Mars (1997)

Mars DVD CoverThis movie came maddeningly close to being a can’t miss entry in the whole “kickboxer busts up corrupt outer space mining colony” genre of films.

Olivier Gruner plays an emotionless mining cop who somehow gets almost emotionally involved in investigating his brother’s death. More importantly, he sports a pretty bad haircut (but not nearly as bad as the one in Savage) and throws his badge down on the ground after he finishes getting all sorts of vengeance on pretty much the entire population of Mars.

The mining company is up on Mars to mine Silex which is some kind of something that’s a really great source of fuel for all us greedy Earthlings. Like all miracle discoveries in science fiction though, Silex turns out to be decidedly un-miraclous.

It turns out that Silex has a little bit of a side effect on those exposed to it. It gives them a good dose of the Martian Plague! Not the Martian Plague that gives everyone unsightly sores! Yes, that very Martian Plague!

But as cool as Martian Plague is, the Silex proves its mettle as miracle gunk whose breathrough uses are surpassed only by its breatkthrough medical problems by also causing heinous birth defects!

You can see where this one is going, right? Olivier Gruner battling to the death on the red-tinted sandy landscape of Mars against an army of mutant babies! It’s like director Jon Hess (The Lawless Land and Excessive Force) tapped into my brain and downloaded the wet dream I’ve been having since I could squirt standing up!

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Despite this promising set up, Mars proves that in space, everyone with a hankering for lesser Olivier Gruner movies can see and hear you fail! How can you have a movie predicated on the awfulness of a mining corporation killing mutant babies in an effort to keep everyone in the dark about Silex’s horrible side effects, but never show me a freaking mutant baby? Just having something wrapped in a bundle and people looking at it like someone just crapped on their wedding cake isn’t going to cut it!

To be fair, the movie trotted out a full grown mutant that was the son of Pete the Hermit, but a Martian Elephant Man who shuffles around and hides upstairs in his bedroom is certainly no substitute for a squalling little brat with giant eyes, fangs and claws!

Lack of nasty deformed kids aside, Mars still has plenty to keep your own deformed kids borderline entranced for a good 15 minutes or so. Olivier knows the conventions of this type of movie and thus his investigation takes him to the local strip club! The movie demonstrates a nice balance of action between shots of strippers swinging around poles and Olivier stabbing and punching miners!

Olivier also manages to get mugged as soon as he arrives in Alpha City, but it all worked out because he beat up a gang of roughnecks dispatched by the company to keep Olivier from digging too deep into his brother’s death. He also picks up the annoying chatterbox sidekick that helps him out the rest of the film. As obnoxious as he was, it was certainly preferable to having Olivier hang around Shari Belafonte’s doctor character who was sporting a Susan Powter haircut.

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Somehow, Olivier decides that a trip outside the domed city to visit old Pete the Hermit is just what the case needs and it turns out he’s right because once they get old Pete the Hermit talking, he tells us everything! I always like a movie where a single character is sitting out there waiting to be interviewed so that he can spill every bit of story we need to solve the mystery and finish up the movie.

It’s so much faster than having our hero visit the library, the local hall of records, and breaking into the bad guy’s office to take a peek at the incriminating file that was just left laying around on his desk. I also like a movie where news of this important meeting just happens to be overheard by someone who can report it to the bad guys. It makes the final confrontation so much easier to schedule.

Olivier gets embroiled in series of fights at the end of the film as he battles his way back to the head of the mining company who knew all along all the bad stuff that was happening and who wants Olivier dead.

Mars is the expected menu of low budget action violence where guys get punched, kicked, stabbed, shot, blown up, and set on fire. None of it was executed with any particular panache and nothing of much consequence was destroyed. (I’m probably spoiled by PM Entertainment‘s movies where buses and cars are routinely flying through the air and blowing up.)

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Olivier’s part doesn’t call for him to demonstrate much of anything beyond a vague irritated squint and the occasionally kickboxing eruption and thus he executes his role to perfection.

There is one thing that absolutely sinks the movie and it isn’t the bad computer graphics of spaceships landing on Mars which I thought was stolen from a early generation video game. It also isn’t the fact that most of the action on Mars seems to take place in steam tunnels and other grungy industrial locales that could’ve been any number of factories in my own town!

No, the single detail that you will remember from this movie when your friends are asking you to rate the Gruner movies you’ve seen is that they had someone else dub Gruner’s voice!

I’ll be the first to admit that in most of his other movies, I can’t understand half of what he is saying due to his soft-spoken French accent, but when you’ve grown up with him yammering like that, it kind of becomes part of the charm of any given Gruner film! Dubbing Gruner is like colorizing Frank Sinatra’s eyes or painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa! I kept trying to convince myself that Olivier just had a cold or that it was the Martian atmosphere affecting his sinuses, but in space everyone can hear your hideously dubbed voice!

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