Another title that prompted my $5 investment in this package. Like Prom Night, I had heard of this one, but had no knowledge of it, good or bad. It just seemed like one of those Up All Night denizens that I never saw.
The scene opens in a hazy and heavily neoned 2247 where Jack Deth tells us he finally “singed” Martin Whistler on one of the rim planets. Now he is hunting down the rest of his murderous cult, the titular Trancers. In a diner of the future which still looks as much like the 50s as they did in the 80s, he dukes it out with an elderly waitress who turns out to be a Trancer. Soon she is a dead Trancer as he kills her and we learn that they disintegrate when killed. Hence the “singeing” of Martin Whistler.
As in every anti-hero cop movie since Dirty Harry, the “suits” don’t appreciate his zeal for his job, and he ends up tossing away his badge. As in every anti-hero cop movie since Magnum Force, he gets right back on the job. His boss tracks him down at the beach where he is treasure hunting. Not sure whether this was due to a war, or climate change, but LA (now called Angel City) is mostly underwater.
While this is a pretty bad effect, that’s OK by me in a low-budget movie. If you’re paying Matt Damon $20M to star in some sci-fi joint, those effects better be awesome. If you’re scraping by just trying to get your movie finished, I’m willing to meet you half way. Of course if Matt Damon is in an indie phase and works for free, I’m out again. Just not a fan.
His boss, McNulty, tells him that Whistler is still alive, so Deth agrees to talk to the council which runs things now. Whistler has already killed one of the members, and fled to the past. The two surviving members (including George Costanza’s boss Wilhelm) play a hologram of Whistler describing his plan to murder their ancestors, clearing the way from his triumphant return.
Seems like a lot of trouble since not-Wilhelm has just said that their fortress was “like paper” before this killer. Why not just kill them in 2247? Obviously, there is just one man who can time-travel to the past and prevent an unstoppable killer from destroying mankind by assassinating it’s leaders’ ancestors. Unfortunately, Michael Biehn was filming Aliens, so we got Tim Thomerson.
Deth sees the council has Whistler’s body on ice, and he blasts it. This strands Whistler in 1985 because, as we know from the underrated Switch in The Matrix, you’ve got to have a body to come back to (i.e. home is where the heart is).
They go to Helen’s job as Santa’s Helper in a mall where, naturally, Santa is a Trancer forcing Deth to shoot him in front of some kids. It will be another 10 years before Helen Hunt wears that great wife-beater in Twister. In 1985, though, she was pretty cute rocking that red Santa’s Helper suit.
Deth and Whistler converge at a tanning salon run by Wilhelm’s ancestor Chris Lavery. Of course, he turns out to be a Trancer and locks Deth in a stand-up tanning booth the size of my first apartment. Bad news for him as back in 1985 they still made these models with a cremation setting — what were they thinking? Sadly off-screen, Whistler arrives and kills Lavery.
Outside, Whistler — a detective in this era — catches Deth and Helen. He and his men open fire, but Deth has been issued a special watch that briefly slows down time for him. Or, rather, he remains in normal speed, and everything else slows down. I assume everything. Whistler. The police. The bullets. Gravity. The earth. The sun. The universe. There are so many things wrong with this that blah bah blah. Again, though, I’m willing to roll with it in a fun little movie.
And it is fun. I appreciate the little touches — Deth’s gruff boss McNulty has to transport back to 1985, but the only relative he can find to download into is a little girl. Not only does she exhibit his gruff persona, she sticks around to peep through the window at Deth & Helen making out.
Deth and Helen track down not-Wilhelm’s ancestor on skid row. With his help, they beat Whistler, and send him back to the future; even though Deth had destroyed his body, so that was supposed to be impossible.
Deth stays in 1985 with Helen Hunt. No mention is made of the poor sap whose body he downloaded into, who is now probably in the Phantom Zone with General Zod for eternity. Jake Gyllenhall also pulled this crap in Source Code so he could stay with a hottie. Not cool, guys.
This was the 3rd movie watched out of this $5 set. I started with the cream, but so far I have gotten my $.75 out of those 3 movies. Definitely a product of its age (1985, not 2247, although shoulder pads were big in each), but a fun movie with a good cast. In honor of Helen Hunt in Twister, I give it an F3 on the Fujita Scale — OK, but no Finger of God.
- Art LaFleur plays McNulty. Richard Erdman (credited here as Drunken Wise Man) played a character named McNulty on The Twilight Zone. If that dude from The Wire shows up, I’ll shit. Anyways, the McNulty in TZ had a watch that did exactly the same thing as Deth’s. Coincidence or homage?
- Not-Wilhelm’s name is actually Ashe. Her 1985 ancestor is named Ashby. Why? Why make the name so close, but different?
- Deth claims not to be able to return to 2247 because the syringe with the time-travel drug was broken, but it has been demonstrated earlier that anyone could shoot him with a laser and transport him back.
- The beach above looks like Point Dume where they filmed the end of Planet of the Apes, but I can’t confirm.
- The 20 Movies box helpfully refers to this as Trancers I, lest anyone be disappointed thinking they were buying the classic Trancers II, III, IV, V or VI.
- Any movie that works in Theme from Peter Gunn is OK with me.