“The film that launched a thousand lips…”
Before there was Salt, before there was Mrs. Smith, before there was even Lara Croft, there was Cash Reese. For Angelina Jolie got her start as a grown-up actress in this 1993 sequel to a Jean-Claude Van Damme action film. She plays a cyborg pumped full of liquid explosives by her creators, Pinwheel Robotics, with the aim of being dispatched to assassinate the board of their Japanese rivals, Kobayashi Electronics. However, Cash is busted out from their complex by employee Colton Ricks (Koteas) along with a mysterious virtual guide known as “Mercy” (Palance). Unwilling to let their investment go, Pinwheel unleash psychotic bounty-hunter, Danny Bench (Drago) to track her down, before the pair can escape to Mombasa, a free zone for independent cyborgs.
“After I saw it, I went home and got sick,” said Jolie. Really? Damn, she must have hurled like Regan MacNeil after watching The Cradle of Life then, for this isn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s cheap, and rips off Blade Runner shamelessly in its visual style. However, it benefits immeasurably from an above average cast, who are all good for their roles. While Jolie’s lack of acting experience is certainly apparent, this doesn’t work against her character, an artificial person who is getting to experience the real world for the first time. Koteas is decent as the rugged hero – even though Cash is obviously stronger, quicker and probably smarter than he is. This does make the film’s finale somewhat dumb: in it, Ricks takes on Bench in a fight to the death, in order to win money for their passage to Mombasa, even though the rest of the film strongly suggests it’s Cash who would have a better chance of beating the hunter.
However, we must not forget the supporting cast who certainly help carry this, in particular Palance. His is mostly a voice performance, his lips appearing on video screens along the way to direct and assist Cash and Ricks, and brings an understated gravitas to proceedings they really don’t deserve. At the other end of the performance spectrum, yet equally fun to watch, is Drago, chewing scenery in memorable fashion. And we mustn’t forget Karen Sheperd as Chen, another hunter trailing Cash, leading to some good action there too. The script was originally intended as a standalone film called Glass Shadow [the name of the bio-explosive], which may explain why there’s no apparent connection to the original movie – as the not necessarily entirely accurate sleeve shown suggests, it was released this way in some territories. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and purely for opening the door to Jon Voight’s little girl, and the much bigger, (mostly) better things to come, definitely is deserving of a certain regard.
Dir: Michael Schroeder
Star: Elias Koteas, Angelina Jolie, Jack Palance, Billy Drago