MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Nemesis' a Provocative, Sleek Thriller


"Nemesis" (citywide) is that rarest of rarities: a hard-action thriller that actually has some ideas, even provocative ones, to balance out the ultra-violence expected of exploitation pictures.

A shoot-'em-up set in 2027, it stars well-muscled Olivier Gruner as an L.A. cop whose mission is no less than to save humanity from annihilation by cyborgs intent on replicating the entire human race, starting with the world's leaders. "Humans treat us like things," complains a cyborg exterminator. "Humans don't appreciate this Earth." He has a point, one of the film's many.

Convoluted to the utmost in plotting, laden with computer nomenclature, driven by nonstop action and all but shorn of exposition, "Nemesis" initially is as hard to follow as a Japanese period picture loaded with palace intrigue. Once it's clear that at heart it has a good guy versus an-ever-multiplying-array-of-bad-guys plot, it's best not to try to follow "Nemesis" zealously but to let it wash over you.

By 2027, technology has so advanced that it's no longer possible to tell humans from their replicates, which allows writer Rebecca Charles and director Albert Pyun to create a sense of paranoia all too familiar to us. Special effects are first-rate, and the film's underlying mood of melancholy is expressed perfectly by Michel Rubini's keening, almost wailing score. "Nemesis" (rated R for strong futuristic violence) represents a giant step up for Frenchman Gruner, former world kickboxing champion, who made a good impression in his first film, the 1990 "Angel Town," even though it was a decidedly minor effort.

Tim Thomerson, always a forceful presence, co-stars as an LAPD police commissioner turned cyborg; Deborah Shelton, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and especially Merle Kennedy--no bigger than a sprite but possessed of a manic intensity--offer some vivid, punchy moments. As for the film's violence, when you think about it, it is more often a matter of exposed armature and tangled wiring than spilled blood and guts.


Olivier Gruner: Alex Rain

Tim Thomerson: Farnsworth

Deborah Shelton: Julian

Marjorie Monaghan: Jared

Merle Kennedy: Max Impact

Cary-Hiroyuki: Tagawa Angie Liv

An Imperial Entertainment presentation. Director Albert Pyun. Producers Ash R. Shah, Eric Karson, Tom Karnowski. Executive producers Sundip R. Shah, Anders P. Jensen, Sunil R. Shah. Screenplay by Rebecca Charles. Cinematographer George Mooradian. Editors David Kern, Mark Conte. Costumes Lizz Wolf. Music Michel Rubini. Production design Golleen Saro. Art director Phil Zarling. Sound Paul Jyrala. Special effects supervisor Terry Frazee. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

MPAA-rated R (strong futuristic violence).

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