Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Body Armor (a.k.a. The Protector)

I'll wager there are better, and less offensive (on multiple levels), representatives of the "cheap action film with a stuntman actually given a lead role" genre available on Netflix Instant than Body Armor, an adolescent tale of one man's struggle against a villainous big-pharma-industrialist and his plot to unleash fearsome viruses so he can sell the vaccines. Body Armor is the Netflix/home video title, though in its original made-for-cable state it was called The Protector, and neither title suits it very well. Here, then, are some ideas for better, more medically-themed titles:

The Infector – which would put more emphasis on the one mildly interesting character, the villain.

Blood Vengeance – as in, the action scenes have blood, and he's got a virus in his blood; see what I did there?

Critical Attack – as in, how we might expect film critics to respond.

Lethal Strain – as in, sitting through it is such a strain, I wouldn't recommend trying if you have a heart condition.

Feel free to use all of those, movie. Obviously you don't care what people call you.

The salient feature of The Body-Armored Protector (Who Neither Wears Body Armor Nor Does All That Much Protecting), and the one thing anyone even considering it must be forewarned of, is that John Rhys-Davies plays a disgusting fondler of prostitutes. This scene alone was scarring enough that I actually do somewhat regret watching this movie at all. Luckily, it's only one scene and it ends just before we have to see Gimli's schlong.

The rest of the cast includes a few names we might know—Annabel Schofield as the girlfriend, Carol Alt as the secret agent or something, Clint Howard as the sad comic-relief accountant, and notably, Ron Perlman as evil Dr. Krago.

Matt McColm is the aforementioned stunt actor, playing our hero Ken Conway (a made-for-cable action-hero name if ever there was one). We are supposed to believe he was born and raised in Japan, and that this accounts for his martial arts skills. Yet this actor, while capable at confident smirking and seeming at least half invested in what the other actors are saying to him, has no traits at all that suggest an upbringing in Japan, unless you count his ridiculous house.

But that's far from the most infantile aspect of this film. The dialogue, in trying to be clever, sounds exactly like it's trying to be clever; the story is, in a word, stupid; the "twist" ending is both tortured and obvious, and results in confusion about how the hero gets cured exactly; nobody could be bothered to look up the difference between a vaccine and an antidote; and the screenwriter had a clear fixation on boobs. Basically, it's a movie by and for 14-year-old boys who find The A-Team too challenging and cerebral.

Even viewers who will tolerate any degree of idiocy for some kick-ass action should look elsewhere. While the action scenes here are decently staged and not too dumb, there aren't enough of them and they don't stand out. This is particularly strange since not only is our lead a stunt actor, but the director (Jack Gill) is usually a stunt coordinator—this is his only directing credit. I would've therefore hoped for bolder and bigger stuntwork. I mean, the climax takes place at a huge refinery-like structure (because action movie), and yet there's not a single railing kill.

The look of the film is solidly 1992, yet IMDb insists it's from 1998. I find that dubious, and indeed, a quick check of Wikipedia confirms that the Dodge Viper (our hero's much-focused-upon ride) became available to the public in January 1992. I wouldn't put it past this movie to think that Dodge Vipers were the bee's knees as late as 1998, but nevertheless, everything else about it—the hairstyles, the costuming, its hokiness—convinces me that we're looking at a product of the early '90s, and I'm not motivated enough to continue researching the issue. So that's what we're going with.

Mostly competent action scenes and performances that are only sometimes embarrassing are just about the only compliments I can pay to Body Armor. It wasn't as fun or mockable as the last movie of its type I reviewed here (Crackerjack, or, as I prefer to call it, Crackerjack!), but its story made more sense and its pacing is more solid.

I also have to give them some credit for taking a big risk at the end. The final line of dialogue, when considered alongside the final freeze-frame shot that follows it, is so random and WTF that you'll be downright flabberghasted by the even more WTF voiceover that accompanies the start of the credits. Maybe they figured, "what the hell, let's get wacky; it's not like anybody's still watching." And also too goofy to ignore: the virus is called Ferris and one of the characters is named Sloane. They could've convinced me it was intentional by throwing in a Cameron and I would've given it another half-star. Sorry, movie.

Oh, and one more thing: if you enjoy cheesy '80s-style action-movie scores—I mean, really enjoy, like you'd put 'em on your MP3 player—then don't miss Body Armor.

Star Score: 1.5 out of 5

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