Chapter 14: You're Not the Maid, Are You?

The title of this installment is a quote from the film I'm about to describe. It's delivered deadpan from the film's protagonist to a large hulking cyborg goon who's about to pound the hell out of him in the bathroom. It's representative of the general tone of this film, and is at once evidence of why it works, and why it doesn't. It, of course, is 1993's Nemesis, a roundup of every Cyberpunk stereotype you can think of and a few you hadn't. It's pure Cyberpunk cheese with a heavy dose of chrome, and if you're a fan of the genre then you must see it.

Ultimately, the tone of the film can be summed up in two words: Olivier Gruner. He's the star of the movie, playing a cyborg cop who can't figure out whose side he's on. Mr. Gruner is also somewhat of a poor man's Jean-Claude Van Damme, having starred in a string of one- and two-word rock-em, sock-em karate action flicks which, to a one, feature bad dialogue, bad acting, explosive special effects and bad dialogue. Gruner's character is named Alex Rain (as in, it's always raining in a Cyberpunk film, although it never rains in this one. Hmmmm...), typical for him really since all of his characters tend to have names which were obviously thought up by third-rate scriptwriters who'd read too many sci-fi novels: "Savage" in 1995's Savage, "Caution Templar" in 1996's Mars, and "Captain Carl Hawk May" in 1997's Mercenary are just a few other examples of characters played by Mr. Gruner throughout his not-so-illustrious career. Not quite as obvious as "Hiro Protagonist," to be fair, but not far off.

But you don't watch an Olivier Gruner movie for the dialogue or the brilliant characterization; you watch it because it's blood and bullets from one end to the other, and Nemesis doesn't let you down. After all, it's directed by Albert Pyun, who, besides directing three Nemesis sequels, also directed the better well-known (and equally bloody) Sword and the Sorcerer, as well as a variety of other films with Cyberpunk themes, including: Cyborg, which starred the previously mentioned Jean-Claude Van Damme; Knights, which starred Kris Kristofferson and Lance Henriksen (about the only two reasons worth the $3 rental charge); and the absolutely brilliant, but widely ignored, Mean Guns, a 1997 direct-to-video which starred Christopher Lambert and Ice-T.

But I digress; this time we're in 1993, and it's there we'll stay as we explore the world of 2027 with Mr. Alex Rain and his fellow LAPD officers. Right from the start, we know we're in Cyberpunkland because everyone is wearing sunglasses and trenchcoats. As we meet our anti-hero cyborg (who is living proof of the credo, "It pays to be more than human"), he's on an undercover operation tracking down cyborg terrorists dealing in stolen information. The first one he gibs is a total Johnny Mnemonic rip-off, but for the fact that she's a she; we even get to hear about how she's carrying the information in her head, and how she just upgraded the RAM in her brain. It's sort of like a meeting between Keanu Reeves' characters from the aforementioned film and The Matrix; Neo (played here by Alex Rain, complete with trenchcoat full of guns) blows away Johnny (played by our late female friend). Symbolic, perhaps, of the shift from old school cyberpunk to new-style cyberpunk? Nah -- just an excuse to waste someone within the first two minutes of the movie.

The body count is now at one, and the opening credits haven't even stopped rolling. Try and keep track.

Mr. Rain soon learns that the courier he iced (while delivering the line "You break the law, you go to hell.") was a member of a terrorist organization called the Red Army Hammerheads (only if they were called the Hammer and Sickles could it be any more obvious). He also learns very rapidly that she had friends. But this is our hero, after all. So the expected happens.

Body count: two more, total of three.

Words cannot describe the sheer amount of ammunition that is expended in this film. In the first ten minutes, they use up more ammunition than in all the other cyberpunk films I've discussed thus far, and that includes both Terminator movies. There's running and shooting. There's jumping and shooting. There's running and shooting with two guns at once. There's running backwards and spinning and shooting. And eventually they wind up on the rooftop, where there's more shooting. Etc.

Body count: four.

One thing worth noting here, amidst this hail of gunfire, is that this is equal opportunity mayhem. The girls here are as kick-ass as the boys are, and they've even got bigger toys to play with. In fact, it's one of the girls who pulls out the armor piercing shotgun which forces our hero to dive off the roof (accompanied by a badly dubbed scream). She's also the one who forces him to then run across a battlezone as she fires explosive rounds after him, ultimately hitting him in the back. Rather than kill him, this causes him to fall onto a rusty metal shard, tearing his knee apart. In pain, he groans and says "That knee was brand new." We're not even 15 minutes in and the puns are already this bad. We're in trouble folks; better kill someone else quick. Alex takes careful aim at the girls on the roof.

Body count: five.

But alas, poor Alex shoots the wrong girl; it's the other one who, Loony Tunes style, pulls out an even bigger gun and blows him up with an explosive round, strewing twitchy cyborg innards all over the place. Having successfully laid him out with Quad Damage, she scampers down from her perch to gloat about she "0wns joo!". There's a bit of confusing interplay about protecting machines, and so on, and about how Alex is 86.5 percent human. Then she starts in with the shooting again, starting at his feet. Luckily for Alex, he's able to stab her as the cavalry (in the guise of the LAPD) finally arrive.

Much like the Six-Million Dollar Man and Robocop before him, Alex Rain is rebuilt as a true cyborg over a six-month timespan in order to save his life. Now he's even more dangerous than before, as we learn in a voiceover while Alex runs barefoot down the sand in Baja, New America with his wolf-dog who only appears in this film for one reason, which will become clear in about five minutes. At the moment, though, Alex is happy to be forgotten, recuperating with the aid of drugs and booze.

Like any true cyberpunk, Alex soon wanders into the local bar, where he chats with a bartender named Rosaria who is about the whitest-looking Mexican I've ever laid eyes on. A brief exchange of bad dialogue later, and Alex has revealed that she and the other gentleman in the bar are cyborgs, and he is still in possession of his weapons, and his wits.

Body count: seven.

Conveniently, it's at this point that an extra from Ghost in the Shell walks onto the scene, a cute anime-chick cop who informs Alex that it's time to get back to work since his cyber-transplants have "really taken to him." He'll be all machine soon, she gibes with her partner, both of whom seem to be encouraging him to get back to work for Farnsworth (his LAPD boss) once again. He's reluctant to return. She insists that they need to work to make the world a better place. There's debate as to whether he has a soul any more, whether he knows the difference between right and wrong. He counters by wanting to know why she, a cyborg, cares about a better world.

"I live here too," she says, simply.

Alex wanders away, refusing to go with them. They shoot his dog (see above note) and apparently leave. He apparently comes back after they go and buries his dog. It's confusing and nonsensical and is probably supposed to be sentimental.

Body count: seven and a half (dogs are worth 1/2)

It gets even more confusing when we're suddenly shown a short interlude of Alex in New Rio de Janeiro, one year later, everything in oversaturated blue lighting reminiscent of a badly modeled Half-Life level (apparently when they went from Old Rio de Janeiro to New Rio de Janeiro, they added lots of blue lightbulbs). Apparently Alex has been trying his hand at smuggling, and discovering that he's not a very good smuggler since he usually winds up killing someone during every run. Now he's meeting with a systems cowboy named Marian Face, who "needs safe passage for a client through the electronic web." I am not making this up. If anyone knows who this writer is, please shoot them. Which is what happens, by the way, when Alex is doublecrossed by Mr. Face, as the cowboy's head comes apart to reveal a hidden gun. It's hilarious. Watch it in slow-motion again and again.

At any rate, Alex is captured and hauled off back to meet with the LAPD, who want him back for a special assignment only he can complete, despite the fact that he retired and doesn't want to work for them (Blade Runner). Just to make sure he's going to complete the job, they've attached a bomb to his heart (Escape From New York). Now he's working on their time, and he has no choice but to work for them, even though he's not sure what it is he's supposed to be doing (Neuromancer).

Farnsworth tells Alex that the American President and the Prime Minister of Japan are meeting in Los Angeles, and Alex needs to get a security disk for the meeting. It's never explained why, if America and Japan have merged, there are still two separate leaders of one united country. Nor is it explained why, 27 years from now in an era where they can rebuild people from spare parts, they're still keeping sensitive data on 3.5" floppies. But I digress.

After wading through bad accents from the likes of Mr. Brion James (better known as Leon from Blade Runner), we eventually get to the meat of the story from Farnsworth about how Jared, Alex's ex-boss and ex-lover, is dealing with the Red Army Hammerheads in Shang-Loo, Java. They want Alex to head to Shang-Loo, find Jared and Julian, her apprentice cyborg-in-training, and bring them back. He has three days. If he returns, they'll let him retire and will give him lots of drugs, to boot. What more could a junkie cyborg ex-cop ask for?

Perhaps the truth?

Alex isn't offscreen but ten seconds when we learn that he's just been fed a line by Farnsworth and his cronies. It's a total double-cross. Someone named Billy Moon has been sent to Shang Loo already to find Jared and prepare for Alex's arrival. They're convinced that Alex won't have to do anything but show up for the plan to unveil as planned.

And show up he does, wrapped once again in sunglasses and trenchcoat that is entirely inappropriate for Shang Loo's evident tropical climate. Almost immediately, Alex is harassed by a sequence of toughs whom he roughs up with well-placed kicks (five in all, but since they get up after he walks away, and reveal that they're in alliance with the LAPD, they don't count towards the body count). Meanwhile, watching from the window are the aptly named Billy Moon and Julian, who are stark naked enjoying one another's company. There is much nakedness happening.

Counteracting the nakedness is the appearance of the single most annoying character ever to appear in a Cyberpunk film, the as-yet unnamed Max Impact. She is YT from Snow Crash and Chevette from Virtual Light and Matilda from The Professional and Sarah from The Crow and every other young, annoying sidekick rolled into one, and we'll unfortunately be seeing more of her soon. For now, she just sneaks around in bright Hawai'ian print shirt not saying anything. A small blessing, her silence.

Meanwhile, back in the hotel, Alex is checking into a room and deciding that drugs are bad for him, while Billy and Julian continue to be naked for a while. There's some full frontal violence as Julian lays Billy out (not quite in the way he'd expected), and he's killed by her sidekick Michelle (a guy) for being an LAPD informant as she gets dressed.

Body count: eight and a half

Back in his own room, Alex is accosted by several men with guns who promptly rough him up and insist that he'd better answer there questions or they will "find a place on (him) that's still human" and hurt him badly. They discuss the tangled, complex plot that involves Red Army Hammerheads and information systems anti-cyborgs and lots of other nonsense until it suddenly occurs to him that the bomb inside of him could go off at any time, like, for instance, when he gets hear Jared. Mention of a bomb clears the guys out of his room, and Alex heads for the shower, where he's accosted by Michelle (can't a guy get any peace?) and he delivers the line I mentioned earlier (the title of this episode). After a short scuffle, he shoots Michelle in the throat.

Body count: nine and a half

Alex wanders out into his room starkers, confronting Julian, who reveals to him much more than he's revealing to her. It turns out he has a surveillance unit hidden in his eyeball, placed there by Farnsworth, and that this has something to do with Jared's betrayal. She offers to remove his eye and take out the bug.

                    This is gonna sting a little?

                    No, it's gonna hurt like a

In removing the bug from his eye, she alerts the LAPD to the fact that they're onto them, so they quickly scramble their troops and head for Alex's room. While they surround the place, Julian gives Alex the lowdown: Jared is not really dead; rather, her body was killed, but her data was kept on a chip, which she gives to him. If he puts the chip in his GameBoy, he'll be able to talk to her and play Pokemon at the same time. He also needs to get the chip to the Red Army Hammerheads before sundown. To protect him from the LAPD, who might decide to turn out his heart light at any moment, she shoots him with a jammer device and tells him to scram.

And then comes the shootin'.

Everyone loads up on guns. The good guys pull out guns. The bad guys pull out guns. And everyone has big guns. BIG BIG guns. Guns that require belt straps and shoulder harnesses. It's absolutely insane. As Alex sneaks out the back, everyone opens fire. There's shooting through walls, shooting through floors, submachineguns that never run out of ammunition, big nasty machineguns that totally decimate everything in their path.

Body count: 14 1/2

Eventually, Julian is taken out, giving Alex enough time to blast his way through the floor and escape into the basement. Farnsworth enters to gloat, and he and his cronies establish through some magic Ghostbuster equipment that Jared's ghost was in the room with Alex and Julian. They also somehow figure out that Alex now has an arm scrambler blocking the bomb signal, which will take them six to 12 hours to descramble. In a rage, Farnsworth pokes out Julian's eyes, unnecessarily reveals her breasts, and engages in some witty banter before he kills her. I paraphrase:

                    You'll be found out soon.

                    Not if we kill everyone who

                    Killing all the humans isn't
                    going to make you any more

                    I am real.

Body count: 15 1/2

Meanwhile, Alex is in the basement sneaking away like a sissy as the girl takes all the bullets upstairs, chatting with Jared on his walkie-talkie. Jared informs him that she was never against the LAPD, but was instead against Farnsworth and his cronies. They were replaced with cyborg duplicates, "retrocloned into a perfect cell-for-cell duplicate," whatever that means. The point is, the cyborgs are planning a way on mankind, and intend to replace all of the humans with cyborgs (Star Trek). Alex questions Jared's loyalties, since she is a cyborg as well.

                    Why don't you side with them?

                    They're wrong.

                    That's it?

                    Isn't that enough?

Whew. After all that dialogue we're in desperate need of some more shooting. And we get plenty of it, along with breaking glass, more shooting, jumping and shooting, several unnecessary explosions, and some slow motion dying. A little old lady even pulls out a gun and wastes a cyborg across the street, as Alex looks on in glee and admires Shang Loo's ability to fend for itself. After a bit more discussion with Jared, and lots of absolutely ridiculous close-range shooting with machineguns that apparently fire blanks, Alex is wounded in the arm and winds up in a silly mud-wrestling match on a souped-up waterslide of some sort where he manages to kill his assailant (once again, it's Pause button time, since the guy with the head-gun is back; there's a quick cut to an obviously fake head that's just hilarious to watch in slo-mo). At the bottom, Alex falls down and is accosted by a Lavender-suited cyborg who chides him: "You are a very energetic human." And then there's a gunshot.

Body count: 21 1/2

With an unnecessary acrobatic flip off the roof (if I was a Gamemaster and a player pulled that, I'd have made them break their leg), Alex's savior becomes apparent--it's the girl-boy, Max, who's been tailing him since he arrived. The two fo them run away through the jungle, pursued by the cyborgs, who apparently forgot to put any points into the Firearms skills since they can't even seem to hit trees. Max and Alex dive into the water to swim away, thoroughly dousing her shirt and emphasizing her bounty. Apparently distracted by her cleavage, Alex, the cyborg who can't be taken out by a machinegun toting cyborg assassin, is zapped with a bolt of yellow licorice from Max's necklace, and goes down like a blonde on Prom Night.

When he regains consciousness, Alex is tied up and drugged, and informed that this was the only way they could have made him come to what is soon revealed to be the headquarters of the Red Army Hammerheads. Angie, their leader, wants Alex's help, because he needs his "good systems access" to accomplish their mission. Boy-girl Max suddenly decides she wants him dead because he killed her sister in Baja, which is utterly ridiculous on many levels. First of all, why she didn't kill him in the jungle when he was unconscious? Secondly, if her sister was a Mexican, albeit a Caucasian-looking Mexican, then how is she, evidently a Java native, albeit a Caucasian-looking one, related? Are we really expected to believe that Alex-san and Senorita Rosaria, both obviously Caucasian, truly sisters? it boggles the mind.

But not to worry; just as we start wondering about silly things like that, someone throws a bomb through the window, and a fat guy jumps on it to lessen the damage.

Body count: 26 (the fat guy counts as 1 and a half)

The ensuing exchange between Max and Alex is, I will admit, one of the high points of the movie for its simple cleverness:

                    Don't die on me. Come on
                    cowboy, Angie-san needs

                    I thought you wanted me

                    Later. Right now I need
                    you to make others dead.

Before Alex has a chance to make others dead, Farnsworth and Maritz/Leon are busy making Hammerheads dead; they manage to take two more out, including Angie-san, before Alex somehow swoops out of the air on a vine and snatches the stolen chip from Maritz's hand. Then Max shoots her pistol at them and hits an empty barrel and it explodes and both of the bad cyborgs explode too.

Don't ask. I don't know.

Body count: 29 (because you know Farnsworth isn't really dead)

Alex and Max scurry off through the jungle again, closely pursued by Farnsworth, who shoots down a large tower, hoping to crush them, instead of just shooting at them. Apparently it's easier to hit the broad side of a tower than two people standing right in front of you. At any rate, he misses, they run away, and there ensues a chase scene where buildings and trees and ducks magically explode behind them as Farnsworth shoots at them with a shotgun that never needs to be reloaded. Apparently Shang-Loo is a very flammable place.

They run and run and run, and when Max gets hurt Alex picks her up so we can get a nice shot of her butt as he carries her. Then they slide down a rope, are chased by cyborgs (who, despite their advanced armor and weaponry, apparently can do no better than a 320x240 pixel display with 4-bit color), swing on another rope, kill another cyborg, run some more, and manage to contribute to the deforestation of the planet by annihilating several square acres of lush jungle.

Body count: 27, and about a million trees

Farnsworth closes in, and tries to bargain with Alex, trying to convince him to join with the cyborgs in protecting the planet Earth from the wretched humans who are trying to destroy it (no mention of the tree devastation is made). Alex shoots Farnsworth, and they're off to the races again, running and diving and swimming and running and then, mysteriously, diving and swimming again. It's like some Mario Bros. game gone horribly wrong. Even more so when you see what Alex manages to pull off.

Get ready with the Pause button again.

OK, as they're running away from this cyborg who has been repeatedly shot throughout the film, Alex jumps off the edge of a waterfall, flips in the air, turns, shoots Farnsworth, and then dives into the water. And somehow his bullet becomes explosive because Farnsworth blows up like a Chinese fireworks factory on the 4th of July during a Meteor strike. It's worth watching two or three times just so the next time your players try to pull something like that during a gaming session, you can mock them.

Alex and Max somehow make it to the volcano, where they meet with a Japanese pilot who's waiting for them with some sort of VTOL craft that only seats two. Alex is forced to sit in the cargo bay with the other machinery, which, as it turns out, is a good thing, since Farnsworth, now reincarnated as a bad stop-motion animation steel endoskeleton (Terminator) leaps up and grabs the plane. A Battle Royale in the cargo hold ensues, with Alex getting his arm ripped off as Farnsworth plunges into the volcano below and finally, finally, dies.

Body count: 28, and one arm

After that, it's all wrap-up. The Japanese techie fixes Alex's arm, and discusses with Jared that in downloading her data, her memory will be wiped out, and she will cease to exist as an entity. There's much sadness as she reveals before her death that the real Farnsworth is dead as well, having been replaced long ago by the cyborg duplicate. Fade to black.

Body count: 30

Well, not quite. Fast-forward six months. Alex is back at LAPD headquarters, in a rooftop showdown with a cyborg named Germaine. There's a brief exchange of dialogue during this coda, but ultimately the point is made; Alex Rain is back in action. Case closed, with one more dead cyborg. Fade to black.

Body count: 31

Well, not quite. I swear, there are more false endings in this movie than in Clue. But finally, at long last, Alex and boy-girl Max walk together, hand in hand, off into a Chrome sunset, quipping that they're going to have a difficult time getting Alex through the metal detector at the airport.


And yes, folks, on that we fade to black. After a potential for two or three really cool ways to end the film, we end on a bad joke. Which just goes to show you, there's always room for a bad Cyborg joke in every action movie.

So there we have it. Thirty-one dead bodies (including a dog) accounted for, the deforestation of Shang-Loo well-underway, about a billion rounds of ammunition spent and plenty of bad jokes to go around. And at this point, you're reading this, and you're saying one of two things:

1. Why the heck did he review this awful movie? This has nothing to do with Cyberpunk.


2. Oh my God, that movie sounds exactly like a few Cyberpunk gaming sessions I participated in.

The latter reason is, ultimately, why I chose to discuss this film, because in reviewing the plot it becomes clear that, for all its inexplicable plot points, twists and turns, and for all the discontinuity and unexplained character interaction, it is exactly like the sort of session that most people find themselves in every so often. And the point, then, is that when it does happen like that, it ain't so bad.

Bullets zip along, people swap big guns for bigger guns. Acrobatic leaps off buildings and waterfalls happen every five minutes. The bad guys fall like dominos, the bad puns and quips fly like mad, and everyone knows that your employer has double-crossed you, you can't trust a female cyborg, and there's a bomb in your chest that can go off at any moment. Meanwhile, everyone is having existential crises as they ponder how many humanity points they have left, everyone's racking up frequent flyer miles as they zip around the world pursuing false leads, and somewhere, somewhen, a dog has to get killed.

Just another night of gaming.

This film (along with all the other Cyborg films directed by Albert Pyun) definitely fall into the second generation of Cyberpunk films, categorized by a self-awareness of what they are. Nobody's dealing with any deem emotional issues here; everyone knows what a cyborg is, and what a dim, dismal future we're all going to live in, and from there it's on with the killing. And sometimes, it's good to just let it all hang out and have fun with it. Even cyborgs need to laugh a little.

Of course, not every Cyberpunk film in my little chronological list is like Nemesis; if it were, I'd probably have shot myself and become number 32 on my body count list. And no year is better representative of the darker, more serious side of Cyberpunk than the year 1994.

There are two films from 1994 which bear attention, and they're both of such high quality and importance to the genre that neither can be ignored. The only question that remains is which to discuss first, and that I leave to you. Next time: either Leon (The Professional), or The Crow.