Neon City (1991 movie) review…

Neon City (1991 movie) review after the break…

Neon City (1991 movie) review…

In 2053, the world has been shattered by climate change, barely limping along with corrupt law enforcement, deadly gangs & new weather conditions that would make your local weather forecaster’s feces turn white.

In the movie “Neon City,” Michael Ironside (perhaps best known for his roles in the TV franchise “V” & his participation in Paul Verhoeven films) does what Michael Ironside does best – Play a cranky, grizzled, bitter & violent one-dimensional character who’s character arc has no where else to go in any given movie except to soften up just enough by the end of the film to be tolerable (unless he’s playing a villain). In this particular venture, he plays “Harry Stark,”¬† a former law enforcement officer now slumming it by being a bounty hunter. His latest capture is a “Red Star,” a criminal so nasty that he can’t collect on the bounty at any old place but at Neon City, the last civilized place in all of North America.

Unfortunately for Stark, his choices in his prior career has left him with virtually no friends, all of which catches up to Stark when he is forced to transport his bounty to Neon City. From the head of law enforcement at the city of Jehricho, to the head of law enforcement at Neon City, to his former partner (who now drives the only transport to Neon City) & even to his former WIFE (who is a passenger of the transport), Stark must swallow his pride to confront & work with all of these characters from his past all while trying to transport his prisoner to Neon City.

Nothing in this future is glamorous; The “transport” is an armored RV & everyone looks like they’re about five months overdue for a bath. Along for the ride is an innocent young woman from Switzerland (where, apparently, dealing with the new climate changed world involves being in underground bunkers), a doctor, a washed-up comedian & a mysteriously quiet older Asian male. Together, this motley crew must endure the harsh weather conditions of the future along with attacks from post-apocalyptic barbarians (called “Skins”) & also deal with an emerging deadly mystery about one of their fellow passengers. Along the way, Stark learns to lighten up & have a heart.

The film looks like one of those “straight-to-video” jobs back when “straight-to-video” wasn’t the slur that it’s become today. Production values are rather slight for their time but surprisingly robust enough in places to make you forget that the entire production was a bargain basement project. Jehricho looks appropriately worn-down but the few inside glimpses of Neon City that the viewer receives simply looks like Jehricho with more neon tube lighting & cleaner clothes. Astro Station, a midway point, looks like any anonymous warehouse in the middle of nowhere – It could have been filmed thirty years ago or yesterday. A “laser gun” towards the end of the film yields a laughably-looking weapon with equally laughable special effects (because, as everyone knows, all you need to create a potent laser weapon is to modify a standard 1980’s flashlight).

The acting of the movie is mostly adequate. Ironside has little else here except to act like he usually acts – Gruff, blunt jerk who eventually acquires a soft spot. Everyone else stands out for all of the wrong reasons – The comedian is far too obnoxious to ever be taken seriously, the Asian too reserved, the young Swiss girl too innocent (“What’s a Xander-cloud?” “What’s a Bright?”), the doctor too creepy (Can anyone honestly say that they weren’t surprised by his “surprise twist?”), the ex-partner too jocular & the ex-wife too reserved & pained by that former split.

While the story itself is serviceable enough for at least one viewing, there isn’t any reason for repeat trips. Neon City is treated as an afterthought, serving only to quickly wrap up a storyline or two. There’s no commentary or comparison to Jehricho & certainly not a lot of build up towards the revelations that are there. A fledgling romance between Stark & his bounty is only progressed by a rather tame love scene but no build up of friendship or otherwise internal conflict with Stark’s previous modus operandi. The “surprise twist” is revealed more by a certain character’s over-acting¬† & one way-too-obvious moment then any subtle hints or detective work by the passengers.

If all of this sounds too negative, that’s not the impression that you should be left with. There’s a lot of creativity that “Neon City” has left ‘on the table’ & I suspect that someone might have been planting the seeds for future installments on the slight off-chance that this film was even a modest enough hit for a sequel. I enjoyed the little details, such as the “red star” designation for certain criminals & the atmospheric changes (such as the “Xander-clouds” & “the Bright”). I really think that, if the film had deleted the “mysterious passenger” sub-plot (which, honestly, does not work on any level) & concentrated more on the survival of getting from Jehricho to Neon City, this film might’ve transcended the material into becoming a cult classic.

However, just as too much creativity was placed into the film with a lot of explanation, a lot of potential is also irreversibly lost in the film as well. Neon City, quite frankly, is a visual disappointment. Even accounting for the early 90’s fashions & the low budget, Neon City in all aspects of this film is simply under-utilized. The entire setting appears to be just a set-up to tie up some loose ends of the story, namely the “mystery passenger” sub-plot. What happens to Stark’s ex-partner? What about the RV? What about the Skins?

If you’re bored, if you’re a post-apocalyptic fan, if you just can’t get enough of any of the principal cast members, then perhaps this is a film you ought to look into. It won’t impress you &, even in spots, could disappoint but it definitely isn’t dismal. However, I’d be hard-pressed to understand why anyone would watch this movie more then once.


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