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TC 2000

1993, Starring Billy Blanks, Bolo Yeung, Jalal Merhi, Bobbie Phillips. Directed by T.J. Scott (Film One Productions).

Guest Review by Allan Mott

I had a good laugh when I started watching TC 2000. That’s because for the first five minutes I assumed that the editor of this site had sent me a copy of a home video he and some friends had made in Grade 11 as part of some strange Ontario public school multimedia class. Then I realized it was a real movie and suddenly my laughter turned into terrible sadness at the awareness of what I was going to have to sit through for the next 90 minutes.

Plot-wise, TC 2000 is supposed to be a dystopian sci-fi flick largely “influenced” by Paul Verhoeven’s meisterwerk, Robocop, but in actual execution turns out to be one of those movies where guys take their shirts off and kick each other—a lot.

I admit that as a small boy I had a certain fondness for such films, largely because they were awesome and gave us young rapscallions the impetus to take our own shirts off and kick the ever living shit out of each other. But then I turned 10 and discovered boobs and the frequently attractive creatures traditionally attached to them. Since then the whole shirtless kicking thing lost most of its appeal.

That said, there are boobs in TC 2000. Unfortunately they’re attached to stars Bolo Yeung, Billy Blanks, and Matthias Hues, whose large, hard pectoral muscles get more screen time than they do. It’s gets to the point that you almost feel bad for producer/co-star Jalal Merhi (who is described on his IMDb page as the “Steven Segal of Beirut”, which sounds more like a curse than a compliment). Mehri does a lot of kicking, but always with his shirt on. It makes you wonder if the other three teased him like he was the last girl to need a training bra in Grade Nine gym class.

For all of the attention paid to the dudes in the movie, TC 2000 does feature one very attractive female in its cast, although it does its damnedest to keep her off screen whenever there’s a chance for some kicking to happen. Ironically, Bobbie Phillips actually has the title role in the film, playing the Robocop-esque character of Zoey Kinsella (who, because this is Canuxploitation, I’m going to assume is named after the famous Albertan author of Shoeless Joe and The Fencepost Chronicles).

True fans of B-Movies from this period will likely go weak in the knees at the mention of Phillips—who truly was one of the most extraordinary looking performers of the period. Sadly, her career never lived up to its promise, largely because she was one of those actresses who was simply too hot to ever convincingly portray any role beyond that of really hot model/showgirl (which she played on film in Showgirls and on TV in Pointman, The Watcher, Murder One and The Cover Girl Murders) and inhuman cyborgs/supernatural beings (TC 2000, the three Chameleon films, and the TV version of The Crow). In fact, her most famous role—as the gorgeous bug expert, Dr. Bambi Berenbaum, in the popular X-Files episode “War of the Coprophages”—was actually written as a direct satire of Hollywood’s habit of casting impossibly beautiful women in roles more realistically appropriate for fat, virginal, middle-aged men.

If it seems like I’m focusing a lot of attention on Phillips, that’s because my only other alternative is to focus on her co-star, fitness guru Billy Blanks, whose entire acting oeuvre (save for his brief role in The Last Boy Scout) I had previously managed to avoid. This is going to shock a lot of people, who will regard it as a statement made purely to engender controversy, but Blanks is a terrible actor.

Now this isn’t unusual in these kinds of films where—obviously—it’s the kicking that matters the most, but Blanks is as an especially egregious wannabe action hero. This is immediately made apparent whenever the film requires his narration to tell us what’s going on. As a general rule, any time you hear a narrator who sounds like they’re reading the 100-word essay they wrote for their adult literacy class, it hurts the credibility of the movie.

Morgan Freeman, he’s not.

For this reason, the filmmakers’ insistence that he actually spend parts of the film emoting like a real human being feel less like drama and more like a cruel practical joke. The scene where he has to cry while his partner, Zoey, dies in his arms feels like it could have been lifted whole from an episode of Punk’d or Bobcat Goldthwait’s Windy City Heat.

As previously mentioned, the film is less concerned about plot than long stretches of dude-on-dude fighting action, which explains why it manages to be both incredibly simplistic and nearly impossible to follow at the same time. As far as I can tell, Blanks and Phillips are “Tracker Communicators” from the futuristic, wealthy, Underworld, who patrol the poor post-apocalyptic Surface world in order to keep hungry poor people from messing with the rich folks stuff.

Their partnership ends when a Surface world crime boss named Niki Picasso (Merhi) breaks into the Underworld to steal some guns. Zoey is killed in action, but promptly resurrected as the cyborgnetic TC 2000 X (which I’m assuming is a “C”, a “X” and 1000 points enough difference to keep James Cameron from suing), by her and Blanks’ boss, who wants to use her to help him kill all the Surface-worlders.

Blanks becomes a problem, so the boss has him dumped out into the Surface world, where he befriends a martial artist named Master Sumai (Yeung), who spends a lot of time training Blanks in how to kick things without his shirt on. The Surface world is a strange place where Sumai regularly engages in fights to the death just to win a plastic bag full of clean water, but still has plenty of cheap watermelons for him to use in his martial art demonstrations.

The Underworld isn’t that much more normal. There the technology exists to return life to the dead and turn them into relentless killing machines, but photographers still use film cameras with old-fashioned flashbulbs. As for the computers they use…well, let’s just say this is apparently set on an alternative Earth where Steve Jobs was never born.

The boss releases his super hot blond cyborg out into the Surface world to find Picasso as part of his scheme to—I’m sorry I can’t do this anymore. All that matters is that for the rest of the movie dudes take their shirts off and kick everything in sight. A sequel is promised. It thankfully never comes.

Anyone who has spent a lazy Saturday afternoon watching an atrociously produced Canadian made syndicated TV show knows what TC 2000 looks like. Outdoor scenes are shot in indoor sets. Costumes are highly dependent on plastic, metal studs, pleather, and spandex. The dialogue frequently sounds like it was recorded for a different movie. Supposedly gaping bullet wounds are barely visible to the eye. Most of the kicking is actually pretty poorly executed. Et cetera.

That said, experience tells me that there are a lot of folks out there who are into the whole shirtless dude kicking thing, so I’ll leave it to them to decide where this Toronto-made film ranks in their personal pantheon. Personally I really wish the editor had just sent me one of his home movie instead.

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