Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mockbusted #21: "Android Cop" Review

As sad as it already was to see the release of a soulless remake of one of the greatest 80's sci-fi action movies ever made, the notion that a movie like the new Robocop would inevitably spawn an Asylum mockbuster would seem to most people like a turducken of sadness only adding insult to grievous injury. As a connoisseur of Asylum productions who has developed enough patience to find the few diamonds in the rough, I didn't give it much thought when I picked up Android Cop. Maybe it would suck, or maybe it would be one of those rare crazy gems like Sherlock Holmes, but at the end of the day, it couldn't possibly be less entertaining than the movie that inspired it, could it? Well, at the risk of being accused of finding any excuse to once again bash the Robocop reboot, Android Cop is not only better, it might just be the best Asylum movie ever made, and maybe the first that I could imagine as an actual theatrical film. Seriously, its that good.

And to be fair, even though its title and timing are obviously meant to capitalize on the release of Robocop in what in hindsight was probably a bad choice (as was their other pick, Apocalypse Pompeii, which I'll get to next), Android Cop isn't really a twist on Robocop at all. I mean, yes, it still has a cop who is a robot, but beyond that, its actually more of a spin on the recent television series Almost Human, following the day to day lives of a snarky Luddite human cop and his new stoic android partner in a futuristic city where technology is run amok. For anyone with enough experience with the Asylum mockbusters, that is actually watching them and not just scoffing at the titles, this is nothing new, and in fact the best ones are those that try to ape the originals as little as possible, like the cannibal fighting Age of the Hobbits or the Planet of the Apes-sh After Earth riff A.E.: Apocalypse Earth. Android Cop is perhaps not as crazy or innovative as either of those, but what it lacks in shock value, it more than makes up for in production value.

To say that Android Cop proves its superiority to the new Robocop in its first five minutes is an understatement in the context of just how bad that film was and how good this film is. A more accurate measure of its quality would be that if there was one movie I might show to someone who has never heard of the Asylum before, for the purposes of tricking this person into thinking they were a reputable company as opposed to a shameless schlock factory, this is the film I would choose to represent them. Compared to the greats of science fiction cinema, its obviously nothing special, mostly rote and predictable, but then most big budget theatrically released sci-fi movies barely manage to be decent let alone classic. Its not that this movie is going to stand the test of time and be held up among the likes of the original Total Recall or Blade Runner, but did you ever think in a million years that this production house would make anything even conceivably comparable to any good movie?

What's more, unlike most of the "good" Asylum movies, Android Cop never has to trade on the bombastic strangeness that makes so many of them watchable despite their flaws. Android Cop isn't good because it accepts the silliness of what it is and goes for broke against the tides of common sense and good taste, its just good period without needing to be silly, like regular movies are good. Its well written, well paced, and (generally) well acted. It has engaging fight choreography and even decent special effects that are surprisingly understated and integrated well into the story in a way so few Asylum movies can muster. The characters are actually fun to watch and become fleshed out as real people who you grow to care about. I know this is all just the bare minimum, or should be, but when so many mainstream movies fail at them, let alone freaking Asylum movies, for a movie like Android Cop to get so much so right is nothing short of gob smacking.

And even though I included the caveat before that it naturally doesn't count as great science fiction as compared to some of the best examples of the genre, I don't want to leave the impression that it somehow fails on this score. The future world of Android Cop is fully realized and only gets more intriguing as the story goes on, throwing in little touches reminiscent of movies like Mad Max and Escape From New York, as well as a plot twist that's a clear reference to Surrogates that proves more interesting than that entire movie. Said twist is probably pretty obvious, so much so that pointing out there is one is probably a bit of a spoiler in itself, but even though I guessed it about half way through, it didn't make the movie less enjoyable. Especially in light of how Almost Human progressed after its pilot episode, forgetting that it was a sci-fi show and just trotting out boring cop show cliches, Android Cop almost feels like the show that should have been.

In fact, Android Cop is the movie I wish a lot of movies could have been. Thinking back on some of the big budget sci-fi action movies of the recent past, too many of them pale in comparison to this so-called chintzy knock-off. For all the build up and hype that surrounded Elysium before its release, the next great sci-fi story from the next big thing in sci-fi storytelling, all that money spent on a fancy but useless metal rig for Matt Damon to wear probably amounted to more than this film's entire budget, but in the end, there's no substitute for simply knowing how to do it right. Android Cop doesn't break the mold, but it fits it so well that if not for the obviously small scale production and C-List cast, you'd never guess based on the script that it wasn't released in theaters. Higher praise for an Asylum movie has never been spoken. Here's hoping they let me do it again.

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