I think I’m in need of some sort of intervention or something, because I can’t seem to stop searching out and exposing myself to the dubious, second hand epics hurled out into the cinematic void by serial synopsis stealer extraordinaire, Bruno Mattei. To fellow worshipers of celluloid trash, his numerous examples of him thrusting his two middle fingers at trademark laws are an eyebrow lifting experience to be sure as his various “epics” have ruthlessly plundered such Hollywood classics as Rambo, Jaws, Aliens, Terminator, Dawn Of The Dead and Raiders Of The Lost Ark for a fraction of the price (and talent). However, for his 1988 “mockbuster” Robowar, Mattei turned his focus on pillaging John McTiernan’s seminal Arnie actioner Predator while adding a teensy hint of Paul Verhoven’s Robocop for some added flavour that produced a cinematic gumbo that’s so inept that watching it causes a cultural dry heave.
A group of commandos led by Major Murphy Black are headed into the jungle for various commando reasons and Black reluctantly follows orders from a superior officer (who weirdly seems to be wearing makeup to enhance his crow’s feet) to allow shifty company guy Mascher to tag along for shiftier reasons that, oddly, no one’s that bothered about. The team – laden with painfully adolescent nicknames such as Killzone, Blood, Papa Doc, Diddy Bop and Quang – make up a crack team called B.A.M. which, unironically, stands for Big Ass Motherfuckers and they immediately get to work shooting up a guerilla camp and successfully liberating a blonde, female volunteer hospital worker dubiously named Virgin (nope, not Virginia, definitely Virgin) from the carnage – it’s a pity all the child patients were killed, but this is war, dammit!
However, among the all the exploding huts (a Mattei speciality), pipe smoking commando’s and flailing Filipino stuntmen, the heroes realise that something inhuman is tracking them through the steaming jungle with the intent of making them as dead as possible and it unsurprisingly has links to the suspicious Mascher. This thing is an android killing machine dubbed the Omega-1 that is designed to be, and I quote, a “perfect, ultimate” weapon despite looking like a dude in plastic armour and a crash helmet.
Tracking it’s victims via incomprehensible POV shots that looks like someone’s rendered a bowl of musli in 8-Bit graphics, the Omega-1 starts wiping out the B.A.M. members one at a time and leaving its victims in drippy piles of fleshy skeletons, Murphy has to find a way to stop the unstoppable – but a final revelation reveals that he has a much deeper link to this thing than just hunter and prey.
So it’s business as usual here in casa del Mattei as Robowar delivers the usual clutch of cheap effects, awful dialogue, shocking performances and virtually no trace of any directing talent whatsoever which all somehow results in a movie that gets funnier the more fucked up you’ve decided to let yourself get. It’s certainly not a movie for the sober, that’s for damn sure as we watch the plot go through the motions and scene after endless scene of these supposedly top notch soldiers creep through the jungle with all the stealth tactics of a monster truck. The cast is led by the incomparable Reb Brown, the former 70’s Captain America who enters the movie in an unforgettable sky blue crop top and matching pants, looking less like he’s going to war and more like he’s attending Pride, who gives us a classic Reb Brown performance that measures right alongside his tough guy shtick previously seen in Mattei’s Strike Commando. In fact it’s downright bizarre that he’s in this and not in Strike Commando 2 which was made the same year because he’s essentially playing the same role that involves a whole lot of screaming while firing an automatic weapon.
The movie runs through the usual scenes lifted from Predator, but shot through a metaphorical filter that makes everything 75% suckier – for example, remember that awsome bit when Schwarzenegger impales a dude to a post with a knife as says: “Stick around!”? Fucking great, wasn’t it? Now imagine the same scene but with Reb Brown doing the same thing and then blurting out “Don’t move!” to hilariously awkward effect and that’s just the start. The credits play the same with a shot of a cast member along with his credit, but the movie can’t even fucking do that right as some ridiculously awful spelling in the end credits lists our lead character as “Marphy” for some reason.
Of course, Mattei obviously has far too short of an attention span to just rip off one movie and the big twist is that the Omega-1 is less a Predator and more of a thrift store Robocop who’s rare fleshy bits are actually the leftovers of Marphy’s – sorry, Murphy’s – presumed dead Vietnam buddy who’s been kitted out like a groupie for GWAR in order to be king-shit of the killer androids. However, it’s tough to believe that even these muscle-bound military morons could be taken out by the Omega-1, chiefly because you could hear it coming from a bloody mile off due to the constant, babbling, computer speak the bastard thing emits at all times that sounds like some inconsiderate asshole has lent on Stephen Hawkins’ keyboard.
Of course, there is a reason why I keep seeking out Mattei’s work on YouTube like a fucking masochist and that’s because a find the bewildering and blatant refusal of the filmmakers to do anything actually original darkly hilarious. What’s stranger yet, I would probably feel legitimately outraged if the movie was halfway competent, but the fact that Mattei’s movies suck when measured against any reasonable mark of quality not only makes such complaints technically null and void but is practically giving you the thumbs up to rip the shit out of it.
So is it some sort of misunderstood art then? Fuck no, Mattei is enough of an unsubtle hack to take the notorious scene where everyone in Predator fires their guns wildly in a clearing and redo it three times, but even though it has genuinely no reason to exist, it supplies enough painful, cinematic facepalms to keep lovers of unmitigated, car crashes like this thoroughly entertained for all the wrong reasons.
Robowar! Huh! Good gawd y’all! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin!
Except for a few laughs…