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Cybercity
Tonight's Feature Presentation

CYBERCITY (1999)

Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Roddy Piper, Heidi von Palleske, Mackenzie Gray, David Carradine, Marina Anderson

Written By: Nelu Ghiran Directed By: Peter Hayman

The Short Version

Whatever your copy’s box blurb says, it’s a lie, just like calling the movie Cybercity.

A better title would have been Random Post-Apocalypse Crap On A Budget.

Cybercity is horrendously bad.

The best actors in the movie know that, and just laugh it up as they go.

If you’re not going to watch Cybercity to make fun of it, then you probably shouldn’t bother at all.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

KRAFT SINGLES.

Cheap, prepacked stuff made from that variety of cheese that some call American but that the rest of the world calls “wax.”  It’s flavorless save for the slightly oily aftertaste it leaves behind.


Pairs Well With...

MILWAUKEE'S BEST.

Anyone who’s ever tried “Beast” knows that the name is a lie… rather like calling this movie Cybercity.  You’re going to need a 30 pack for this one.

“Take each day as if it was your last.  And if this is my last day on this wonderful, blue-green, swingin’, sweet, sad, immeasurable world, then I’m sure glad as hell I’m drunk!”


Cybercity is a movie that defies description.  At least, that’s what the marketing people thought, because they lie like hell on the box.  But then again, they’re marketing people.  Lying is what they do.  By the time you’ve found them out, odds are that you’ve already spent the money, so what do they care?

Thus, when The Matrix hit it big at the theatre, some marketing people renamed a low budget flick called The Shepherd and gave it the slicker sounding title of Cybercity, and when they made the box art for it, the prefaced the title with “Before The Matrix there was…”  Then they took a picture of some nice looking models and did a bad Photoshop job of sticking C. Thomas Howell’s and Heidi von Palleske’s heads on top of two of the bodies.  Yay, marketing!

Truth be told, there’s not very much that’s “cyber” about Cybercity.  The “city” is an underground warren of endless warehouse space that allowed the production crew to not worry about hiring a location scout.  The “high tech weaponry” mentioned on the back of the box boils down to shivs, pistols, and shotguns.  The only real high tech in this movie comes in the form of sunglasses that serve as a combination photo/home movie album and memory backup.  It’s suggested that one’s memory can actually be erased and restored with these glasses, but that point’s rather fuzzy, and in the end, it’s hardly important anyway. 

What is important, as far as the story is concerned, is that once upon a time, there was a really nasty world war – it’s implied to have been between Islamic states and Israel at first, though that’s never explicitly stated – and that in the end, the surface of the Earth became uninhabitable, forcing the people who survived into vast underground cities.  Once humanity went underground, the religious cults took over, and it is they who rule things in what can best be described as street gang fashion.

The most powerful of these cults is lorded over by Miles (Roddy Piper, They Live), but his power is being threatened by his rival, Sophia (Marina Anderson, Dangerous Curves).  Looking to send a message that he’s still in control, Miles orders his best assassin – or to use the proper term, his best shepherd – Dakota (C. Thomas Howell, The Hitcher), to take out one of Sophia’s shepherds, Lilith (Heidi von Palleske, 2103: The Deadly Wake).  But when Dakota refuses to pull the trigger, he becomes a marked man himself, and before it’s all over, someone’s going to have to fall…

Let’s just get this part out of the way, shall we?  By pretty much anyone’s standard, Cybercity is a godawful movie.

The premise is serviceable enough – it’s certainly been used by enough other science fiction writers, from Philip K. Dick to George Lucas – but the movie really doesn’t do anything decent with it, instead throwing a whole bunch of post-apocalypse clichés up into the air and seeing what sticks.  As always, the future looks like a junk shop, and the streets are full of punks, pilgrims, and thug types (well, they’re full for the first few scenes, anyway; after that, the extras budget seems to have disappeared).  Time is filled by bizarre one off characters who have nothing to do with the story, and the story itself has no momentum whatsoever, moving forward only because the writer demands that it has to rather than due to any real progress or flow.  And as for the direction… what direction?

If you need to take your movies seriously to enjoy them, you might as well get off the train right now, because Cybercity is going nowhere you want to be.

Now, if you’re the sort of person who can derive amusement from watching absolutely horrendous crap unfold on the screen for the purposes of making fun of it, then it might be worth a buck.

The best actors in Cybercity are pretty obviously aware of how ridiculous this movie is, so they decide to ham it up and make the most of it.  Most notable on this list is David Carradine (Death Race 2000), who undoubtedly got suckered into his five minute role due to the fact that the lady playing Sophia was his wife at the time.  Carradine plays a ventriloquist drunkard whose dummy is wigged up as a transvestite.  He hams it up for at least ten times what this part is worth (the line up top is his; imagine Carradine reading that), and if you’re still awake for the scene wherein he tries to strangle Dakota in his sleep using the transvestite ventriloquist dummy to do the strangling, let’s just say that the image is a rare treat.

Also hamming it up is the man who is probably most responsible for giving Cybercity an audience: fan favorite “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.  Disappointingly, Piper has no real action sequences here (the most you get is him kicking a guard who’s already down on the floor), but he more than makes up for that with how he reads his ridiculous dialogue.  It’s very obvious that his performance here is a combination wink and eye roll to the audience (just watch him drag a cross around and try not to snicker), and he lays it on with a trowel.   Just imagine how Piper reads this:

“Let it ring to the heavens that those who mislead and deceive will receive the big D!”

Don’t worry; it made as much sense to him as it did to you.  Easier to digest is this one:

“Time to kick some holy ass!”

Yeah; that’s “Rowdy” Roddy, all right.

Of course, Piper’s character is also on the receiving end of the quote gallery, prompting his own lieutenant to ask:

“Tell me, Miles, how do you see the light when your head’s so far up your ass?”

He also earns these two special bits of vitriol from Sophia:

“There’s a special place for you in Satan’s asshole!”

…and…

“Damn his shriveled gonad soul!  May the Eternal Goddess swallow him and every last worthless limp dick!”

Frighteningly enough, you have just finished reading almost every worthwhile line of dialogue in the entire movie.  I wish I was kidding.

There is, however, one other very poignant line of dialogue to be heard:

“You didn’t finish!  Not that it matters…”

This line is delivered at the end of a sex scene, just after Dakota steps away from pounding a random woman who picked him up in a bar, and of course, the line is directed at him.

That sums up C. Thomas Howell’s performance quite nicely, I think.

While some of his costars choose to take things in stride, Howell responds to the cheapness of Cybercity by phoning it in.  He seems to have taken the fact that the limited costume budget makes him consistently look like he’s just fallen out of bed as a license to consistently act like he’s just fallen out of bed.  (This is easiest to spot during the fight sequences.  When else have you seen someone play acting spin kicks while standing literally limp wristed?)  He also sounds like he’s just fallen out of bed, to the point where one wants to step through the screen, hand him some Listerine, and tell him to gargle already.  But then again, if you tried, the cue cards might get in the way, because it sure sounds like that’s what he’s reading from.  Honestly, there’s just nothing good to be said about what Howell does here.  (And who decided to give him nude scenes, anyway?)

Taking a similar road is Heidi von Palleske, who takes an already annoying character (the “I don’t trust you” act is already old the first time; it then gets repeated about a million more) and makes her worse by delivering every line, up to and including endearments, with a sneer.  With the odd exception of her extended sex scene, she seems genuinely annoyed to be there, and while I can’t blame her, the fact is that she’s still getting a paycheck, y’know?  Of course, it could also be that the sex scene used up all of her good will…

Not that it really matters.  She could have delivered a master performance, and Cybercity still would have stunk.  At the end of the day, the only real question worth asking about Cybercity is whether or not it’s even worth the time to make fun of.  If you’re a Roddy Piper fan, then it probably is, but for everyone else, it’s a coin flip.  Yes, there are many, many scenes that just beg to be lampooned, but they’re surrounded by aimless boredom.  You wouldn’t think that a movie that includes a news anchor flashing her breasts to announce the start of a “Gospel Dance Hour” could be that dull, but it is.

Bottom line, Cybercity is just a horrendously bad movie, and that’s all there is to it.  There’s just enough silliness here that it might work for some audiences as lampoon material (I can especially see this working as background noise for a frat party, for some reason), but overall, unless you are the world’s biggest Roddy Piper fan or unless you just have to see every two-bit role that David Carradine took between bouts of being mainstream famous, Cybercity is probably best left to collecting dust on the cheap rack.

Well, okay.  It might be worth the time for a buck.  But only if you fortify yourself with beer first.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2011


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