Space Truckers (1997)
Space Truckers (1997)

Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: April 4th, 1997 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Stuart Gordon Actors: Dennis Hopper, Debi Mazar, Stephen Dorff, Charles Dance, George Wendt, Vernon Wells, Sean Lawlor, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Barbara Crampton

 


 

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n Triton, the largest moon of Neptune, a squadron of heavily-armed soldiers lock down a room, guns drawn, lasers aimed, awaiting an impending intrusion just beyond Perimeter 3. Something is going terribly wrong, and developer Dr. Nabel’s (Charles Dance) reassurances fall on the deaf ears of panicky commander E.J. Saggs (Shane Rimmer). “It’s right outside!”

The following salvo of bullets are utterly ineffective against the invading monster automaton, which is impervious to virtually any form of firepower. After it single-handedly wipes out the troops, it’s revealed that the attack was merely a training simulation, proving that the currently built army of 5,000 murderous, biomechanical super-warriors is more than ready to descend upon Earth for total domination. And in order to maintain deniability of the project, only Saggs can remain alive to begin the invasion.

Meanwhile, space trucker John Canyon (Dennis Hopper), inbound from Mars City aboard his trusty Pachyderm 2000 rig, arrives two days late with his shipment of genetically-altered square pigs for the Inter Pork company, docking at the Hub, a bustling space station. When his anticipated payment encounters a few hiccups, he bides his time at the local diner, where he visits pseudo-sweetheart Cindy (Debi Mazar), a waitress, whom he’s proposed to countless times. When she informs him of her ailing mother back on Earth, he suggests a fresh proposal: if she marries him, he’ll arrange for her transportation home. She doesn’t give it much thought, believing his offer to be hollow. And, indeed, it becomes less sincere when the Inter Pork goons, led by Keller (George Wendt), successfully steal the pig load, tasking newcomer Mike Pucci (Stephen Dorff) with its subsequent transfer. Run-ins with Inter Pork agents and local authorities soon turn the reluctant trio into fugitives of sorts, forced to pick up last-minute work ferrying a shipment of supposed sex dolls to Earth – a mission that is both fortuitous for its destination and hazardous for its tight timeline and uncompromising consignees.

With director Stuart Gordon (“Re-Animator,” “From Beyond,” “Dolls”) at the helm, “Space Truckers” adopts a fun and action-packed yet oddly violent and bizarre tone, mixing light grotesqueries with plenty of “Star Wars” derivations (such as the Scum Cluster asteroid field). Despite brightly-colored sets and vivid costumes, there are “Total Recall” types of production designs as well, ranging from comically ugly porcine puppets to an old woman mechanism whose face splits apart to reveal controls for secret passages. Even the spaceship designs are quite appealing, in a macabre manner. Curiously, the PG-13 rating interferes with Gordon’s potential, preventing him from embracing the weirdness and bloodshed typically found in his pictures (though he finds an apt role for brutish regular Vernon Wells as a space pirate leader).

“If you’re gonna hack off my dick, do it!” Amid the hairy scenarios of hijacking, kidnapping, shootouts, torture, rape (involving a rebuilt, robotic, hand-crank, reproductive organ), and more (Mazar and Dorff spend a considerable amount of time in their underwear) – all possessing hints of Gordon’s signature perverseness – there’s also a wealth of humor, both dark and light, alternately making the dilemmas more or less severe. Much of the dialogue is similarly sarcastic and jokey. An airy romance and a love triangle also make an appearance, though they’re frequently overshadowed by adventure and campy depravity. The potential in this film is tremendous, yet it’s ultimately a confused blend of space opera and sci-fi horror that will appeal to a very specific audience only; its uncommon components would be revisited by the likes of “The Fifth Element” a year later – to far greater success with a superiorly cohesive arrangement of entertainment and eccentricity.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10