Shitty Movie Sundays: Cyber Tracker

It’s the future! Sometime around 2015 or ’16. Professional kickboxing legend Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson plays Eric Phillips, the head of a Secret Service detachment guarding Senator Bob Dilly (John Aprea). Dilly, while not in Washington or running for reelection, has been working with mega-corporation Cybercore to develop the Computerized Justice System, whereby crimes are prosecuted by a computer, and swift justice is carried out by androids called ‘trackers.’ Should one be convicted of murder, a tracker will appear out of nowhere and carry out sentence. There’s nothing a person can do. No deals, no appeals.

This idea of taking justice out of the hands of people and giving it to machines was fantastical in 1994, when this movie was released. In the decades since, the idea of computers gathering data on everyone in the country and making decisions on the government’s behalf is no longer fantastical. It’s very topical.

For their part, the people that inhabit the world of Cyber Tracker aren’t all on board with the idea of computers and androids policing them. A resistance movement is launched, and Senator Dilly is one of their prime targets. After Phillips foils an assassination attempt, he rises in Dilly’s estimations, to the point that Dilly decides to bring Phillips into the fold, giving him a peek at the corrupt intent behind the Computerized Justice System and the trackers. Phillips, however, is a stand-up guy, with a well-defined morality. He doesn’t waste any time rejecting Dilly’s overtures, and kicks ass in the process.

Kicking ass is a very important part of this film, in fact. Being a cheap action flick, there wasn’t any room in the budget for acting talent, but no one can deny that The Dragon had a talent for kicking ass. He was never going to reach the starry heights of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, or even Jean-Claude Van Damme, but these b-action flicks were going to get made no matter what, and they needed leads to kick some ass in them, whether it was Michael Dudikoff, Cynthia Rothrock, or Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson. A whole ecosystem of cheap action flicks was feeding off of the success of the big-name stars of the day, and getting someone like Wilson for one’s movie meant there wouldn’t be much dead time. Should things threaten to get a little slow, just throw some extras at Wilson and he’ll provide a few minutes of fighting. Dilly, in fact, sends bad guys after Phillips one after the other, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, and Phillips kicks the shit out of all of them.

But, wait? What about the robot trackers? A lot of shitty movies just don’t have the resources to live up to their idea. Sure, director and producer Richard Pepin may have wanted a film filled with androids and laser beams, but he had to be realistic. The focus of the plot is Phillips vs Dilly, in a pretty standard lone man versus corrupt politician storyline. The androids feel like they were added on to get this flick a little sci-fi cachet. When the trackers do appear on screen (all are played by Jim Maniaci), Pepin’s intent becomes clear. He’s ripping off The Terminator. It’s that simple. The trackers dress like Schwarzenegger’s terminator; they speak in short sentences when they speak at all, just like the terminator; and when the tracker gets in a firefight, he just stands there and shoots away, like the mostly invincible force he is. Even the soundtrack, which for the most part is the typical anonymous, synthesized fare common in movies like this, lifts a few notes and sequences from Brad Fiedel’s Terminator soundtrack. Listen closely, and there are even runs of notes lifted from The Running Man, as well. And then, strangely enough, there are choral sequences. Whatever.

Much of the atmosphere of Cyber Tracker is meant to evoke much better films. Besides the trackers evoking The Terminator, there’s Phillips’s personal life. He lives alone in his future apartment with his future personal computer that talks to him, and it’s all very Blade Runner. In my favorite moment of shitty from the film, we see Phillips pining over his lost wife. It’s implied that she met with some tragic end, as is de rigueur with a tortured lead like Phillips, but later in the movie, in a throwaway line, we learn that Phillips is simply divorced. It’s the way Wilson just tosses out the line, making all of the introspection from earlier in the movie totally useless, that makes it my favorite bit of shitty filmmaking in this dog.

This movie is a real piece of crap. It takes all of its cues from other films, in the hope that would be enough to get some poor sucker to pick it off the shelves of their local video store on a Friday night. The plot isn’t really anything to speak of, nor are the performances from the cast. But as a shitty movie experience, this is a fine example. The action is more than plentiful enough to keep the viewer from getting bored, and Pepin never passed up an opportunity to blow up a car during a chase. Sure, the CGI, what little there is of it, is about as sophisticated as this contemporary example, and it looks like a huge amount of the film was shot in a parking garage, but so what? Cyber Tracker is silly and stupid, and flies in the face of the idea that cinema has a higher purpose, but it’s yet another shitty film where the fun outweighs the bad. Still, it’s not as good of a movie as Alien: Resurrection.

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