Short of watching a mockbuster from The Asylum or its ilk, one would be hard-pressed to find a film that is more of a ripoff of a big time Hollywood production than Robowar, from Italian auteur Bruno Mattei. The victim in this case is Predator. From characters, to plot, to location, to certain scenes, all the way down to individual lines of dialogue, Mattei squeezed everything he could out of Predator short of being sued into oblivion. The only major change was substituting a rogue bionic soldier for the alien hunter
From 1988, Robowar stars prolific b-movie actor Reb Brown as Major Murphy ‘Kill Zone’ Black, the leader of a squad of commandos called B.A.M., for Big Ass Motherfuckers. For real, that’s the name. Black is the analogue of Dutch from Predator. Others include Max Laurel as Quang, the Billy analogue; Catherine Hickman as Virginia, the Anna analogue; Mel Davidson as Mascher, the Dillon analogue; Jim Gaines as Sonny ‘Blood’ Peel, the Mac analogue; and Massimo Vanni, Romano Puppo, and John P. Dulaney as interchangeable analogues to the remaining main characters in Predator. There’s even a general who gives Black and his men their mission, but he was unlisted in the credits. His only significance is a voice that sounds uncannily like Lee Van Cleef’s.
It’s off to the jungle for Black and his crew. The location is the fictional country of Batu Batu, here played by the Philippines. Rebels have overrun the jungle, and Black and company have been sent in under false pretenses. There, they find themselves the target of The Hunter, a bionic soldier decked out in black leather, helmet, and shoulder pads, who tracks enemies using a kind of heat vision, or something. Any of this sound familiar?
The Hunter was played by filmmaker Claudio Fragasso, who also has a story credit alongside screenwriter Rosella Drudi. One has to feel for Fragasso. His outfit looks like it would be excruciating to wear in the dry air of a Mojave winter, much less the soup of a Filipino jungle. There’s one scene near the end of the movie where Fragasso is ambling along, supposedly injured and malfunctioning, and he looks very unsteady on his feet. I think he was really feeling it. It looked like he was about to whip his helmet off and vomit. Anyway…
There’s no point going into the intricacies of the plot, especially if one has seen Predator. Some scenes go into outright thievery, as when Black hurls a knife into a bad guy’s chest, just like Dutch did in Predator, then delivers the deadpan line, “Don’t move,” rather than the silly, yet iconic, “Stick around.” Then there is the scene where the group murders the jungle with a ridiculous amount of machine gun fire, just like in Predator. Then there is the scene where Billy, I mean Quang, for some reason decides to give himself up and take on the baddie with a machete. Then there is the scene where, instead of yelling out “Get to da choppahh!!”, Black lets out a “Get to the boat!” Shameless.
And I loved it. This is one of the silliest and dumbest shitty movies I’ve seen in at least the last calendar year. Mattei reached a sort of Zen peak with this film, where the opinions of viewers and critics, such as myself, don’t matter a whit. He made his movie, and he made his money, and anything else be damned. He gave audiences what they wanted, and, according to him, what they wanted was lots of gunfire and explosions. None of it is realistic, and that’s just fine. It’s not like Predator was dripping with realism. What it was dripping with was absurd amounts of testosterone, and Robowar is the shitty movie equivalent thereof.
Robowar is the kind of shitty movie that should make a viewer lean back and laugh and laugh and laugh. It’s ridiculous, and very watchable. It enters the hallowed top fifty of the Watchability Index, displacing White House Down at #41. Check it out, folks. It’s shitty gold.