11 October 2007 | Bunuel1976
TRANCERS (Charles Band, 1985) ***
This sci-fi entry comes across as a charmingly trashy amalgam of BLADE RUNNER (1982) and THE TERMINATOR (1984) not as good as either, sure, but arguably more entertaining. It involves an unshaven, raincoat-clad police detective from the 23rd century (the film, in fact, was re-issued as FUTURE COP) chasing the leader of a group of Trancers (gullible "squibs" who turn vicious and expire fluorescently in a pile of ashes) back to the present day, where the latter intends to exterminate the ancestors of the three council members who brought about his downfall.
Except for a young Helen Hunt, I was unfamiliar with the main cast though craggy-faced lead Tim Thomerson evokes the perfect blend of machismo, world-weariness and bewilderment the role requires. The film is also refreshingly tongue-in-cheek with the funniest bits being the hard-boiled hero lighting a match against his own teeth and when, on entering a discotheque frequented by punk rockers, he deadpans "It looks like a room full of Trancers to me". As a matter of fact, the sharply-written script has a fair amount of amusing one-liners: when Thomerson complains about the implausibility of a name like Peter Gunn upon catching an episode of the vintage series on TV, Hunt quips, "What kind of a name is Jack Deth?" (i.e. the character played by Thomerson himself).
While the special effects afforded by the modest budget could best be described as quaint, the action sequences are adequate enough including a couple in which the hero manages to halt time (via a James Bond-like gadget wrist-watch) in order to flee the presence of Trancers who have him cornered and, then, to save the heroine from certain death. Though perhaps too low-key for its own good and somewhat under-developed at 76 minutes, the film seems to be deserving of a cult reputation (for what it's worth, it was followed by two sequels also featuring Thomerson) but, alas, hasn't been served at all well by the DVD format so far (this viewing came by way of the no-frills fullscreen R2 edition from a budget label). I, for one, wouldn't be averse to a more exhaustively packaged and properly framed re-issue...