Heatseeker (1995)

Heatseeker VHS CoverDo you know how I knew that Heatseeker was far-fetched science fiction? Gary Daniels got his ass kicked. Twice. The second time, he was literally destroyed despite having all the latest cybernetic implants that supposedly made him the perfect killing machine. In fact, the whole movie was built around the concept that the company that designed the implants and that Gary worked for was holding a tournament to showcase just what a perfect killing machine he was. And it turned out that he got beat worse after he gets the implants than he did in his first fight when he was still all human!

All of that makes it sound pretty bad for Gary’s character (for some reason named Xao), but that’s really not the worst of it. The guy he’s fighting both times is the 100% human champion named Chance O’Brien. As humiliating as it surely was to be dominated by a guy named like he was a boxer from a 1940s movie that probably featured mobsters, a crusty manager, crooked promoter, and platinum blonde femme fatale who drugs poor Chance’s O.J. the night before the big fight, what’s even worse is that Chance was supposed to lose the fight to save his girlfriend/manager’s life!

Even more worse than that though is that the company behind Xao spends the entire movie having Chance beaten and injured to further help Xao out! So, you have Chance getting mugged on his way to the tournament. And it’s just not you ordinary run of the mill mugging either! He’s beaten, wrist broken, and worst of all (for the straight guys watching) stripped naked!

He’d be beaten up and injured later once he’s on the island for the tournament and then during the semi-final match, someone puts acid in his boxing gloves! And Xao is the one who ends up with all sorts of electronic gear hanging out of various body parts! When he finally gets shot, I felt like it was a Terminator meets Old Yeller situation and was just glad that the much put upon Xao was finally put out of his misery!

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And that’s pretty much the whole movie. Director Albert Pyun (the 1990 Captain America) understands that in a movie about a tournament of kickboxing cyborgs, scenes of anything other that kickboxing cyborgs battling each other in a tournament wouldn’t make any sense.

Yes, you do have the unfortunate scene where Chance and his manager Jo are groping one another on a romantic getaway in Rome. Luckily, Jo gets kidnapped not long after, sending Chance on a collision course with kung fu robots.

There was also the occasional scene where the evil Tung is having business meetings with the guys in charge of the Sianon Corporation, but you can’t really complain about those since you get to see genre legend Tim Thomerson sporting a cartoonish red wig and large eyebrows. It’s obvious that Albert knows how to keep us awake during scenes without sweaty dudes snapping each other’s arms.

That several fights end with cyborgs having their mechanical heads smashed open is reason enough to watch Heatseeker, but the fact that Chance O’Brien, Gary Daniels and frequent Albert Pyun movie character Brick Bardo (Bloodmatch, Dollman) are all present makes this a virtual all-star collection of mid-1990s kickboxing movie icons.

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Chance is played by Keith Cooke, a real-life martial arts champ who also appeared in both Mortal Kombat movies and King of the Kickboxers. Brick Bardo is really Thom Matthews, a black belt who was in Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor and Nemesis. Gary Daniels is just some guy who made “The Three Rs of Whup Ass” action movies, Rage, Recoil, and Riot!

We know that Gary is the sunglass wearing meanie who is trying to put the make on Chance’s lady, but what is Brick Bardo up to in this one? Brick is a fellow competitor who is trying to win the tournament to save his company and get his father out of prison. Brick has befriended Chance, but what Chance doesn’t know is that Brick is secretly working with Tung to ensure that Chance fights Xao in the finals and loses!

Brick gets shot by his manager for his troubles and his manager gets hit in the head with a bowl by Chance for her troubles. I found it all quite ironic since I felt I had been both shot and hit in the head with bowl after watching Brick investigate his own murder in Bloodmatch.

Most of the film is dedicated to taking us through the tournament. The point of the tournament is to pit all the companies who make cybernetic implants against one another so that the best ones can be determined. The winning company will see their stock price increase and gain market domination. We watch as every company’s champion fights one another, with the winner advancing to the next round and the loser having his circuits smeared all over the mat and even worse, his company’s stock crashing!

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The matches don’t last very long and we don’t care about any of the competitors because we don’t know anything about them other than what fighting style they use. We also don’t care about them because they’re no good robots trying to ruin the purity of America’s favorite straight-to-video pastime, kickboxing!

In defense of the tournament though, they did set a very strict 50% cybernetic limit. So really, at most it’s just half-man, half-cyborgs fighting each other. Besides, when they kill each other, it’s more like demolition derby then murder.

Fans of Gary Daniels will be disappointed at his poor showing during the big fights and the fact that his role is essentially a glorified cameo. Fans of Chance O’Brein running around the streets of some foreign country buck naked will be thrilled, while normal folks will be grossed out. I imagine that if there were any fans of Brick Bardo, they would appreciate his double-crossing efforts as well, though even his followers might have trouble with that horrible striped suit he wore late in the movie. But for those who just skip to the last line in a review, it’s pretty simple: cyborgs in a kickboxing tournament – it really recommends itself, doesn’t it?

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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