Sunday, September 21, 2014

Project Terrible: Laser Mission

Welcome to Project Change-of-Plans, as unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), Maynard's choice for me -- Zipperface -- was only available on Youtube...and after multiple attempts on several different browsers, computers, and tablets, and even downloading programs, I couldn't get the darn thing to stop going into freeze frames and silence at about 9 minutes in. Shame, as that one looks really, really cheesy.
So, Maynard's given me a replacement this round: Laser Mission.

Laser Mission concerns a mercenary named Gold, who is hired by the United States to find a scientist and ask his price to defect to America. When the mission goes wrong and the scientist disappears, Gold and the scientist's daughter, Alissa, must track him down and go up against a whole heck of a lot of gun-toting bad guys. There's a subplot of Gold not being sure whether Alissa is who she says she is, but other than that, there's not really that much of a plot here.

This is basically just your average low-quality late 80's action movie. People wouldn't even know about this except that it's one of the unfortunately very few film credits of Brandon Lee, son of the legendary Bruce Lee, who died while filming The Crow a mere four years after this film was released. He plays Gold here in one of his earliest roles.

Laser Mission is...not a very good movie. There was a time I would have called this a truly awful film, but I've seen a lot worse since then. It's watchable, and honestly pretty fun...just that it's also quite a stupid film, existing mostly for the purpose of various action sequences that are for the most part extremely generic. It's a hard film to review because there really isn't much to talk about.

What does it do well...mostly, Brandon Lee. While he's crippled here by some truly stupid and ham-fisted dialog, particularly the film's attempts at one-liners ("I just dropped in to say...bon appetit." "That's Mr. Asshole to you." "Your sense of timing is impeccable. It's just one of the many things I like about you."), it's very clear he's got some charisma, talent, and an ability to handle action scenes that surpasses what this movie throws at him. Look, obviously I'd hate to insult the guy given what I mentioned above, but I'm not holding back because of that...I honestly feel like he did as good a job as anyone possibly could in this film given the material he had to work with. This is a third-rate action movie starring an action star who could be first-rate. It does help the film...just not enough.

As for the rest of the cast, they're mostly okay. Ernest Borgnine shows his face as the scientist, and is rather fun, but not in the movie all that much. The actress playing his daughter, Alissa, She has a habit of kind of raising her voice and screeching a bit in a pretty irritating manner, and makes really oddly sexual faces while driving from time to time. Disturbing.

There's also a couple comic relief characters in the form of two idiot soldiers working for the bad guys...they're not all that interesting and not all that funny. As for our villains...they're villains. They never get any character development outside of being evil, so...I don't have much to talk about.

Laser Mission's plot is, as mentioned, extremely bare-bones. It exists to move you from one action scene to the next. It does a fair job...I can't remember too many plot holes, but that's largely because there basically isn't a plot. It's all basically..."Gold goes here, and oh no, there are soldiers! Bang, bang, bang!" or "Gold and Alissa are driving, and oh no, there are soldiers! Bang, bang, bang, swerve, bang, bang!" You get the idea. There's a couple brief attempts at establishing a relationship between Gold and Alissa thrown in, but they're pretty much forgettable.

Oh, driving...I-I mean, oh, Gold...
And the action itself? Mostly generic and forgettable as well. I can't remember much of what happened in the action scenes...very few things stand out in any way, which is a bad thing and a good thing. There's not a lot of outright stupid stuff that happens, but there's not really much awesome stuff that happens either. I do have to call out one particular fight: There's a fight between Gold and a mercenary that's hunting him in the desert. It's mostly generic punching and kicking, and is notable only for an unusual front-facing neck-break performed by Gold. Does it work that way? I'm honestly not sure. I guess if you got enough rotation it could? It's just weird seeing someone break a guy's neck from the front rather than the back.

You do have to love the super-casual walk Lee gives after he snaps that dude's neck, though. That's hardcore, man.
What is honestly strange in this film is that it stars the son of Bruce Lee, but the majority of the action is gunplay. It's not even martial-artsy gunplay with a lot of's mostly just running and shooting in very ordinary style, or firing from moving vehicles. It's difficult to understand why Brandon Lee ended up in this sort of picture, as this has little to nothing to do with martial arts. Not that martial artists have to use martial arts in every picture, but come on, this was one of his first starring roles! You'd think he'd get to kick some fools in the face. Instead, the few unarmed fights he has use much more of a generic brawling style, and are over very quickly. You'd really think they'd throw in one enemy that can go toe to toe with him for a while and get at least one good martial arts fight in the film, but no such luck. It's like they were trying to hide the fact that he's Bruce Lee's kid.

One minor compliment on the action, though: Brandon Lee does a pretty nice job of remembering when he's injured, and acting accordingly. He fights like he's tired at several points, and most notably...

...there's really no non-awkward way to talk about Brandon Lee being good at acting like he's been shot. Sigh.

Might as well go with it. Okay, so Gold is shot in one scene late in the story and Lee does a pretty nice job for, oh, the rest of the film showing the injury. He's tired, stumbling, and hurting, and while he's able to keep fighting he makes it pretty clear it's just his willpower keeping him going. There's a couple slips here and there, but by and large I really appreciated that he made a clear effort to show the impact of the injury.

As an aside, because looking at Brandon Lee's short film history is much more interesting than talking about this movie, did you know a later film of his, Rapid Fire, was originally slated to be directed by John Woo before he ended up doing Hard Boiled instead? Geez, can you imagine?

Okay, a few more notes before we call it a review...first off, if there's one truly irritating thing about this movie, it's the soundtrack. I believe I counted all of three separate songs in the film, used repeatedly. That's bad enough, but what's really strange is that one of those three songs is a vocal song, "Mercenary Man" (also an alternative title for the film). So you get the same vocals over and over throughout the film.  It's pretty annoying.

Second, I can't really critique the overall filming style all that much, as there's not a lot good or bad about it, but I do have to call out the fair number of scenes with really awkward silence. There's a number of points in the film where conversations end, and the director could have cut there, but instead we get a couple extra moments and another camera angle or two of the actors doing basically nothing. Sometimes people look a little embarrassed that the camera is still rolling. Seriously, just cut to the next scene. These add nothing.

So, yeah, he's dead.
And finally, one more note, requiring a spoiler warning.

The villain of this film actually has a pretty glorious death sequence. It's very much one of those "Holy crap, how is he still alive?" bits. First, he captures Alissa (in very questionable fashion, since she had him in a headlock and at gunpoint one scene before), but is shot by Gold. Several times. However, he was wearing a bulletproof vest (which he is actually shown putting on several scenes earlier, to the film's credit), so he lives through that. However, some explosives his men had set up to destroy the mine they're fighting it are nearly about to go off when he climbs onto the hills just outside to scream at Gold and aim a gun at him. The explosives go off all around him, and Gold and company go to drive away...only for him to again show up, charred and burnt, and start firing at their jeep...whereupon Alissa just flat-out runs him over and drives him into a wall. It's not quite a Goldeneye or Con-Air villain death, but wow!

I don't have much more to say here, really. Laser Mission is a very basic action film with little to make it noteworthy for good or ill. It's actually a fairly fun watch if you're into B-grade action films, but it doesn't have much to really call out as particularly funny or stupid moments, nor any so-bad-its awesome bits. I'm not sure I'd call it terrible...bad, yes, not not that really awful kind of bad that makes you cringe.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic review! I like this film a lot more than you, but can understand your reasoning for disliking it, and I'm glad you think Brandon Lee is awesome too!

    Awesomely enough, Lee actually was in a 'heroic bloodshed' John Woo type movie! It's called Legacy of Rage, and it's pretty badass!