Canadian film

The Vindicator

vindicator_movie_posterFilm School Rejects dismissed The Vindicator as  a”formless blob…a RoboCop ripoff.” We’re not hear to um, vindicate it, but it’s worth noting that this on-the-cheap Canadian techno-action-thriller predates the Paul Verhoeven film by a year and a half…

And it’s not like RoboCop doesn’t share stuff in common with early comic versions of Judge Dredd.

However, there are key differences between RoboCop and this film: boom mics in the frame, Canadian production values, tenebrous cinematography that resembles Bruno Mattei in his sub-prime, and the fact that RoboCop is still in print…

In The Vindicator, ARC is a sinister corporation, headquartered in an unnamed city, but which fans of tax shelter Canadiana will instantly recognize as Montreal. They’re developing “rage program” serum being tested on chimps (and we’ve seen that movie before! That’s Monkey Shines/Link/Shakma territory, primate-run-amok films which have made monkeys of us in the past).

However, being evil and all, ARC Corp does have other stuff in the innovation pipeline: a super high tech space suit, but more interestingly, Japanese technology which suspends grey matter in an oxygenating fluid to keep it viable. When a lab explosion claims the life of rockstar scientist Carl Lehman (who’s certainly no layman) ARC’s top-dog Alex Whyte figures they’ve got a recently still-warm body to test out their technology.

vindicator_movie_Now, if you weren’t already aware of the similarities to Frankenstein, The Vindicator pummels you over the head with it, as the evil corporation’s venture is none other than “Project Frankenstein.”

That won’t arouse suspicions at all!

The company builds Carl a cyborg body, and tries to re-animate him with rage serum, with a remote control safeguard. Unfortunately, there’s a short circuit..and a big fire! The gold lamé space suit burns away, leaving this proto-RoboCop looking somewhat less like an Austin Powers villain.

Cyborg Carl escapes…high-tails into an alley, beats up a bunch of Francophone motorcycle toughs, before being chased into a scrapyard, where in the sunny light of day…his form is fully revealed…not the sleek chassis we’ve come to associate with Peter Weller, but…a kind of rusted, jalopy Swamp Thing.

The Vindicator is sorta dull, but the presence of the ever-gorgeous Pam Grier helps as Hunter, a kendo stick-wielding assassin.

**1/2 (out of 5)

Dead Ringers

dead_ringersLong before the Winklevoss twins unfriended Mark Zuckerberg, David Cronenberg introduced us to these scheming monozygotes —  the gynegologist duo Bev/Elliot in Dead Ringers.

We’re all fascinated by twins, whether it’s the charming movie of the same name with Messrs De Vito and Schwarzenegger or the ditsy Vegas girls from The Bachelor.

According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, in 2006, the rate of twin pregnancies in the United States was 32 per 1000 births. It’s rare and it’s genetic, but it’s their use in nature/nurture studies that probably piqued Cronenberg’s interest, what with his background in the biological sciences.

Like Cronenberg’s early horrors, Dead Ringers is a mutant movie, in this case, “mutant women” treated by a team of twin brother gynecologists, the Doctors Mantle, who operate out of a high-tech Toronto clinic where their surgical team dress like Spanish Inquisitors in showy red robes.

And only someone like David Cronenberg could explore the dark side of the twin phenomenon and make it great fiction fodder, teasing apart the subtle behavioral differences between the doctor twosome, Bev and Elliot, who share 100% of their DNA. (It’s a tour-de-force performance by the icy Jeremy Irons, whose name humbled would-be anagram-ist Lisa Simpson, not to mention a great technical cinematic achievement by Cronenberg “separating” the two Irons, as it were.)

One the docs has designed a solid gold “retractor”: a creepy instrument that he wants to take from the coroner’s table to the gynecologist’s chair.

And they date the same women surreptitiously (obviously the most fun you can have as a twin) while abusing drugs and alcohol.

dead-ringers-movieOne of these women, Claire Niveau, is a small time TV actress (played terrifically by Geneviève Bujold), a “mutant” possessed of a “trifurcated cervix,” most likely making her infertile.

Elliot, much like he does with his other patients, attempts to seduce her, then passes her off to his meeker brother.

As Elliot’s drug abuse begins to take more of a toll, he commissions a local artist to cast experimental gynecological implements out of metal, and that’s where Cronenberg really turns his horror obsessions inward.

Roger Ebert back-hand complimented Dead Ringers as “a collaboration between med school and a supermarket tabloid.”

And it’s as clinical as Cronenberg’s ever been, but given the circumstances, with good reason.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT OUR PODCAST OF CRONENBERG’S THE FLY]