aka Deathline, aka Armageddon
Directed by Tibor Takacs
Written by Tibor Takacs and Brian Irving
Starring Rutger Hauer Mark Dacascos Yvonne Scio Patrick Dreikauss
Produced by Brian Irving
Review written by Nathan Shumate
If I seem to be laboring a bit here, there's a reason for it. This is one of those movies for which I have to continuously consult my notes in order to write the review, because nothing in the movie inspired retention. By the time I got to the end, I cared so little that I barely remembered the beginning.
Rutger Hauer is John Anderson Wade, an American smuggling biotechnology into the Russia of the future. How do we know it's Russia? Because he and partner Merrick (Mark Dacascos)land their plane at night in what is apparently the graveyard for all the old Communist statues and other massive icons. How do we know it's the future? Because the pilot of the plane has a circular plate in the back of his bald head, with which he jacks directly into the plane. Also because the cargo they're smuggling looks like microchips with a small pulsing pink trilobite on it. And also because of the robo-probe with helicopter blades that tries to apprehend them and manages to blow up the plane just after the cargo has been off-loaded (too bad the pilot didn't off-load himself). Wade makes a target of himself to give Merrick and Wade's girlfriend Katya (Yvonne Scio), who met them there, a chance to get the truck started. Then he uses some of his smuggled military ordnance to blow up the probe.
Ah, but there's a doublecross -- just as soon as the probe is gone, Merrick shoots both Wade and Katya and leaves them dead in the field.
(With the wisdom of hindsight, I can only wish that the movie had indeed ended at this point. We've seen the entire special effects budget, we've seen an explosion... It honestly won't get any better.)
In the morning, the military finds their bodies. Katya's they torch on the spot -- but Wade's they retrieve for a special project, under the command of sneaky-looking Russian military type Vanya (Randall William Cook). Why? To experiment with a bring-em-back-to-life technology, ostensibly to collect evidence against the Troika (the Russian Mafia). They inject his brain with an "anti-trauma culture" and -- horrors! -- shave off his moustache, then let him recuperate in a coma for months.
Naturally, he wakes up, surprises a nurse (one of a pair of lesbian nurses, actually -- why couldn't the movie have been about them?), steals some clothing, and escapes, which is actually what Vanya wanted. See, Merrick is working with the Troika, and Vanya knows that Wade will want revenge, so we'll just let our resurrected man go in and do our dirty work.
What follows is an odd combination of top-of-the-head scenes that anyone can see coming, and whole sections of plot that make no sense whatsoever. Under the former, we have Wade track down Mishka (Patrick Dreikauss), an underworld low-life who knew both of them, and who immediately goes running to Merrick. And then Wade tracks down a hooker at the "House of Culture" (wink wink, nudge nudge) named Marina K., whom Merrick frequents. What do you want to suspect that she's actually very smart and has a heart of gold, and wants to join Wade's crusade? And what do you want to bet that she reminds Wade of Katya (not hard, as it's the same actress in a different wig)?
And from there, we spend most of the movie with Wade as he somehow keeps wandering into high-class parties that Merrick just happens to be attending. Where'd he get his bigass gun that needs reloading exactly once? Why, from a friendly weapon-supplying priest, of course. And where did he get the cash he keeps flashing? Well, some skulljacked street kids on rollerblades try to rob him, only to discover that you can't keep your footing very well on rollberblades; they leave behind a satchel which contains a pack of gum, a comb, and apparently enough cash to bankroll one of the smaller Soviet breakaway nations. Along the way, he avoids hitmen, falls in love with Marina, and gets attacked by naked Russian female bodybuilders.
In the senseless plot department, you can put all of the political machinations: Vanya is actually the anonymous special prosecutor appointed by the (female) Russian president because she thinks the Moscow chief of police is in bed with the Troika, but Vanya's also in bed with the Troika, but he's trying to double-cross them, which is why he sent Wade after Merrick, and... I suppose when it's condensed down like that, it makes a sort of movie sense, but on-screen it was just a hopeless mishmash.
I've yet to figure out why this was set in the future. The science fiction elements have absolutely no impact on the plot; the only places we see the skulljacking are in the ill-fated pilot, the kids who accost Wade, and Mishka, who uses it to play a videogame in one scene. If the Russia of the future were interesting, it would be reason enough -- but said Russia is merely an over-Americanized one, complete with a president worrying about scandals in an election year, a Russia's Most Wanted TV show, and big McDonald's signs. Russianness is so played down that I honestly couldn't tell who was supposed to be Russian and who wasn't. Merrick sometimes had something of an accent -- but have you ever met a Russian named "Merrick"? I'm guessing that someone had an inside line on all of these Hungarian locations; otherwise, this could just as easily have been a contemporary action flick set in America.
And while I'm a big fan of Rutger Hauer, what you get when you combine a stony-faced, underplayed protagonist with stonyfaced Eastern European locations is a big grey movie that can't even find your adrenal gland, much less stimulate it.
To top it off, the entire mainspring of the plot -- getting revenge on Merrick -- is resolved a full ten minutes before the movie winds down. Scratch that; the movie wound down long before, but that whole storyline is resolved ten minutes before the movie finally shudders to a halt and allows the credits to roll.
Now, you may suspect that I'm being overly negative; after all, I didn't give this movie a "cold" rating, so there must have been something (aside from the copious and casual nudity) to recommend it, right? Right. There was a single scene that showed wit and originality, and to spare you the effort of actually watching the movie, I'll tell you about it right now: On the run from the police, Wade and Marina run into a score of homeless guys who just saw Wade's face all over Russia's Most Wanted, and all of them just happen to have automatic weapons under their bedrolls. That's it; that's the only scene that caused me to crack a smile. And since this scene resolves itself with "good guy bullets" plot mechanics (you know, good guy bullets from two handguns hit their targets unerringly, while bad guy bullets from a throng of machineguns hit nothing but concrete and bystanders), even that inspiration is quickly drained.
Director and co-writer Tibor Takacs has put out some pretty good movies before. No one would call The Gate or I, Madman art, but they're entertaining and even a little thought-provoking at times. Redline, on the other hand, must be his own personal Dorian Gray-style charm, into which he poured all of his pointless, paceless creative impulses. At least Dorian Gray didn't put his portrait out on display, though.
Cast:Rutger Hauer,Mark Dacascos
Rutger Hauer plays Wade a man doublecrossed and killed by his partner, reanimated and nearly invincible Wade sets out for vegence on the man (Dacascos)who killed him, in this lukewarm, unexciting actioner which falls apart due to it's unintresting story.
Below-standard B-movie has nothing new to offer but chunks of nudity and violent bloodshed and in the end the feeling is hollow. Dacascos is just not a good villian and the film might have worked had Hauer been in the villian role and Dacascos in the hero role but it isn't like this and the film is full of tineared dialog and cheap melodrama, however the fist crazed climax and tons of nudity to relieve the tedium, but not often enough.
James O'Ehley, SCI-FI MOVIE PAGE
STARRING: Rutger Hauer, Mark Dacascos, Yvonne Scio, Patrick Dreikauss, Randall William Cook, Michael Mehlmann, Ildikó Szücs, István Kanizsay, Gabor Peter Vincze
1997, 113 Minutes, Directed by: Tibor Takács
Description: In the future, death is only the beginning. In the tradition of such science fiction classics as "Blade Runner" and "Escape From New York" comes a terrifying vision of a future unlike any seen before. When John Wade (Rutger Hauer) tries to smuggle fantasy chips for the city's cyberjunkies, he is betrayed by his partner, Merrick (Mark Dacascos), and killed. Authorities resurrect him with bio-synthetic cyber-implants to interrogate him regarding the Troika, a crime syndicate that counts Merrick as a member. Once alive, Wade escapes and begins an intensive search for Merrick in the underworld of the future--seedy cyber-slums and sex dens--to exact revenge on the traitor in a blaze of gunfire. After dodging assassins and scavenger bounty hunters, Wade realizes that in this world, he can trust no one. — Amazon.com
You know you're watching a straight-to-video cheapie when you have Rutger (who'll never again star in the likes of Blade Runner and Ladyhawke it seems) Hauer in a long black coat fighting a completely nude (!) woman kickboxer.
Yeah, Redline doesn't shy away from some gratuitous violence and T&A. Early on in the movie the chief baddie, after beating the crap out of someone he's trying to intimidate, slices off the poor guy's fingers with a samurai sword and stuffs it into his mouth. Later on, every attempt is made to populate the movie with sexy young women in revealing/sluttish clothing and/or in various states of undress. If you hold on a bit longer you'll see Hauer (in said black coat) having a bit of two-on-one action with two nubile starlets in a virtual reality shower scene.
"Redline doesn't shy away from some gratuitous violence and T&A . . ."
If this sounds like your kind of B-movie, don't be fooled. Redline (which may be gathering dust on your local video shelf depending on where you're actually reading this under the title of either Armageddon (!) or Deathline) isn't much fun.
The story plods along not making much sense, the dialogue is wooden and the acting even more so. It is a dull affair - and not much in the MSTK3000 way that similar trashy movies like Barb Wire or Hauer's earlier Split Second were. There just doesn't seem to be any spark of life in the whole affair and the action scenes falls firmly in the uninspiring Nemesis mould. Not even lots of beer and pizza can save this one . . .
It needn't have been this way. The director managed to find some very interesting and atmospheric locations to film Redline (although it is set in a post-economic collapse Russia, it was apparently filmed in Hungary) and the photography is pretty good. Also, a fleeting scene in which Eisenstein's famous Battleship Potempkin Odessa steps sequence is parodied is pretty clever. But it all falls apart under the bog standard and dull screenplay about a small-time crook (Hauer) seeking revenge against his former partner who double crossed him.
Not even a few cool Strange Days-like cyberpunk gizmos can save Redline from becoming the type of movie you wouldn't even want to watch for free on the telly late one night . .