It’s Terminator meets Die Hard meets Frankenstein meets an Olivier Gruner movie! And that means exactly two things: lots of scenes of guys crawling in air shafts, elevator shafts and sliding down trash chutes and that I’m turning on the closed captioning so that I have a fighting chance to understand just what in the hell Olivier is muttering about this time! Don’t worry though if you’re like most of Olivier’s fans and can’t read because Olivier does most of his muttering in this one with futuristic guns and futuristic android kung fu!
The premise is so simple, you’re sure that you’ve seen it before, probably with Olivier Gruner! But do not be fooled! In all those other movies, Gruner’s stiff appearance and minimalistic acting style are because he’s playing something like a taciturn space cop in something like Velocity Trap!
And just like Velocity Trap, we are in the future! A future of poorly lit hallways, rooms full of exploding glass, video phones and silly-looking guns loaded with about a million rounds of ammo! In short, just the sort of future that H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clark, and Stephen Hawking predicted!
It’s the 22nd Century and the Robogen company has revolutionized something or other (the manservant industry, I think) by producing a robot (Automatic) that helps out around the house and also happens to be the perfect killing machine in case your house in invaded by thugs armed with Uzis.
This concept is introduced to us via a fairly amusing commercial that depicts a family being slaughtered before Robogen’s CEO Goddard Marx appears and shows us how things would have been different if the family had one of his Automatics. After I saw Olivier standing next to Marx while dressed in a sweater vest, I wasn’t really surprised that one of his kind would rebel later on in the film.
On the eve of a big announcement for its new product, Robogen hits a speedbump when one of its executives tries to rape a female employee. An Automatic, J269, comes to her rescue since he’s been programmed to protect humanity.
Now, like all robot movies, he’s also been programmed not kill a human, but we know that’s one of those rules that’s made not only to be broken, but to be ripped up, shredded, burned, shattered, kicked, stomped, punched, stabbed, shot, strangled, and blown up. And as is usually the case with these sorts of things, once you get your first kill under your belt, the rest of humanity isn’t nearly as hard to wipe out.
The funny thing, and by funny, I mean it doesn’t make a lick of sense, is that J269 doesn’t intentionally kill the rapist. He kicks him a couple of times in an effort to disarm the scuzzball, but this clumsy pervert falls and bangs his head on a desk and dies!
Well, hell, if I did that to a guy, I think I’d probably shrug my shoulders, slap the investigating cops on the back, telling them that I saved them a bunch of paperwork and go buy everyone a beer. So even though I wouldn’t not only not lose any sleep over it, but would actually probably sleep rather peacefully (job well done and all that), this robot suddenly becomes Mr. Morality and is all about killing everyone who looks at his new girlfriend wrong!
Once Marx is notified of the executive’s death, he orders in a strike team to kill the girl and robot. And if you’re wondering just how Marx has a team of assassins ready to be deployed into his headquarters in 15 minutes, he explains that it’s the same team he used to rescue some company hostages from a previous situation. And remember, this is the 22nd century! If the movie turns out to be wrong about this, you can call me in 100 years and let me know!
Once all this set up is finished, Automatic is, well, automatic! It’s pretty much just pure running, crouching behind stuff, shooting folks, commandos cussing over the headsets, and J269 and his lady friend getting closer to the startling truth that Marx is hiding and that is the subject of his big announcement.
The movie was plenty noisy and violent with more than enough Gruner-centered kicking and punching stunts to keep you numb enough not to turn it off before it’s over. I won’t pretend to understand how an android without feelings would scream when someone was trying to pull out his power cell or how he would develop emotions in the course of a couple of hours on the run, but I don’t have a clue how my TV works either. It still shows me Wheel of Fortune though, doesn’t it?
The depiction of the 22nd Century involved some interesting choices. For instance, I was surprised that no one seemed to have heard of a cell phone. Why, if J269’s girlfriend had a cell phone, the movie could have been over in about 20 minutes!
Then again, the 22nd Century did feature a revolutionary technology called “e-mail uplink.” You won’t believe this, but this email uplink business allows a person to use a computer terminal to send a message to another person with a computer terminal! What’s next? Telephones you can carry in your pocket? Without any wires needed to hook them up?
Best of all though is that the 22nd Century featured torch-wielding villagers that stormed Dr. Frankenstein’s castle, I mean Mr. Marx’s factory, and burnt it to the ground! Angry mobs never go out of style!
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