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Terminal Justice aka Cybertech PD
Tonight's Feature Presentation

TERMINAL JUSTICE (1996)

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Chris Sarandon, Peter Coyote, Kari Salin, Barry Flatman, Tod Thawley

Written By: Frederick Bailey, Wynne McLaughlin Directed By: Rick King

The Short Version

A couple of guys had a nerdgasm brainstorm session and threw every idea they had into one script.

The “future” of 2008 didn’t quite turn out this way.  Oops.

Despite all of the things going against it – like starring Lorenzo Lamas – Terminal Justice somehow works.

You know Kari Salin better as Kari Wuhrer, and yes, she does have nude scenes.

If you’re going to watch a Lorenzo Lamas flick, you could do a whole lot worse than Terminal Justice.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEEZ WHIZ.

It’s virtual cheese!  There’s no way this stuff can be good for you, and yet it’s oddly compelling.


Pairs Well With...

MICHELOB ULTRA.

Most people I know would argue that it’s virtual beer.

“Have you ever made love to a real woman?”

“Nah.  Meat is for old timers like you.  VR sex is perfect every time.  You know, real sex is nothing but sweat and weird fluids, man.  Right?”


Terminal Justice is one of those movies that makes me pause for a moment to question my sanity.

Granted, this is a natural reaction for many people when it comes to Lorenzo Lamas movies, which, in all honesty, tend to suck, usually in no small part thanks to Lorenzo Lamas.  But in this case, the sanity question is not the standard response to recent voluntary exposure to Lamas Stinkage.

No, the scary part is that I actually kinda like this movie.  Hell, I even own it.

Crazy stuff, right?

Almost nothing about Terminal Justice (also called Cybertech PD) should work.  The script is a mess that tries to cram in way too many ideas at once, some of which don’t even make sense.  The action sequences border on the pathetic.  Our headliner is Lorenzo Lamas – aka one of the worst action stars in the history of the universe – and the bad guy is Chris Sarandon, who seems to be having a contest with Lamas to see who can be the worst actor in this movie.  Sure, Kari Wuhrer going topless helps, but that alone can’t be enough to save this movie, can it?

No, it’s not, but when stacked up with a few other items – not the least of which is referred to as je ne sais quoi by the French – the sum total is enough to make Terminal Justice not only watchable, but even inexplicably fun.  Kinda.

As the credits start to roll, we are brought to the “future” that is Russia in 2002.  [Maybe our nerdgasming writers should have reconsidered their timetable slightly.]  Welcome to the “Cartel Wars,” which from the image we’re allowed to see consists of a single man unloading a Uzi while engaging in primal scream therapy at a junkyard.  Later we’ll figure out that this is a drug war caused by the Russian drug mafia going haywire and the US coming in to clean up, and that as a means of helping soldiers to become more efficient killers who actually like blowing people away, a man named Reggie Matthews (Chris Sarandon, Fright Night) has thoughtfully supplied the army with a drug called “Hellraiser” that makes killing fun.

Flash forward to 2008, which dialogue will claim is seven years later because hey, screenwriters aren’t hired to do math.  Police sergeant Bobby Chase (Lorenzo Lamas, Gladiator Cop) – a veteran of the Cartel Wars who now has a set of artificial eyes as a souvenir of being captured and tortured there – is working a part time gig doing security for virtual reality sex starlet Pamela Travis (Kari Salin, aka Kari Wuhrer, Thinner).  It seems like just another typical night of babysitting when intruders suddenly break into the house.  When one pulls what looks like a gun, Chase shoots him dead.  It turns out that it wasn’t a normal gun that the intruder pulled, but the weapon’s significance is will remain elusive for a while longer.  First, Chase will be drawn into a complex plot involving killer games, human cloning, and a little bit of “Hellraiser…”

All right, so maybe I was being generous when I described the plot as “complex.”  It wants to be complex, but doesn’t really get much past “convoluted.”

So, this is what the world was supposed to have been like three years ago (as of this writing), which was just twelve years after the time Terminal Justice (or Cybertech PD or whatever it wants to call itself) originally came out.  Apparently virtual reality – which was the really big tech fad of the mid 1990s – was supposed to have evolved to the point where putting on a single piece of headgear would get you a full body sensory experience that was basically an exact equivalent to the holodeck on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”  Apparently, the first thing people did with this technology was do a full sensory capture on a sex scene, which means that by this point, over 150,000,000 people have now experienced having sex with the world’s most famous porn starlet, even though she swears she’s not actually a porn actress and didn’t even know that the scene she says she’d filmed for a regular movie would be turned into a virtual sex sensation.  But hey, she’ll take the money.

Meanwhile, cell phones are still the size of bricks.

Yeah.  Well, at least the writers recognized that if ever humanity does come up with technology like that, the first thing we’ll do is use it for porn.  They even play with the notion that people are so enamored with the virtual sex experience that many stop bothering with the real thing altogether, which again actually makes decent sociological sense.  It’s not even just a throwaway idea; it comes up a few times during the movie, which is one of the things that keeps Terminal Justice interesting.  In spite of itself, it’s actually kind of… thoughtful.

Not content to just play with the buzzwords “virtual reality” and “virtual sex,” the writers also decided to throw in “human cloning,” which they also naturally assumed would finds its first real commercial application in the area of sex; I’m sure it doesn’t take much imagination for you to guess how.  Again, though, the writers surprise, and instead of just playing with the buzzwords, they come up with something interesting.  The cloned women are blank slates mentally, and once a character in the film (Tod Thawley, Killer Flick) tries to relate to one as something other than a sex object, the results are actually touching on a very basic level of humanity.  Indeed, I give Tod Thawley major props for what he does here, which is far more than one ever expects from a supporting role in a movie like this, especially with regard to a secondary aspect of a supporting role.  He really does give the film’s most compelling performance.

But before you start thinking that this is a great screenplay, let’s not forget that these interesting concepts and thoughtful moments happen within the context of a complete mess that’s barely held together by spit and duct tape and which  doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.  This really is a case of too many ideas for one story – especially for one story being presented on a video budget – and there’s a lot of stuff that gets lost in the static.  Let’s face it: the most credible menace this story can come up with is a toy helicopter that shoots up a hotel restaurant.

That also happens to be the best action sequence the director can be bothered to film, so if you thought that Terminal Justice was going to be another exercise in Lorenzo Lamas pretending to be a martial arts action star, you’re in for a surprise.  Instead, this movie brings him back to his roots as a bad soap opera star, which surprisingly enough makes for being the better alternative.  (Don’t worry, though; he’s still a horrible actor with only two tones of voice allowed per film.  In Terminal Justice, they’re “emo” and “pissed.”)  Melodrama abounds as Lorenzo’s character deals with the constant fear of having a “Hellraiser” flashback, and he even throws in some over-the-top grieving as a bonus.  (He throws stuff around his crappy apartment, which comes complete with a recliner with torn upholsetery.)  He’s afraid to have sex because he might get the urge to kill while he’s having an orgasm (no, I am not kidding), but of course, Kari Wuhrer’s sex starlet character manages to talk him into it anyway.  As usual for Lamas, the sex scene is more about his own arms and thighs than his partner’s naughty bits, but there are enough flashes of breast from Wuhrer during said sex scene and an interrupted shower to keep the pervs happy.

As for Wuhrer’s acting, she won’t be bringing home any Golden Globes for this one, but even without the physical treats she brings, she plays enough of a sweetheart to keep Lorenzo Lamas from making things too intolerable.

And that, I think, is the key thing about Terminal Justice.  Most Lorenzo Lamas films leave the viewer feeling drained at the end and wondering what the hell they just wasted an hour and a half of their lives for.  Terminal Justice, however, never becomes an active irritant.  There’s so much going on around him that Lamas can never hog center stage, and that “so much,” however flawed or disjointed, is presented just well enough that when the credits roll and the elevator music starts to play, the audience is left thinking “that was okay.”  Are you likely to recall much about it other than Kari Wuhrer’s topless scenes by the middle of next week?  Probably not, but where Lorenzo Lamas flicks are concerned, even that’s considered a “win.”  With that in mind, if you’re going to try a Lamas movie, Terminal Justice is one of the very few I’d consider recommending.

Bottom line, Terminal Justice (aka Cybertech PD) is far better than you’d expect it to be.  It’s not great by any means, but it is one of the best titles you’ll find in the Lorenzo Lamas catalog.  You could definitely do a whole lot worse.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, December, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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