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rochefort [Film Festival 09.26.11] movie review news scifi horror

Year: 2011
Directors: Steven Kostanski
Writers: Steven Kostanski
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 8 out of 10

If you're a fan of Albert Pyun, or any of the Full Moon movies, or any of the slew of rip-offs that sprang up in the wake of "Robocop" and "The Terminator", then you're probably gonna like "Manborg", Steven Kostanski's very lo-tech ode to 80's sci-fi limburger. Personally, I have a soft spot for most of those flicks, but there was always the sense that these pics would have to do until a small handful of better (and pricier) versions came along, and the years have been brutal to the majority. Maybe what some of them needed was to be a little more self-aware of just how bad they actually were, up the ridiculous violence quotient, and inject a dollop of clever humor into the mix. It's quite a few years late, but "Manborg" rectifies that problem like a mad bastard.

Firstly, "Manborg" is utterly ridiculous. Immediately dispel any notions that this is some modern upgrade of the cyborg story; if anything, it's just the opposite. You'll be hard-pressed to find another modern super low-budget sci-fi pic with effects this intentionally bad and a story this relentlessly goofy. It takes place in the dark time following the defeat of mankind by the hordes of Hell, led to victory by the insidious Draculon. When Doctor Scorpius revives a dead soldier and augments him with cybernetic weapons and a borg eye, thus is born Manborg, and only he can save us, obviously. Manborg teams up with Australian Justice (Conor Sweeney), his non-Australian sister Mina (Mededith Sweeney), and a martial arts master whose voice is the most consistently hilarious bad dub job, like, ever, and the group sets out to, you know, escape from the bad guys. Just so they can go back to where the bad guys are and beat them up. And Manborg learns that, ultimately, it's all about family.

In the process, Kostanski's script lampoons pretty much every cliche and staple of not just its own genre but pretty much those of every bad action movie of the 80's, and they pile up fast and furious. It's also a legitimately funny comedy, Sweeney's Justice getting a ton of funny moments as the tough guy with a heart (and hair) of gold, like Johnny Cage crossed with Yahoo Serious but funnier than either of them ever were. Villain The Baron (Jeremy Gillespie) is tasked with the most obvious schtick as the scarred demon ruler who just wants Mina to notice him, and there's a lot of "Austin Powers"' Dr. Evil in there, but he still gets a couple of fun bits. But the funniest scenes in "Manborg" are actually the action sequences, which are on par with the best you'd find in "Venture Bros" (if you don't believe me, just check out what the latter did to "G.I.Joe"), full of bad matte lines, stop-motion (!), beheadings, spurting blood and a flailing hair metal soundtrack. Nailed on all counts.

It all clocks in at just around an hour and ten minutes, and it's tough to say if Kostanski and company could have pushed things any further, or if the film would have run out of steam if they had. But it's probably safe to say that the cult of "Manborg" will grow pretty quickly and steadily; there are just too many moments that speak directly to sci-fi geeks who've long been tired of their favorite genre being tainted by the ones who just don't get it. And it'll be interesting to see if Kostanski's next stays in the parody genre or if he tries to set his sights higher. I'm there either way.

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