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Canuxploitation!

Laserhawk

1997, Starring Jason James Richter, Mark Hamill, Gordon Currie, Melissa Galianos. Directed by Jean Pellerin.





What sets Laserhawk apart from many Canadian films is that it actually has a budget, featuring detailed sets, aliens, space battles mostly rendered in CGI effects, and Luke Skywalker. That's right--depite only a small amount of screen time, an old and grizzled looking Mark Hamill makes an appearance in this otherwise unremarkable Canadian sci-fi film.

The movie begins with a long rambling prologue about aliens and the past that is best ignored, so that's exactly what I'll do, and leap to the present of the story: A long time ago, in a province far, far, away (Quebec), lived typical nerdy sci-fi film teen Zack Raymond who spends his days fabricating UFO hoax videos. With the help of a model ship and a blue screen in his basement, Zack's latest video is a news sensation. He uses his new found fame to impress the ladies, but they aren't too interested especially when the military arrives at his house to prove him a fraud. An imposing Col. Teagarden makes him promise he won't make any more tapes, after asking several questions about where he got the design for the ship.

Zack's got parent troubles as well. Ever since they found out he's a prankster, they made him get a job at a local diner. While working there one night he meets Kara, a typical mysterious sci-fi film girl who complements his prank. She tells him that she knew it was a prank when she saw Zack's ship, since it is the same design as one featured in "The Dark Ones," a popular comic book. Zack is flabbergasted, since he has never seen the comic before. That night after he leaves the diner, Zack has a real close encounter when he sees a UFO fly over his head. The ship, it turns out, is after a school bus full of high school kids, which it sucks up in a tractor beam. Not surprisingly, when the boy who cried UFO returns home, no one will believe him.

Meanwhile, the rest of the town is up in arms over the missing bus. When it is finally found (emptied), Zack and Kara decide to investigate. They discover a video camera under a seat, and watching the tape, it becomes obvious to them that the UFO is part of the mystery. As they continue to speculate on what happened, the sheriff nabs them, believing Zack was planting another hoax. He escorts the two teens back to town, only when they get there, everybody's missing. Well, everybody except this big huge UFO that sucks up the cop car just seconds after Zack and Kara wiggle out.

So what would you do if your entire town went missing Loot? Call CSIS? Take a long interrupted nap? Not our intrepid pair. They both reveal they had dreams of the ship as children, and they both own pieces of a strange medallion that fit together. Thinking that the answer has something to do with the comic book, Zack and Kara arrive on the doorstep of the writer and artist of the book, MK Ultra.

At Ultra's house, MK tells them that he got the plot for his comic book from Bob, a crazy guy at the mental institution he used to work at. Bob (Hamill) believed he was an alien who crashed his ship on earth, and told MK everything he could remember. MK also gives them the final piece of the medallion. So, enter Mark Hamill. They all decide to bust crazy Bob out of the institution to help him, because following the logic of the comic book, the earth is about to be invaded and harvested for food.

Bob leads them to a secret government installation where he believes that the military has been storing his ship. His ship, which can miraculously destroy all the bad aliens is apparently called Laserhawk, although no one actually refers to it as such. Bob believes he can fly it, and we all know he was adept at shooting swamp rats as a child, so they try to sneak their way in. Thanks to Bob's ineptness they are discovered, and in escaping the military police, Bob is killed. So, exit Mark Hamill. Zack, Kara and MK make it into the secret hangar and find Laserhawk. On seeing it, Zack and Kara suddenly remember that they were the other crew members of the ship before it crashed. After some hassles with our old friend Col Teagarden, Zack, Kara and MK are OK'ed to save the universe by destroying the invasion force with their secret UFO, which is now controlled by the completed medallion.

The post-tax shelter wave of Canadian sci-fi goes from the wretched (Quarantine), to the laughable (Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe and Starlight) to the acceptable (Sci-Fighters). Laserhawk ranks probably just below Sci-Fighters. After you get past the nonsense of the backstory, which they easily could have dispensed with, the plot proceeds interestingly enough, but starts to meander at the end when setback after setback keeps befalling our heroes. Still, this is a tolerable effort in which a typically Canadian reluctant hero follows in the footsteps of Jesse Ventura, becoming an uncharismatic Guardian of the Universe.


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