Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Adrenalin: Fear the Rush


Directed by: Albert Pyun
Screenplay: Albert Pyun
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Natasha Henstridge, Norbert Weisser and Elizabeth Barondes.

Ah, the prolific Albert Pyun. Love him or hate him, there doesn’t seem to be any stopping him. I have never known a director (one working in the lower budget realms of cinema anyway) to be so universally hated and loved in equal measure. Some believe him to be the worst director alive, his films being nothing more than incoherent, badly edited (which is quite true), piles of tosh. While others believe him to be a low budget cinematic genius, who can quite often create a dazzling action sequence on a minuscule budget. I’m afraid to say I agree with the latter, as I am a big fan of Albert Pyun’s films. That’s not to say he hasn’t made some shit; Heatseeker, Omega Doom, and all those gangster flicks are some examples. But despite these misfires, Pyun has also given us such action classics as Cyborg, Knights (the best medieval, cyborg, kung-fu movie ever), The Sword and the Sorcerer, Mean Guns and the greatest of them all, Nemesis. Then we have Adrenalin: Fear the Rush, which was released in 1996 and falls somewhere in between: not as good as say Nemesis or Mean Guns but way more enjoyable than either Heatseeker or any of the odd Nemesis sequels. Though generally loathed, I am going to start off by saying that I really enjoyed Adrenalin.

The year is 2007 and a toxic chemical leak in Eastern Europe has created a deadly new virus. This virus has spread to America where the government has created special quarantine camps (entombed behind giant walls) to house all the infected immigrants. Rookie cop, Delon (Henstridge) is charged with going into said camps to find out what happened to a squad of cops that have disappeared only to discover a violent, virus infected killer on the loose. Her partner is swiftly killed and surviving a close call with the killer herself, she joins forces with officer Lemieux (Lambert) and fellow cops Cuzo (Weisser) and Wocek (Barondes) to hunt the maniac down and stop him from spreading the virus. That’s basically it plot wise. Adrenalin is a simple chase movie: cops chase killer, killer chases cops, many people die…horribly. Two other cops played by Pyun regulars Andrew Divoff and Nicholas Guest pop up now and again to let the police chief know how dangerous the killer is (or something), convincing him to send in another team to help catch the slaughterer, who all end up as more fresh meat for the killer to slay.

On a simple level, Adrenalin works quite well for a low budget flick. The action moves rapidly from an abandoned building, to the streets and finally to the (very dirty) sewers, giving the film momentum. George Mooradian’s energetic camerawork twirls around, chases after and zooms in on the characters and action, heightening the intensity of the situation. The bullets’-view gunshots and opening tracking shot are quite impressive too. (Mooradian has shot most of Pyun’s work, including Nemesis, and also shot the great, great Retroactive). The action and killing is of a very down and dirty nature. The killings are often violent and bloody, with the killer using a blade that would give Crocodile Dundee a serious case of knife envy. Our heroes are often caked in mud and grime as they crawl through some of the filthiest tunnels and sewers ever seen on screen. And when it cuts to the next scene, they are not miraculously clean either. The actors are dirty for the entire movie, as one would expect for spending most of the running time in the sewers.

The acting isn’t too bad either for this type of direct to video nonsense. Lambert is his usual gruff and wisecracking self (is he ever anything else?). Henstridge (Species 1, 2 and 3) is good as the rookie cop fending for her life, looking adequately stressed and scared when the occasion warrants it. Weisser (Schindler’s List and another Pyun regular) is suitably harassed as the not so heroic Cuzo (though where does he disappear to for half the film?) and Barondes (The Forsaken) is equally good as the most likely to be seriously injured Wocek.

While Adrenalin is good and one of Pyun’s better films it still suffers from some obvious flaws (but what low budget or any budget movie for that matter doesn’t?) As with many Pyun films, some scenes are badly put together, meaning it’s difficult to tell what’s going on. In addition, a scene of a guard looking over the river at the high walled compounds (presumably an effects shot) and a close up of a numbered building are shown repeatedly, often so randomly that it becomes confusing as to why they are being shown again and again. Coherency isn’t one of Pyun’s strong points either but he manages to keep everything flowing adequately here, mainly due to the simplicity of the plot.

In fact, the plot is often so simple and non-existent that some scenes are left to build up for way too long. To stretch out the running time, the protagonists are left wandering the corridors, while music and cuts to close ups go on far too long before anything actually happens. If you can get past this (and the fact the film was so obviously not shot in America) then keeping things simple works in the film’s favour. We don’t always need back stories and subplots (though there is a small one concerning Henstridge's character smuggling an illegal passport for her son to escape with). Sometimes it is just enjoyable to have a straightforward chase movie. Which is exactly what Adrenalin is: a good chase movie.

Most people will (and do) hate this movie, but I thought it was great. A good addition to the likes of Nemesis and Mean Guns and if you are a lover of low budget, sci-fi, action flicks then this should be right up your street. Now if Pyun just hadn’t made those damn weird Nemesis sequels……

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