Nemesis (1992)

Cybernetically enhanced LAPD cop Alex Rain hunts android terrorists. After a run-in with some heavily armed enemies, he loses a few body parts and is rebuilt. He’s sent to a desert town to recover where he starts to question his job as a killing machine for the LAPD. He then leaves his employer and becomes a gangster. But his past catches up with him, and he soon becomes entangled in a conspiracy that involves his LAPD boss, a datachip that contains the mind of his former android lover, and human freedom fighters. And a lot of explosions and killing along the way.

Much has been written about director Albert Pyun, so I will keep it brief. The only thing I want to say is that I do not know where his alleged reputation as worst director of the 80s/90s comes from, before he handed this title to Uwe Boll. While the quality of many of his movies is debatable, most of them were properly directed. And some of them, like Nemesis, are actually great movies.

There are many things that can be said why Nemesis could be a bad movie. The plot is a shameless rip-off of movies like The Terminator, Blade Runner, and Robocop. The thin story is hidden by a convoluted narrative that is fortunately resolved with lots of violence and explosions. Lead actor Olivier Gruner acts like he is an android, even though he plays a human (cyborg). Everyone else also acts like they are androids, and most of them actually are android characters, so no issue here. None of that matters, though, as the derivative setting and themes actually are presented in such fast succession that there’s not much time to reflect on them too deeply.

One of the moviest greatest strengths are the visuals. There’s quite a variety of locations, inluding dark urban alleys, industrial wastelands, desert ghost towns and tropical jungles that are photographed beautifully. The neo-noir fashion adds to the overall originality of the visual presentation, almost everyone is walking around in sunglasses and trenchcoats long before The Matrix came along. The bullethole floor and door as means to enter and leave rooms were also pioneered by Albert Pyun in this movie, I believe. There’s lot of jumping through windows, from balconies, onto and from rooftops. That’s of course because everyone in the movie has superhuman strength, so there’s nothing cheesy about it, folks. The special effects are decent, with some nice mechanical/prostethic effects that are mostly used when someone loses their cyber-leg/arm/head/torso in combat. And whenever someone shoots something (really anything), there’s a good chance it will explode.

No time is wasted with endless explanations on character’s motivations and world-building, which keeps the momentum high all the time . Occasional philosophical one-liners about the soul and the human condition are inserted throughout the movie, typically right before or after someone gets killed. One remarkable thing is that a good number of characters have names that are typically associated with the opposite sex. Men have names such as Michelle, Marion and Angie. The female protagonists go by Julian, Jared and Max. Now, this could either be a lame joke, or a somewhat clumsy feminist statement. Maybe it’s the latter, as Nemesis also features a lot of bad-ass female characters, which was not such a common thing for action movies from the early 90s.

In summary, Nemesis is a wild ride through the cyberpunk universe, that never bores and churns out thrills at high pace. It has aged well, and may even be Albert Pyun’s best movie.

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