Manga Live
Robot Jox
.
Dir: Stuart Gordon
Star: Gary Graham, Paul Koslo, Anne-Marie Johnson, Michael Alldredge
Cert / Year: 15 - PG / 1990
Format: DVD R0
'

After the devastation caused by the third World War. All War is outlawed, there are no armies or wepaons of mass destruction. In its place, are gigantic battle robots each pilotted by the best pilot each country has to offer, called 'Robot Jox'. Disagreement or dispute over territory between countries are settled by the duelling of these great machines. The champion of the 'West' is Achilles (Gary Graham) a 'tough' and tactical pilot who has won all of his fights, despite their being a spy in the ranks of his fellow 'Jox' who is supplying the bad guys with technical information on their robots. Achilles' must face the best of the Jox from the 'East', the 'fearsome' and brutal Alexander (Paul Koslo) as their bitter personal duel spills over as they fight for the state of Alaska....

Brilliant miniature and model work, with some very high standard pieces on display. There are also some very good special effects, although some of them have dated badly in places they tend to hold up quite well. Admittedly with the standard of today's special effects advances, a lot more could be achieved with this film but for 1990 this was excellent. In fact this is much better than it should be, as a straight to video offering you would expect the effects to be bad and the rest of the film good but here things are the other way around. The script steers along a very cheesy path occasionally venturing into dire territory here and there. Like him or loathe him, Charles Band has had a hand in making some pretty good movies, including Arena and Trancers.

Ok, the story is along the lines of Gundam and some of the other Manga 'giant robo' adventures, but it works rather well here and with its handicap of essentially being the Americans against the Russians (more late eighties, early nineties paranoia) it is surprising it does work so well. The majority of the dialogue is pretty darn cheesy and risible. The idea of war being outlawed and each country having to settle all disputes by having their 'champions' clambouring aboard a state built giant robot to duel is a good concept, even if it is logistically impossible.

Most of the acting ability of the ensemble cast bears a startling resemblence to a forest due to its very wooden content, but some of them are more wooden than the rest. Gary Graham, runs around in a most un-manly fashion and doesn't carry himself like a trained soldier and champion of a country at all, whereas Paul Koslo struts around like a puffy chested automaton and ticks every check box for cliché Russian bad guy character, which is pretty bad. Graham also manages to hit every check box for sleazy chauvinist, which is bound to grate in a politically correct cinematic arena of today. Athena Anne-Marie Johnson is really bad, in fact she chews up the screen and the scenery with her dismal performance. Not even a brief flash of nudity or the sight of her in tight white spandex can do anything to improve her screen time.

Ideally, what we should have had were longer and more involved robot battles, because there was plenty that they could have done with them and what we get really whets your appetite. The performances aren't particularly convincing and the characters are rife with stereotyping not to mention a cliché story. Some of the dialogue, if not a large portion of it is pretty cheesy and the constant 'crash & burn' salute they give each other is just awful and ceases to be mildly amusing after the first few times they use it and rapidly becomes annoying. Overrall the direction by Stuart Gordon is quite good, but it is hard to make it past the cheese of the script or the corny characters. Not as good as Re-Animator but has some good moments despite a disturbing groinal chainsaw moment, this is cool Sci-Fi.

Detestable characters, a thinly veiled and arrogant US versus the USSR plot stance, corny script and some chauvinistic attitudes and yet this proves a likeable, entertaining and a cool watch. Despite some minor criticisms this is a pretty good film, especially if you like your Manga and Anime. Robot Jox bears more than a passing resemblence to Gundam or Robotech so is hardly original, but it does have a certain charm or perhaps it is just that it is so bad, its good.

Taglines

The ultimate killing machine. Part Man. Part Metal.

Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD
Picture 16.9 Anamorphic Good transfer but has wear and is grainy in places
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Sounds good, lots of bass considering the limitations
Features Trailer
Cast & Crew Bios (In Japanese)
Production Notes (In Japanese)
60 Production photos
Verdict If the text wasn't all in Japanese (which I can't read) this would be a very good disc. As it is, the anamorphic presentation of the film is excellent and the sound is good too, considering this was a straight to video B movie. Shame this film isn't available in this format in the West.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home