The Ninjabot

Categorized | Movie Reviews, Reviews

Post- Nuke Review: NEMESIS (1992)

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 3:29 pm by Dylan Reynolds

nemesis-movie-poster-1993-1020210881I’ve previously mentioned in this column that Cirio H. Santiago is the undisputed king of the “Post Nuke action flick”. And although that’s still true- especially when it comes to the “Mad Max/ Road Warrior rip off”- there’s no doubt that schlock auteur Albert Pyun gives Santiago a run for his money when it comes to telling thinly plotted/ action packed spectacles set in dystopian futures and barren wastelands.

Pyun often runs into unfortunate comparisons to Ed Wood- to the point where he has even been called one of the “worst filmmakers of all time”- which I think is wholly unfair. Now I can’t defend all of his films- in fact- I think it’s safe to say that more than half of his 50+ filmography is not very good and some are downright unwatchable. But there was a time (specifically in the 80s and early 90s) where Pyun was able to get somewhat decent budgets to fulfill his visions.

In fact- on more than a few occasions he has managed to achieve some genuine B-movie bliss; like the awesome pulp fantasy adventure SWORD AND THE SORCERER (’82), I’m the type of fella who will “go to bat” for the ‘90 CAPTAIN AMERICA movie (its heart was in the right place at least), the KICKBOXER sequels were fun (I’m partial to Part 3), and I know his more comedic films certainly have their fan base- although I haven’t gotten around to either RADIOACTIVE DREAMS or ALIEN FROM L.A- I have witnessed the Andrew Dice Clay/ Teri Hatcher starring BRAIN SMASHER: A LOVE STORY- which is just… wow.

Cyborg-PosterBut most likely he will be best remembered for ‘89s CYBORG- an early starring role for “The Muscles from Brussels” himself Mr. Van Damme. The Cannon Film Group (American Ninja, Delta Force, Death Wish sequels etc) produced the movie at a time when they were on the verge of going belly up due in part to the disastrous release of SUPERMAN 4. The production of CYBORG was cobbled together using the leftover sets from the aborted “Spider- Man” film and a sequel to their Dolph Lundgren starring MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE- two projects that Pyun was set to direct back-to-back.

But once it became clear that Cannon wasn’t going to get the proper funding for those movies they asked Pyun to figure out a way to salvage another film from the sets they had already built.   Seizing on the opportunity- Pyun came up with this “martial arts meets Mad Max” concept that many deem as being a fine “guilty pleasure” and “time waster”.

cyborg-1But I think the movie is way too bizarre to simply be written off as another “brainless 80s action flick”. Sure you got a typical action star for the period but this is far from being a “fun diversion” due in part to the (at times) disturbing violence, weird characters, sparse dialogue, cinematography/ editing choices that have an “art-house” sensibility, and an effective production design that is both drab and depressing.

Like a lot of Pyun movies it’s hard to argue with folks that want to label it as a “bad movie” but those who bother to keep an open mind and ability to “appreciate genre” will recognize CYBORG as being one of the most singularly unique films to come out of the “80s action movie cycle”.

Plus it has hands-down my favorite “narrated opening” out of all these Post Nuke flicks. As per usual it’s basically an “exposition dump” meant to give us all the backstory (society has collapsed, civilization has crumbled, survivors fight for survival and precious few resources blah, blah, blah) before jumping right into the action. But this one stands out because the monologue is delivered by the film’s primary antagonist… and it’s absolutely bonkers! Which in my book makes for one hell of an opening:

At any rate- after this film Pyun displayed a certain preoccupation for the wasteland/ cyborg subject matter such as the “Yojimbo meets Mad Max” effort OMEGA DOOM and a handful of others. One of these “cyborg apocalypse” flicks in particular has a bit of a cult following- the dystopian neo-noir NEMESIS- which I have always meant to check out and now have an excuse to do so thanks to this column…


The movie concerns Olivier Gruner (i.e. the “poor man’s Van Damme not named Daniel Bernhardt”) who is a Blade Run-… uh, I mean a Cyborg Hunter working for the LAPD who gets shot to hell while on a mission taking out some “cybernetic terrorists”. They “put him back together” using robot parts- making him part android and left “struggling to keep in touch with his humanity”. He goes into seclusion only to later be captured and blackmailed back into service by some nefarious government types- played by the always-welcome character actors Tim Thomerson (TRANCERS, Pyun’s DOLLMAN) and Brion James (BLADE RUNNER).

Nemesis (Albert Pyun, 1992)To force him to take the assignment they implant a bomb in his heart. Left with little other choice he sets out on an action-packed and often confusing trek through abandoned industrial buildings hunting terrorists and a “stolen software” McGuffin. Multiple plot twists later reveal a vast conspiracy involving the cyborgs’ plans to rule the world and ultimately wipe out all the humans. But this whole time the Agent has been on the wrong side- the so-called “terrorists” are actually fighting on behalf of humanity and “the government” is in fact secretly controlled by the evil cyborgs.

Therefore the Agent joins up with “the human resistance” and lots of explosions, squibs, and good old fashioned stunt work ensues- which is damn near relentless for most of the film’s run time. To that point- there’s some memorable action set pieces- including its most famous bit where the Agent blasts his way through multiple floors in a motel shootout. It’s some awesome stuff- check it out:

In many ways NEMESIS is a product of its time- that being the early 90s. Any movie nerd worth half their salt will pick up on all the plot elements being lifted from many of the influential sci-fi releases of the previous decade- namely the Terminator, Blade Runner, Robocop, and Escape from NY. With that there is an obvious stylistic influence from John Woo and the “Heroic Bloodshed/ Gun Fu” Hong Kong movies (trench coats and sun glasses, two guns blazing, slow motion shootouts etc)- a style of action cinema that was really starting to catch on in the States. In addition the sub plots involving computers, robots/ androids, and “data smuggling” make it an early example of the “Cyberpunk” sub-genre- which would then arguably make NEMESIS a precursor to THE MATRIX.


So overall I dug the movie- even though it had some uneven pacing, acting, and the plot seemed overly complicated for its own good- I would say it’s both deserving of its cult following and would make a fine double bill with the similarly themed and styled CYBORG.

With that- I will leave you with this one random WTF moment that’s pops up in NEMESIS… enjoy:

Be sure to check out my other Post-Nuke reviews.

    Sharing the Legacy on Flickr

    See all photos