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Laser Mission (1989)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

LASER MISSION (1989)

Starring: Brandon Lee, Debi Monahan, Ernest Borgnine, Graham Clarke, Werner Pochath

Written By: Phillip Gutteridge, David A. Frank (story) Directed By: BJ Davis

The Short Version

Brandon Lee starred in six movies.  Laser Mission is one of them.

That is one of only two reasons to watch this flick.

The other is that you really enjoy awful movies.

Make it a party; watch it with a friend.

Laser Mission is so bad that its lousiness counts as an endorsable trait.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

PIZZERIA PRETZEL COMBOS.

Late night snack fuel built around something that alleges to be some kind of cheese product.  They’re probably not good for you, but if you’re like me, you probably don’t care.


Pairs Well With...

ICEHOUSE.

If you’re already drinking this cheap crap, it’s too late to ask why.  Just drink it.

“Oh, such a gentleman.”

“Oh, such a bitch.”


I won’t even try to keep you in suspense with this one: Laser Mission is an incredibly bad movie.  We’re talking cat box material, here.  Imagine the worst excuse for a low budget James Bond style movie ever, and then take it lower.  Still lower.  Keep going until you scrape bedrock.  Yeah; right there.

So why, then, would any reasonable person want to not only watch this crap, but indeed seek it out intentionally?  There are two reasons.

First, aside from a couple of TV show appearances, Brandon Lee only starred in six movies before meeting with an untimely end on the set of The Crow.  Laser Mission is one of those movies.  So if you’re looking for a Brandon Lee fix – which is totally understandable – this flick is one of the only ways you have to satisfy it.

Second, there are many people – myself included – who enjoy watching bad movies.  When we hear someone say “that’s the worst crap ever made,” we take it as a personal challenge and feel compelled to see the evidence for ourselves.  And while Laser Mission isn’t quite the worst crap ever made, it is more than bad enough to fall into that enjoyably awful lower tier that’s so badly made that it comes out the other side.

Our story follows mercenary Michael Gold (Brandon Lee, Showdown in Little Tokyo), who has been recruited by the CIA to help extract a certain Professor Braun (Ernest Borgnine, The Devil’s Rain) from Soviet-controlled territory in Middle of Nowhere, Africa.   It turns out that Braun is an expert in laser technology, and that he holds the secret to creating the next generation of doomsday weapon that could change the balance of power between the US and the USSR.  Needless to say, the Soviets and the Cuban stooges they use to garrison their African territory have no intention of letting Braun go so easily, and so the game of cloak and dagger begins.  Can Gold and his squeaky-voiced partner Alissa (Debi Monahan, Shattered) get to Braun before the bad guys can move ahead with their evil plans?   Hmm… let me think…

Just not too hard; if there’s one thing that Laser Mission does not encourage, it’s thinking.

Because if you thought about it, you might notice that you don’t actually see any lasers or any of the other cool stuff suggested by the title; instead, you see lots and lots of empty wasteland (likely the same wasteland over and over again).  You might also notice that the direction is less-than-inspired, and that to claim that the camera work reaches any level that could be called “cinematography” is generous.  If you have just a little bit of action flick savvy, you may also notice that Brandon Lee is the only person in the entire film that can carry off a fight and that everyone else barely has enough good sense to fall down on cue.  And if you give things any thought at all, you’ll certainly notice that this script is about six passes away from being ready for prime time, and that everyone involved clearly knows it.

Ernest Borgnine?  He’s phoning it in, and may even be blowing raspberries into the phone.  But at least the audience gets enough of a hint that he could put in a decent performance if he wanted to.  No such luck for most of the rest of the supporting cast, especially the villain cadre, who have just as much trouble with dialogue and blocking as they do with falling down on cue during action sequences.  The one enigma in all of this is Debi Monahan, whom the director refuses to look at as anything but a token blonde with a squeaky voice and a decently-endowed chest.  (One can almost hear the cameraman screaming “nice rack!” every time he focuses back onto it.)  It’s entirely possible that there’s more to Monahan than meets the eye in this flick, but any time a situation threatens to allow her to act or leave “chesty blonde” mode in any way, the camera cuts to something else.  Sorry, Debi.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Debi Monahan, let’s pause for a moment for a quick lesson in “how to predict a formula movie.”  The characters of Michael and Alissa are antagonistic toward each other from the very beginning, often to a point where the conflict feels manufactured.  Tack on the constant “you’re not my type” barbs thrown around early on, and you can easily predict that the two will end up in bed before the movie’s over.  Yeah, I know; that bet was easy, but here’s the add-on that a lot of people misinterpret that might get you a free beer through a side bet with a frat buddy.  Alissa spends the entire movie wearing a low cut dress that leaves her cleavage in full sunshine.  It’d be easy to take that as cue for “nudity incoming,” but if you watch enough of these flicks, you’ll know better: it’s actually your cue that there will be no nudity forthcoming from this character.  Sorry, Debi’s fans.  (Or anyone else hoping for some form of happy compensation for sitting through this movie.)

And then we have Mr. Brandon Lee.

Whether or not he was your original reason for picking up Laser Mission, you’ll find that Brandon Lee is the primary thing keeping this flick from being a complete waste of time.  (The other, lesser thing is that someone – either the credited writer or a ghost – threw some decent humor into an otherwise lousy script.)  From the very start, it’s clear that Lee, like Borgnine, is very much aware that Laser Mission is a bad movie that no amount of effort is going to save.  However, rather than taking Borgnine’s approach of phoning it in, Lee decides to take it all in stride and have fun with it, and it’s the fun he has – along with the talent that he simply can’t hide – that makes Laser Mission its own odd brand of enjoyable.  Lee reads lousy dialogue as though it were excerpted from a book of the month club selection.  Knowing that no one else can fight, he not only makes his own combat look good, but he does as much as possible to make everyone else look at least competent through what his own moves can transmit across the set.  When things get absurd, he laughs them off, and in turn, we find ourselves laughing with him.  Had the producers gotten their original wish and ended up with David Hasselhoff in the lead role, Laser Mission would have ended up being too terrible to be worth watching anywhere outside of Germany; thanks to Lee, though, Laser Mission achieves the coveted mantle of “so bad it’s kinda good.”

And that, really, is all there is to it.  Without Brandon Lee, Laser Mission sucks like an atomic vacuum cleaner.  With Brandon Lee, it’s absurdly moronic fun that begs for some late night snack food, cheap beer, and a friend or two to share the experience with. Maybe you'll even get drunk enough to rock out to that song that keeps playing on continuous loop in the background. Anything's possible.

Bottom line, if you like Brandon Lee and/or think crappy movies are fun, then here ya go.  Everyone else, feel free to skip Laser Mission and move on to the next shelf in the video store.  Assuming you can still find a video store, that is.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2013


More From The Bar! | Red Scorpion | The Spy Who Loved Me | Gymkata | The Avengers |



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