Alex and his unintentional sidekick (of sorts) Max (Kennedy) frequently diving off cliffs to tie it all together.

Okay perhaps this is a little harsh as there is some William Gibson-esq musing over what it is to be human, especially on the part of Alex whose frequent injuries have left him in need of frequent cybernetic upgrades, while refusing to be labelled a mindless robot, frequently stating that eighty-six point five percent of him is still human at any given moment. I would like to believe that these cybernetic upgrades are responsible for the continually bland and emotionless performance that Gruner gives here though I would seriously doubt this is the case. Even the most basic of emotions seems to be a push for him outside of the occasional smile while memorably showing zero emotion when his dog is killed by one of his former handlers in a pretty dickish move to try and convince Alex to come back. The logic behind this move still lost on me, I mean how many times have you convinced someone to do something by killing one of their cherished pets?

On the plus side Max comes with a Lorri Petty / Tank Girl style personality which never really gets any chance to shine and instead just comes off constantly skittish while providing enough personality to cover for both of them. Elsewhere the villians all bizarrely have a faux German accents while generally spending the film chasing after Alex and Max and shooting up the scenery. Sadly one of the worst aspects of the film is how underused Cary-Hirouki Tagawa is as his appearance is really more of a cameo, while more interesting one of his rarer non villainous roles and considering that he manages to act everyone else off the screen with his handful of scenes only makes me wish that Pyun had found a way to expand his role.

So what does this film have going for it? Well action, action and more action is essentially the order of the day, with everyone seemingly being armed to the teeth even an doddering old granny pulls out a pistol at one point!  Needless to say the film doesn’t waste any time getting to the first of the numerous shoot-outs as right from the off Alex is involved in a fierce shoot out, with Pyun  choosing like John Woo to have his characters rarely reload and even when they do it is only after they have fired off countless rounds. More amusingly though is that despite frequently being only a few metres from each other no one ever seems to be able to hit the broadside of a barn door and seeing how everyone is seemingly a cyborg (something which seemingly doesn’t improve anyone’s ability to aim) when someone does get hit it is usually in a hail of sparks which is visually pretty fun to watch.

While Gruner might be lacking as an actor, he does however make up for it in the action scenes with his character being changed from the originally proposed violent street urchin to Gruner’s cyborg cop as part of a production deal between Pyun and production executive Ash Shah who were keen to use the former Kickboxing champion in one of their projects with this film with Pyun in return being allowed free reign to make the movie he want and by the looks of things he really took that ball and ran with it. Surprisingly despite Gruner’s kickboxing background he only gets a chance to actually show off these skills on a couple of occasions as Pyun instead opts to have his Gruner demonstrate his gun handling skills instead which thankfully also works in Gruner’s favour as he handles himself well during the action sequences including a scene where he memorably machine guns his way though the floors of a hotel which would be memorably reworked in “Underworld” to similar effect, with the other memorable sequence involving him brawling with a generic villain while sliding down a muddy ramp and it really is in these scenes that the film really does shine and no doubt would have made this possibly my favourite movie had I watched it when I first discovered it, when the action scenes mattered more than the rest of the film.

Far from my favourite viewing experience as of late, yet like so many of Pyun's films I can't help but feel that the film was in many ways close to something, only to lose it along the way. Still if you like sparky firefights and explosions with minimal plotting then this could be the film for you. Now I just have to see were the series goes next seeing how this film spawn an additional three films, so don't be surprised if this isn't my last venture into the series.


  1. Exactly, the same as you I saw this countless times in my local video shop - what a video cover! Didn't get around to watching it until years later. Not a good film by any stretch of the imagination but has a couple of interesting shots and ideas.

    You're spot on about Pyun. He's made lots of films that sound interesting on paper but are terribly scripted, badly edited and messily shot. He lacks focus. The only Pyun flick I'd check out is Sword and the Sorcerer - a fantasy flick from the 80s. It's definitely his most competent.

    1. I will have to give that one a look, especially as I know that this won't be the last encounter with his work.

      While we might not be fans, he unquestionably does have quite a rabid fanbase as the research for this piece only further highlighted. Often it does seem aswell though that the behind the scenes stories for his films are more interesting than the films themselves.


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