Saturday, March 09, 2013

Let's Dance!

Direct-to-video stalwart Bryan Genesse—ya know him, ya love him in such classics as CYBORG COP III, PROJECT SHADOWCHASER II, and OPERATION DELTA FORCE 3—hams it up bigtime in LIVE WIRE: HUMAN TIMEBOMB (1995) as lone-wolf FBI agent Parker. His introduction finds him rappelling down the (corrugated iron!) screen of an abandoned drive-in theater, dodging dozens of bullets, blowing up rusted-out cars and oil drums (in an abandoned drive-in?), and bugging out his eyes to deliver one-liners like “You’ve blown it!” and “Ready to dance?” Considering what happens to Parker later, it makes sense for Genesse’s performance to be emotional, but neither he nor director Mark Roper (OPERATION DELTA FORCE 3 and 4!) are able to properly moderate it.

Parker snares a big-shot Cuban drug dealer, but is pissed to learn Treasury agent Gina Young (former Playmate J. Cynthia Brooks) plans to exchange him for an American prisoner (Gavin Hood, later the director of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE!) on the cusp of an historic U.S./Cuba trade agreement. The exchange in Cuba is a setup though, and General Arnaz (Anthony Fridjhon) implants a chip inside Parker’s neck (without leaving a scar!) that turns him into a mindwiped killing machine. Aiding Arnaz is Price (former TV Tarzan Joe Lara), a traitorous CIA agent who has his own plans for the general’s zombie army.

Frequently hilarious in its over-the-top violence (stuff explodes for no reason…yay!), this Nu Image production is typical of the studio. It looks more expensive than it probably was, and entertains with its slick action sequences, impressive stunts, and disregard for dramatic tension and logic. One big chase, in which Lara repeatedly reminds his men to take Genesse alive, is still punctuated with gunfire, rocket attacks, and explosions (why are they still shooting at him?).

Veteran viewers of this type of low-budget actioner may be amused by Roper’s attempt to pass off South African locations as Florida and Cuba. Editing is slack, so the suspense scenes aren’t as tight as they should be for maximum impact, but Roper knows how to choreograph action and place the camera for proper coverage. Nu Image’s reluctance to hire bigger stars hurts too (it’s doubtful fans have ever argued the results of a hypothetical Joe Lara vs. Bryan Genesse fight), but LIVE WIRE: HUMAN TIMEBOMB (please, Nu Image, either would have been fine) nicely fills the need for action thrills as mindless as its hero.

No comments: