In 2027, Los Angeles is a wasteland populated by cyber-altered humans and Goddamn cyborgs. It’s a battle for supremacy where the only line of defence is the police force. Or at least that’s how it seems. As cyborg cop Alex (Arnie wannabe, Olivier Gruner) tracks down a cell of Goddamn terrorist cyborgs, he unwittingly becomes embroiled in a deeper plot that threatens to shake his loyalties and question what it is to be human.
Let’s cut to the chase: Director Albert Pyun’s original concept was a solid one, especially for 1992. But while Pyun was intent on paying homage to the epic sci-fi films of the era, the minimal budget served only to expose the film’s weaknesses. That said, what they accomplished with what little they had, was exemplary, it just wasn’t enough to stop this feeling like a B-movie actioner that wanted so much to be Blade Runner. Then Terminator. Then Robocop. Then Rambo... you get the idea.
The cast is equally hit and miss. Gruner is staggeringly miscast - while he looks the part, he is required to act here and it’s clearly not one of his strengths. Thank God then for Tim Thomerson who elevates the film every time he appears on screen, while genre legend Brion James plays accent roulette again, this time settling on German. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a young (and very naked) Thomas Jane.
All of that said, the main event kicks in once the film ends as this release by MVD has a staggering amount of content. The gorgeous retro VHS O-Ring reveals a two-disc edition that features a Blu-ray and DVD. The former has an incredible 1080p transfer of the original cut in both 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 ratios. It also features brand new interviews with Pyun and producer Eric Karson that shed some interesting light on the project and how Pyun effectively sold its soul to get it made (by agreeing to change the protagonist from a 13-year-old girl to an unintelligible French male kickboxer). The disc also features the 2012 Director’s Cut of the film, featuring new CG moments and no unintentionally hilarious voice over by Gruner (dubbed Nemesis 2.0) with director’s commentary. But here’s the rub - the quality of the transfer is so bad, it’s almost sub-VHS, and as such it’s a very difficult watch.
So what’s the DVD for? Well, that Goddamn awful transfer is back sans Commentary, accompanied by the extended Japanese Cut (which is better quality than 2.0 but still not hi-def) and a flurry of extras compiled for a previous Nemesis box set, including original Behind the Scenes featurettes, Introduction by Pyun and Gruner, Photo Galleries and Pyun’s Afterword.
If 90s sci-fi actioners are your thing (and, frankly, why wouldn’t they be?) and you can handle the constant repetition of the word ‘Goddamn’, then this is for you. It might not be a cult classic, but Nemesis still qualifies as a guilty pleasure.
NEMESIS / CERT: UNRATED (USA) / DIRECTOR: ALBERT PYUN / SCREENPLAY: REBECCA CHARLES / STARRING: OLIVIER GRUNER, TIM THOMERSON, CARY-HIROYUKI TAGAWA, BRION JAMES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW