Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chrome Angels (2009)

AKA Cyborg Conquest
Directed by Leigh Scott
Starring Stacey Dash, Jackey Hall, Frida Farrell, Eliza Swenson

"We're gonna need more guns. Bigger guns."

Stop me if you've heard this one before: an all-girl biker gang (led by Clueless's Stacey Dash) rob a bank and then decide to hole-up in a rowdy small-town dive-bar in the middle of Louisiana somewhere until the heat's off. Naturally, the locals are curious about these gun-toting denim demonesses, and a fracas breaks out. Long story short, it turns out everybody in the bar is a fuckin' robot. The girls shoot their way out, only to find themselves in another gunfight, this time with cops. Who also happen to be robots.

Such is the goofy world of Chrome Angels, AKA Cyborg Conquest, a sadly overlooked girl-powered schlockfest that plays out like a Syfy-certified mash-up of She Devils on Wheels and Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park.

The robots are the handiwork of a mad scientist/evil genius Elliot (Paul LeMat). Blacklisted by the US for having ties with Libyan terrorists in the 1970's, he's spent the past several decades perfecting his redneck doppelgangers, only to be undone right before his world-shaking reveal by Lady (Dash) and her, um, ladies. During the opening shoot out (which, by the way, eats up the entire first-third of the movie), the girls split into two camps. Lady, Tinkerbell (Dorm of the Dead star Jackey Hall), and a few others head to the next town to find a doctor to get help for one of girls was shot in the melee, while the rest of the gang end up getting caught by the cop-bots and shipped back to Elliot's secret headquarters.

When tough-as-nails Gretchen (Frida Farrell) comes to, still bloodied and disoriented from the mayhem at the bar, she's greeted by the wheelchair-bound Elliot and his cyborg helpers. He explains to her that his research was borne of misanthropy: he simply doesn't like people that much, so he made a small army of obedient robots instead, including sexy blonde ones, who service him in whatever capacity he requires. Fair enough.

Now, however, his plans have become even more grandiose: he wants to start transferring human brains into robot bodies. This way he can get out of the chair, live forever, all that jazz. Mad scientists are all the same, aren't they? Also, and I'm not sure what the point was on this, while she was passed out, Elliot made an exact robot replica of Gretchen. He shows it to her. She's pretty upset. Then he uses Gretchen's cell phone to call Lady. He informs her that he made robots of the whole goddamn gang.

This gives Stacey Dash another opportunity to look hard. That's what she does for most of the movie, grit her teeth and look hard. She's wicked good at it. See Gang of Roses for another legendary nostril-flaring performance from Miss Dash.

Also, there's lots of shots of her ass, too. So that's cool. Anyways, Elliot tells her that she's got to come to his headquarters and give him back his property (they accidentally ended up with half a robot during their escape from the bar), or he'll execute her friends and then send a bunch of death-droids to hunt her and the rest of the gang down.

Meanwhile, Lady decides they need a bunch of bazookas and rocket launchers to get their friends back, so she convinces Tinkerbell to visit her old boyfriend, Bobby Dupree (!) a military weapons enthusiast/dealer, to get some. He's not happy to see her, so they have to rough him up a little first. But they eventually get a bunch of guns. They also take Bobby along for the ride.

Back at the lab, the real Gretchen wakes up and manages to seize some kind of laser weapon from the robots. She uses it to force Elliot's bespectacled assistant Blaine (Brent Lydic) to spill the beans about this kooky operation. He tells her he's helped Elliot make 3500 droids, and all of them are currently living, undetected, in various small towns. And they've got atomic bombs in them! Elliot wants to use them to blackmail the government. If he doesn't get whatever he asks for, he'll just start blowing people up. Well, ok.

The girls have enough firepower to launch their offensive, but how will they manage to break into Elliot's bunker? Layla (Eliza Swenson, Candy Stripers) suggests they visit her ex-boyfriend Gator (Dean Arevelo), a garage mechanic who specializes in bulletproof vehicles. So that's pretty helpful, given the circumstances. The running gag with Gator is that he's supposed to be too short to be a bad-ass, but they hired an actor who's only marginally shorter than everybody else, so it doesn't really work. Where's Billy Barty when you really need him?

Back at the lab, the other girls check out their battery-powered doppelgangers, but have little time to ponder the existential dread such an event would engender because they've gotta bust outta this joint. Fake Gretchen takes off with the chicks (they don't know the difference) while real Gretchen splits with Blaine.

Then there's a gratuitous shoot-out at a grocery store, complete with a gratuitous tragic death scene, which, naturally, features some gratuitous heaving cleavage. Nice!

After that's over, Lady meets up with Gretchen (fake and real), and there's a shoot-out, and then all is revealed.

Of course, by this point, Elliot has unloosed his secret weapon. Every mad scientist has one. What else could it be? It's a giant robot.  Looks like that goofy droid from Buck Rogers, or the "Rabbot" from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Not scary.

So while that's going on, Layla fights a robot inside the grocery store, and when it appears that he's about to finish her off, she blows the place up with a grenade. And that, naturally, blows the atomic-bomb robot up, too, effectively destroying a big chunk of the city. If you think about it too hard, you'll realize that everybody else - including the giant robot - is in that area too, so pretty much everybody should be dead and/or exploded. So don't think about it too hard.

Anyway, the girls need something to fight the giant robot with, so they rush back to Elliot's lab to activate their own robot alter-egos. Seems valid.

They're all wearing flesh-colored bikinis, though. That doesn't seem quite as valid.

So while the girls all head over to the mall to shoot kid-droids and whatnots, and while Bobby Dupree and Gator fight the giant robot, Lady and Gretchen drop by Elliot's joint to kill him. But there's at least three Elliots wheelin' around the joint, and probably a bunch more in storage somewhere. So they've got their work cut out for them.

So, how's it all end? With booze. And introspection. And CGI motorcycles. And the threat of a sequel.

As far as I can tell, Chrome Angels was made specifically for the Syfy Network, so it's hobbled, like all of their made-for productions, by a glaring lack of nudity, graphic violence, and cuss-words.

While any or all of those elements would have been wonderful additions to this goofy girl-on-robot battle royale, Chrome Angels is still a frequently delightful bit of low-budget nonsense, filled to capacity with hot chicks shooting off fifty zillion rounds of ammo in between cringe-worthy bouts of melodramatic girl-bonding and nonsensical flashbacks (featuring, of all people, a cowboy-hat sportin' Richard Lynch, who offers a younger Lady unsolicited advice about the high cost of freedom).

I'm sure a good part of my enthusiasm for this film lies with the casting. Stacey Dash is full-on amazing in this. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous (crazy to think she's nearly 20 years older than most of her costars!), but she's emotes up a storm. I haven't seen this much growling and seething in a performance since Robbie Lee in Switchblade Sisters. It's also a thrill to see southern-fried scream queen Jackey Hall in something that wasn't shot on a camcorder (Chainsaw Cheerleaders, anyone?). Her shout-acting, adorably squishy features, and unapologetic twang are practically worth the price of admission all on their own.

And while there's too many biker-chicks to really keep track of, Angels does deliver on the eye-candy. There's very few moments where a push-up bra or a denim-clad ass doesn't make an appearance.

Director Leigh Scott - who cut his teeth at Roger Corman's Concorde Productions - is clearly a talented guy. The film, minus the dodgy CGI, looks great, moves fast, and keeps its tongue jammed firmly in cheek. With just a couple boob-flashes and possibly a lopped-off noggin or two, he'd have a campy, 80's-big-box-VHS-style cult classic on his hands here. Still, bloodless and boobless as it is, Chrome Angels is well worth checking out.

PS: Dunno why they decided to re-title it. Can the promise of cyborg mayhem really be a bigger draw than an all-girl biker gang? Crazy world.

- Ken McIntyre 

1 comment:

  1. Well, you've convinced me... I'm definitely going to check this out...


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