Today I watched Albert Pyun’s Heatseeker (1995)
You don’t have to look very hard to collect a mountain of schlocky fighting tournament movies. This particular picture focuses on a fighting tournament between cyborg warriors, pitting different corporations and their proprietary systems against each other. But to make the tournament really meaningful, the nefarious organizers desire the top level unaugmented fighter to compete and since he is obviously unwilling to compete they must stoop to kidnapping his wife for leverage.
If the protagonist was a more likable character, or even much of a character at all, this could be a fun little piece of kung fu cyber camp, but he is bland and without many defining features. When he does get around to emoting he comes off as a bit of a prick, so maybe it is thankful he does not emote very often. It would be nice if there were any other characters of note, but even the villain is just a cliche evil capitalist hosting an immoral fighting tournament, as you do.
There is plenty good action in this movie and it is very fast paced in terms of getting from one fight to the next. But there is no emotional engagement to these conflicts for the most part; because the main character is such a bore the only drama is derived from the villain doing terrible things to him and his wife. Frankly I think the way they build drama here is lazy, a shortcut to get around not having engaging characters, just make the villain into rape and mind control despite that not benefiting his scheme in any real way.
The idea of a fighting league of superhuman, genetically engineered and cybernetically upgraded ultra-fighters is a totally solid one, but a concept is not enough for a good film and in every other element this film botches the execution. One would think that such a tournament would be filled with over the top, colourful combatants but I actually had difficulty telling them apart. This film should have a heck of a lot more attitude than it does and that is my final thought on it, a wasted opportunity for something fun. 1/5