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  Robowar Techno Terror
Year: 1988
Director: Bruno Mattei
Stars: Reb Brown, Catherine Hickland, Massimo Vanni, Romano Puppo, Claudio Fragasso, Max Laurel, Jim Gaines, John P. Dulaney, Mel Davidson
Genre: Action, Trash, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In this Central American country, there is a conflict going on between the government backed by the United States and the rebels, but a weapon deployed to beat the insurgents has gone wrong. It is a top secret programme to create Omega 1, the ultimate fighting machine, but its handlers lose control and it stalks through the jungles indiscriminately attacking anyone who gets in its way, and that includes the soldiers on its own side. Even the helicopter which is supposed to be guiding it is destroyed by one of its missiles, so the only course of action left is to send a team after it...

Robowar was Italian director Bruno Mattei's mash-up of two Hollywood hits from the previous year, true to form of liberally borrowing from other movies to fashion what gathered a cult following among those who could not believe how shameless he was, and also were highly entertained by how outright crazy the results were. This was probably one of his most notorious efforts as he recruited American he-man Reb Brown to play the hero, leading a group of hardbitten soldiers all armed to the teeth with a predeliction for firing off about a billion rounds of ammo at the drop of a hat.

Seriously, you're surprised that at the halfway mark they don't admit they have no bullets left and go home. These commandos were inspired by the popular Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Predator, while the superweapon was pretty much a malfunctioning Robocop who has turned his high-tech assault capabilities on his fellow Americans, but so this wasn't a simple repeat of a bunch of scenes from those movies, Mattei and his screenwriter Rossella Drudi (also the uncredited writer of Troll 2, which should give you some idea of the quality threshhold) added a certain je ne sais quoi that Italian exploitation cinema was so adept at.

That meant within minutes you could see why Robowar's fans regarded it as a laugh riot, and if it wasn't perhaps as unintentionally hilarious as all that, there were a number of scenes which would elicit the odd indulgent chuckle if you were in the mood. There was a peculiar innocence to its ridiculousness, as if you were watching grown men playing at war games after recently viewing their favourite Arnie flick for the umpteenth time, and trying to hide the essential childishness of the project by swearing their heads off and acting as macho as they possibly could, which paradoxically made the results even more infantile. The commandos were fairly interchangeable anyway, merely cannon fodder in most cases.

Although not as much as the extras playing the rebels, supposedly Central American but funnily enough looking far more Filipino thanks to Robowar having been filmed in the Philippines - Mattei evidently thought nobody would notice the difference (or care). As was the case with many action movies after Rambo, we were treated to a sequence where an encampment of flimsy huts and makeshift buildings was completely destroyed (nobody falling off a watchtower, though - missed a trick there) while a load of extras pretended to be gunned down, ostensibly to illustrate the heroes' badassitude, actually coming across as a gang of raving psychopaths. But what of our robotic friend? As we see his pixellated point of view, complete with garbled electronic voice synthesis (some think it sounds as if he's repeating "Greasy!" - might be "Proceed!"), he cuts a swathe through the soldiers, even dissolving them for some reason, with Catherine Hickland (ex-Mrs David Hasselhoff) showing up as the token woman who does nothing. Patently absurd, but strangely endearing, with tinny electronic score by Al Festa.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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