Action Movie Fanatix Review: Heatseeker

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Meet the Ultimate Warrior In Cyber-Technology

Starring: Keith Cooke, Tina Cote, Norbert Weisser, Gary Daniels, Tim Thomerson, Thom Mathews

Director: Albert Pyun

1995  |  91 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Afraid?  He’d rip his implants out and shove them up his synthetic ass.” – Jo

Heatseeker is another tournament fighter, one of my personal favorite genres.  This time Gary Daniels is a cyborg baddie with the relative unknown, Keith Cooke, taking the lead role.  Plus Albert Pyun is behind the camera… that’s something.

Kickboxing champ Chance O’Brien (Keith Cooke) is forced to join a tournament in New Manila featuring cyborg fighters after the fight promoter kidnaps his fiancée.

Now, I want to make sure my above comments are not misconstrued.  I do not mean to bad mouth Albert Pyun in any way.  I actually very much enjoy watching his movies.  But, with Pyun, you just never know what you are going to get.  He could pull something really special out of his low budget hat or he could drop an obviously low budget, poorly developed stinker out of the leg of his trousers.  I wouldn’t necessarily call Heatseeker “something special” but it more or less works from all angles.

The movie opens with some obnoxiously long credits that are easily forgiven once the sweet Heatseeker logo hits the screen.  This is followed immediately by the first fight of the movie.

The opening fight between ole Chance O’Brien and Xao had me more than a little worried.  The only real reason anyone, myself included, would watch this movie would be to see some sweet fights.  This curtain jerker of a fight scene was filmed in so close that the kicks and punches can barely be seen.  Luckily, this is only the case for the first fight.

Keith Cooke is a likable actor and seems to be quite skilled with his hands and feet.  It’s really too bad he hasn’t done more.  I would actually go out of my way to seek out some more of his movies based on this performance.

Gary Daniels is Chance O’Brien’s greatest rival, Xao.  Chance beats Xao in this opening fight which sends Xao to the cybernetic cosmetic surgeon.  We are now one year removed from their last meeting  they will now meet in the final round of the tournament.

But, I’m jumping ahead of myself a little there.  O’Brien’s love interest / manager, Jo, is competently played by Pyun mainstay Tina Cote.  Nothing against Cote but her scenes are where the movie really bogs down.  There are some ultra cheesy “romantic” bits plus some weird maybe fake / maybe real relationship that blossoms between her and Xao.  It’s unclear if she is just playing along with the bad guys’ wishes or if she has developed a case of Stockholm syndrome.

The movie also digs into the different corporations who have sponsored cyber fighters in the tournament.  The announcer talks about how each corporation’s stock rise and fall depending on how their fighters are doing in the tournament.  It adds a touch of futuristic realism that could only come with a movie like this and helps to differentiate Heatseeker from the many other tournament fighting movies that have come and gone.

A big problem with the futuristic setting is the very low tech looking sets.  The cityscapes and vehicles all looks very 90s and the jumbotron-like big screen in the fight arena looks horrible.  WWE had a better big screen twenty years ago.

The fights are all pretty entertaining, in and outside of the ring.  Aside from that first fight they are filmed pretty well.  Best of all they have some really great cyborg smashing effects when the cyborgs are dispatched.

Heatseeker actually manages to differentiate itself, ever so slightly, from the multitude of other tournament fighters out there while still providing some entertaining scraps.  Gary Daniels and Albert Pyun fans will definitely want to check it out.  It’s a good outing for both of them and is a great introduction to Keith Cooke who unfortunately doesn’t have a huge action movie filmography.

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