If you have yet to take the deep into the Pyun-iverse, now is the perfect time thanks to recent Blu-ray releases and widespread availability on streaming services. Director Albert Pyun has made a treasure trove of low budget sci-fi and action movies, kicked off by the success of his The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) and continuing into the ‘90s with a plethora of cyborg knockoffs and Kickboxer sequels. He is also the director of the first Captain America movie from 1990. In the hands of a lesser director, these movies would easily be disposable trifles, but Pyun has the vision to create surprisingly slick, high concept weirdness that is enormously entertaining. Borrowing from RoboCop, Total Recall and Blade Runner, Nemesis (1992) is one such confection with inventive weaponry, wild locations, and a whole lot of sunglasses.
Led by Olivier Gruner, who seems to have been cast for his accent that evokes equal parts Van Damme and Schwarzennegger, Nemesis spans several years over a future dominated by “bio-enhanced gangsters, information terrorists and cyborg outlaws,” in which all humans are at least part robot. Gruner is Alex, an LAPD cop somewhere around 86.5% human when our story begins, fed up after being nearly blown to bits and reconstructed. Several hairstyles and pairs of eyewear later, he lands in Shang Loo, Java, which could be anywhere from Southeast Asia to South America, forced into an assignment by boss Farnsworth (Tim Thomerson, always a welcome presence), who may or may not be who he seems. This is one of those movies where the plot is secondary—just get on the ride. There you’ll be treated to incredible effects (such as when Alex’s eyeball is extracted from his head, and then replaced), energizing thrills (Alex shooting his way down multiple floors of the cheap hotel) and silly one-liners (“You break the law, you go to hell”).
Every scene lands you in another fun hellscape, places that perfectly set up action ripped from a John Woo movie, such as Alex sliding backwards down a sand heap while shooting two guns. The cast is also a hoot, including Blade Runner’s own Brion James and a consortium of women in cool outfits including a refreshingly tough Deborah Shelton (Body Double) and Merle Kennedy, who has that pixie cut, Lori Petty energy. It’s all loud, with much running-from-bursting-flames, and although it borrows heavily from so many other movies, including a Terminator-like stripped robot skeleton fight, you’ll have such a good time that it’s easy to forgive.
Nemesis is available on virtually every free bargain-bin streaming service and has a collector’s edition Blu-ray from MVD Rewind. Other Pyun titles I’d recommend are Cyborg (1989, starring Van Damme), Dollman (1991, more Tim Thomerson) and Dangerously Close (1986, about shitty racist schoolboys), all available streaming. Scavengers will want to seek out the hard-to-find Spitfire (1995), which stars gymnast Kristie Phillips as an assassin, making great use of her lithe athleticism for its action.