Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: The Terminators

Every time I start one of these obviously-terrible titles on Netflix Instant, I battle with a sense of dread, asking myself "Am I about to waste an hour-plus of my life?" In the case of The Terminators, I'm happy to respond to myself, "Not entirely," mainly because they had the good sense to cast A Martinez.

For those of you who think that's a typo, A Martinez is his actual screen name. He's a well-known soap actor, and was on One Life to Live during the short cluster of years that my wife was following the show. His acting style has always been understated and detached in a kind of tough-guy fashion, and it's even more the case in The Terminators—yet not carrying the undercurrent of boredom you might expect from a real actor, like Martinez, reflecting on his presence in an Asylum movie. It's frankly a bizarre performance, but intentionally so, and I'm giving The Terminators a whole half-star just for the fact that his cop character turns out to be an android. It's a pretty well-handled reveal in a film of this calibre, and it's quite nice to see a real actor make a deliberate acting choice like that in the sort of movie where deliberate acting choices are infrequent.

The other cast member of note is our heroic Sgt. Meatface from Mega Piranha. He turns villainous here, playing the Terminators—every single one of them, which is a bit of commitment on the part of the filmmakers that I can actually respect. Cheaper android-oriented movies (like Future War) use different actors for each android, but The Terminators bothered to pull off that visual effect, so that's kind of nice. Also, Meatface definitely has the physique and glower for this kind of role. Re-watch the original Terminator and you'll realize he almost, almost measures up to Arnold at that stage in the latter's evolution as an actor.

Very little of the rest of the film is worthy of note. The setting is apparently the very near future, except there are millions of android slaves and an orbital space station and laser ships and cellphones from the mid-'90s. Here's a quick "story" rundown:

  • The androids rebel, and it's never too clear who or what is leading them
  • A supporting cast assembles around the leads and makes them look good by comparison with their Theater Arts 101 performances
  • A few wannabe-gritty scenes of action and bloodshed occur, furthering the plot in alternately vague, clumsy, and nonexistent ways
  • The mostly-unlikable cast argues a lot, as a necessary prelude to being individually slaughtered
  • They meet a heroic engineer played by Jeremy London, puffed out just enough to uncannily resemble Tim Heidecker
  • ...And there's a pointless subplot about the leading lady's dead cheater boyfriend.

    In short, I would've turned it off about half an hour in if it wasn't for A Martinez.

    On the other hand, if creative kills are a selling point, this movie has a couple. So it surpassed my expectations slightly in that regard too. But the fun is dulled by the fact that The Terminators takes itself much more seriously than any of the Mega-Insert-Creature-Here movies I've see so far. And—and this is key—if you watch The Terminators, you will want to have the mute button ready when the credits roll.

    Star Score: 1.5 out of 5

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