Lower Level (1991)

You’re a successful architect babe, working in the skyscraper you’ve designed, but something is missing. No, I’m not talking about an emergency exit that could actually be used in an emergency, though that would have been nice considering the circumstances. What’s really missing is what is always missing with these supposedly empowered ladies – a prince charming to take her away from her ivory tower. And how do I know that? Because I’m some male chauvinist piggie? Nope, she tells us this in the voiceover at the beginning of the movie as she writes it in her diary!

I’m not blaming Hillary for journaling about her feelings since she probably has some wimpy male therapist telling her to do so, but if you’re going to do it, shouldn’t you keep it in a safe place so that some jerk can’t read it when your not around? At least buy one of those kiddie diary’s with the little lock on it, for crying out loud!

Who knows when some erstwhile kickboxing legend is going to be reciting embarrassing passages over the building’s intercom system from memory while your boyfriend is listening in disbelief about how you debated having an affair with a co-worker? That had to feel more awkward for her boyfriend than when his leg was snapped by the crazed security guard so that the bone was sticking out!

It sounds like HR is going to have its hands full the next day, doesn’t it? And to think it all started so innocently with security guard Sam deciding that the time was right to finally make the move on his long time crush Hillary. He’s got the secret candle light dinner set up on the eighth floor, got the film’s terrible slow jam theme blaring, and even brought his best suit. (He can’t be totally crazy since he realizes he’s not going to get anywhere with her if he’s dressed like Paul Blart.)

There was of course a less innocent part to Sam’s plan. That would be when he controlled the elevators so that Hillary’s inattentive boyfriend Craig fell down the elevator shaft to his seeming demise. He also shot a female executive in the head who was berating him about not being able to get to the parking garage. Then there were the two guys he killed who responded to the fire alarm that Hillary set off when she was trapped in the parking garage. (She only did that after having sex in her car with Craig. The cleaning crew is going to have decontaminate the building for all kinds of fluids when this over!)

Once Sam takes her back to security guard lounge which is a shrine to Hillary almost as gross as the one Jason Voorhees had to his mother in Friday the 13th, the movie shifts into a pattern of Hillary beating up Sam, Sam escaping to beat up the not quite dead Craig, and Hillary and Craig bickering with each other about what to do. Give the movie credit though for letting Hillary take charge and beat up David Bradley with a fire extinguisher. I don’t even think that happened to him in either Cyborg Cop or Cyborg Cop II!

Of course it all begs the question of whether I want to see the best replacement American Ninja ever as a murderous pervert. Of course I do! Watching Bradley desperately trying to figure out how to do “psychotic guy facial expressions” is the best part of the whole movie! Wide eyed and breathing hard topped off with a pointless obsession with flipping a silver dollar, Bradley challenges action movie fans to accept American Samurai as American Stalker! He needn’t have worried though about his fan base deserting him after this role. Almost none of us ever saw it!

I wish I could tell you that Sam was so over-top-nuts that it was entertaining in a Psycho Cop way, but he was just an obsessed guy pissed that his advances were rejected, resulting in a silly rooftop climax where he handcuffs himself to Hillary and threatens to jump only to uncuff her from him after he hears Craig say he loves Hillary. Then he jumps!

But there’s no body! Is this a Michael Myers style boogeyman? Not exactly because the next morning during the movie’s ending city montage, we see Bradley comically laying sprawled dead on top of a city bus that drives by with no one the wiser! I’m still trying to decide whether that was more absurd than Bradley somehow finding a bear trap in the building to spring on poor old Craig!

Lower Level is certainly a strange detour for Bradley whose filmography is mostly littered with ninjas, samurais, cyborgs and cops. His martial arts abilities are kept in check since he’s supposed to be some loser security guard, but it’s all a bit hard to swallow when takes his shirt off and he’s all jacked up. Really, you can’t get a woman when you have the body of a highly trained karate stud?

Once you realize all Bradley is going to do the whole movie is chase after this woman and her loser boyfriend and periodically whine about his situation, you can’t help but lose interest. And though some might like its female empowerment message, is it really that empowering that it takes a night of almost being murdered for her boyfriend to profess his love to her? As if women viewers are going to sigh and think, “if only me and my boyfriend were relentlessly stalked and abused, he would finally start treating me right.”

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