Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.
Release Date: June 30th, 1998 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Tibor Takacs Actors: Rutger Hauer, Mark Dacascos, Yvonne Scio, Patrick Dreikauss, Randall William Cook, Michael Mehlmann, Ildiko Szucs
he future is bleak. Arms-dealing priests spouting misinterpreted scripture, crimson-robed lesbian nurses, topless female boxing, and the forced feeding of one’s own severed fingers are but a few of the outrageous gimmicks that speckle the gratuitous action film “Redline.” With technological creations such as a video transmission device that still requires a phone to speak through, co-ed spas, a whorehouse entitled “House of Culture,” and villains spouting lines like “I keep asking myself what is wrong with this picture,” this low-budget sci-fi thriller is a masterpiece in its own right as a paragon of films that are so bad they’re good.
When smuggler John Anderson Wade (Rutger Hauer) is betrayed by shady cohort Merrick (Mark Decascos) and left for dead, the contrabandist is resurrected as a bionically recreated cyber-being. Government officials attempt to exploit him to gather information about his ex-partner, who is now a high-ranking underground criminal leader – surrounded by powerful allies that wish to dominate the entirety of Russia. But Wade instead launches his own personal vendetta against the double-crosser with the aid of the promiscuous Katya (Yvonne Scio), a woman uncannily identical to his former girlfriend.
“Redline” is in a unique position: it’s so ridiculous that it’s actually quite a bit of fun. The plot is abominable, the acting is pitiful, the special effects are atrocious, and the majority of characters and situations are downright nonsensical. Since the filmmakers were trying to create a serious adventure film, their utter failure plays off as spectacularly Z-grade amusement. There’s a certain cult following for films like this, where exaggerated violence, action, explosions, over-the-top villains, and plenty of nudity and sexuality draw viewers like moths to a flame. Provocative and strangely compelling, “Redline” also makes use of snappy one-liners, ill-conceived technology, and a scantily clad Yvonne Scio in place of real substance.
Rutger Hauer is the only actor who plays it straight, and therefore perfectly contrasts the farfetched themes permeating the picture. Despite the absurd amount of questionable histrionics and laughable personas, Hauer is always fun to watch as he exudes determination and machismo, regardless of the necessity of such characteristics in any particular shot. Yvonne Scio has plenty of nude scenes and nothing else, save for her one humorous and innocently naïve exchange: “What’s your name?” To which Hauer replies: “John Doe.” Her response? “Ahh…an American.”
Also known as “Deathline,” “The Syndicate,” and “Armageddon” (clearly attempting to capitalize on shifting advertising potential), director Tibor Takacs’ grandly obscure film has all but disappeared amongst the onslaught of nonsensical action films of the ‘90s. But this one in particular is unusually memorable for its inane amount of crazed imagery and bizarre cinematic flourishes. Even at his worst, Hauer manages to be completely enjoyable.
– Mike Massie