Retro Review: Heatseeker (1995)

Retro Review:  Heatseeker

As we swelter through a country-wide heat wave, I decided to cool off in front of the AC and fire up some “hot” movies with heat or fire in the title.

Huh, I guess he was...
Huh, I guess he was!

We’ve got some classics lined up for the retro review this month:  Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Some Like it Hot, and more…but first we’re going to take a look at another sweat-inducing title:  Heatseaker.  This film is a pretty bog-standard martial arts movie starring Keith Cooke (Mortal Kombat.)  There is a Sci Fi twist that all of the combatants are cyborgs but it doesn’t matter.  Thank you 1995, you’re a peach.  Was Jean Claude already booked the month you made this?

Is this movie any good?  Long and short answer: no.  There are some engaging fights, but most are one-sided and predictable.  The Sci Fi element never matters much, so it doesn’t bother to make sense.  The side plot of the hero’s girlfriend/manager being kidnapped is even less coherent than the cyborg kickboxers, and exists solely to allow the movie to show some breasts.  I guess it’s not all bad.*
*Editor’s Note:  It is all bad.  The nudity scene is very rapey, which is worth negative one million boner points.

The only reason this film starts off our ode to thermal energy is that it was free.  All those other, good movies I mentioned?  That shit costs money, so Heatseeker it is!

Heatseeker  (1995)

Retro Review: Heatseeker
They have a very professional relationship.

Chance O’Brien (Keith Cooke) is the world martial arts champion.  I thought that title only existed so Mr. Satan had a role in Dragon Ball Z, but oh well.  His preeminence is astounding as in the far distant future of 2019, all fighters are fitted with cybernetic enhancements, but Chance is 100% pure corn-fed US beef.  After winning a tough challenge from Xao, (Gary Daniels, who is WAYYYY too white to be named Xao) he proposes to his manager/girlfriend Jo and seems set to kick back and enjoy his life.

Evil biotech corporation Sianon refits Xao with extensive tech and creates a no-rules tournament to prove their gear is the best.  To get Chance to compete, they steal Jo (Tina Cote, and don’t google her with safe search off.  Seriously.  I assume she’s not exactly a “respectable” actress, because three seconds after looking her up, I now know what her perineum looks like.  Thanks, Google.)  Chance heads into the tournament/obvious trap in order to free her and get his revenge.

Why Cyborgs?

I can understand on a basic level why this film chose to have cyborg kickboxers.  In the early 90’s, kickboxing movies were a dime a dozen, and you needed to stand out.  Universal Soldier, Terminator, Robocop and the like made cyborgs sexy and a main fixture of the action movie genre at the time.  My beef with this film using bots is threefold:

  1.  The effect on the film is minimal.  The box art is lying to us, we never get to see that much chrome on a fighter.  At most we see flashes of metal and pathetic servo noises when somebody gets wounded.  The corporations are so amorphous and inconsequential, they could have been using any tech.  This could have been a film about 6 vitamin water companies creating a tournament to see whose electrolytes made dudes buffer, and it wouldn’t have changed the plot one bit.
  2. Retro Review: Heatseeker
    Oh no, you damaged my hand…and made it twice as effective as a murder weapon. Good job.

    It doesn’t increase the spectacle of the fights.  Once again, we never see enough robot junk to make this anything other than a jumped-up martial arts tournament flick.  There’s no pizzazz.  The robotics don’t do anything cool like give fighters blade knuckles, razor elbows, or flamethrower nipples.  That’s crappy robot design right there.

  3.   It’s stupid.  Due to a tiny budget, the fighters only have metal where it is easy to show.  One guy has a metal nose.  Why?  What the fuck advantage does a metal schnoz give him in a street fight?  He has super smell?  The fighters can only have a small % of their body replaced, and dumbass here decided a metal nose was the right choice for him.  Idiocy.To add to the conundrum, putting flesh over a metal skeleton, which many of these dudes clearly have, is counterproductive.  Especially considering how jacked these guys are.  All those muscles are actually padding taking away from the effectiveness of the metal bones.  People don’t wrap lead pipes in steak before mugging somebody!  At least sane people don’t…

Our Hero is a Dummy

Chance is pretty good…at getting himself knocked the fuck out.  When he’s attacked by Sianon, he gets bitch slapped by a taser.  OK, fool me once.  He then breaks into Sianon…and promptly gets tazed again.  By the same guy.  Uh, dude, you KNEW he had the fucking taser!  It’s his only weapon.  Come on man.

Well, fan service is fan service, any way you dice it.
Well, fan service is fan service, any way you dice it.

As soon as he gets to the super secret island base of the bad guys, he runs out of the hotel without a map, gets jumped in an alley, and then has three kids steal his dumb ass down to his bare ass.  At least now I know why the image page for this movie had so many hits for swole, greased up dudes…snuggling.  Graphically.  Graphic beefy dude snuggling.  I actually think that search would have turned up less erotic imagery.

This guy is a walking disaster for himself.  He gets knocked unconscious countless times, gets both of his new friends murdered, fails consistently to save his girlfriend, and couldn’t spot a trap if it was painted danger-orange and clearly labeled as a trap.  At least he looks like a badass brooding through his incompetent struggles.

Vicious One Sided Drubbing

Nobody expects much from a martial arts flick, especially if it has no big names, no budget, and freaking robots.  At least you can deliver on the fights, right?

There's more compelling fight scenes on a Greek urn.
There’s more compelling fight scenes on a Greek urn.

Keith Cooke and Gary Daniels are obviously good at punching and kicking.  They’ve made much more entertaining stuff than Heatseeker.  There are a couple of good fights…just never against each other.  In fact, the best fights don’t involve either one.  There are some really competent stunt people getting peanut wages here to put on a good show, only to get offed by our two named fighters.  Whenever those chuckleheads step into the ring, all you get is ten seconds of them kicking ass unopposed.

The fights that are supposed to be the biggest and most menacing are the weakest.  The first fight is so poorly shot you can’t see what the hell is going on.  I thought it meant neither of these guys could actually fight, so I was in for an hour of spastic cuts trying to hide that fact.  But they can!  These dudes can bring it…only the film makes you watch them disassemble much more interesting fighters in order to show how alpha they are.  It’s a complete waste.  When they square off for the last time, its not even a contest.  The hero wins without even breaking a sweat.

And…We’re Done.

Denouement is for sissies!
Denouement is for sissies!

The film ends in one of the most ludicrous clusterfucks of all time.  The final match is not entertaining as a fight, but so much is happening with regards to the hostage situation, it at least should have felt cathartic.  The film actually tries to humanize Xao so the final confrontation feels like a match between equals.  Both men actually care for Jo and think she will die if they lose.  It should be high tension.  Unfortunately, Chance beats Xao like a drum, despite thinking Jo will die if he wins.  He gets to be the winner, and Xao actually takes the bullet meant for Jo before dying.  Having won, got some face time with Jo, and seen everyone get killed, Chance just walks away.  Roll Credits.  Huh?

This film must have run out of money, time, or fucks to give.  It defangs its villain, nullifies its tension, and throws away a meaningful struggle just to get a cornball ending that is meaningless.  Then it ends.  A complete cop-out.  Don’t waste your time on this film.  Hell, go watch both Mortal Kombat movies instead.  At least Keith Cooke looks cool in those and doesn’t get knocked out all of the time.





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