The Vindicator (1986) — When Canada does Frankenstein

“I don’t know who I am. I’m a machine. I… I can’t feel, I can’t touch. I’m not human!”

Justin’s rating: It’s aLiVEeeEE!

Justin’s review: A year before RoboCop won over audiences with its iconic cyborg design, the Canadians had their own techno-terror on the screen. Murdered and then brought back to life as an angry, bewildered fusion of man and machine, The Vindicator sought justice and brought murder wherever he went. Oh, and his name is Carl, because that’s the most Canadian name for an unstoppable cyborg that could be thought up on the spot.

Yeah, if you’re not getting RoboCop vibes from this, I’d be surprised. But you’ll also be mindful of Frankenstein, seeing as how the film bludgeons its audience over the head with this homage — going so far as having characters call each other “Igor” and the like. It’s honestly not a bad way to take that old scifi-horror story and update it for a high-tech age.

The Vindicator’s Carl (David McIlwraith) is a scientist who works for EvilCo (not its actual name) and threatens to blow the whistle on some shady goings-on in the company. The head boss Whyte (Richard Cox) asks for a two-day extension on said whistle-blowing, you know, just to give them enough time to blow up Carl, stage his funeral, and then use his remains as a prototype for some sort of Mars cybernetic suit EvilCo is building. Carl, being the polite Canuck that he is, gladly obliges.

I mean, if it was me, I wouldn’t put the guy I recently killed into a super-powered robotic suit and then slap an unstoppable rage chip in his head, but that’s just me. I probably don’t see the big picture here. In any case, the end result is one very ticked-off Carl stomping his way through the company’s goons while trying to connect with his sort-of widowed wife. Again, it’s RoboCop, but with less social satire and more Canadian actors looking apologetic every time they have to utter a swear word on screen.

Threats mount against him once a bounty hunter named, er, Hunter (Pam Grier) is hired and Carl’s best friend turns out to be a raping, betraying piece of scum. In fact, The Vindicator seems more preoccupied with following the various company people as they plumb the depths of moral depravity than actually following Carl’s adventures. And boy are these a bunch of weenies not worth your time or mine.

So that’s what kind of makes The Vindicator a shaky recommendation. On one hand, the outfit done by Stan Winston Studios is pretty great, and the overall plot of a modern-day Frankenstein weirdly works with the “unstoppable cybernetic” angle. On the other hand, it’s not exactly a joyride to spend an hour or so with a corporation desperately trying to check every box on the tropish evils list. At least we get a cyborg throw-down at the end and an appreciation for how far these filmmakers could stretch a small budget.

Didja notice?

  • Dot matrix sounds and sciency synth — these are amazing opening credits
  • Congrats, you have a remote-controlled monkey’
  • “Let’s try for twins?” Don’t think that’s intentional, lady.
  • Always give your evil boss a heads-up that you’re going to tattle on him
  • Nothing like the wife chewing out her dead husband for being inconsiderate
  • Everything else in his body is fried, but thank GOODNESS he wore goggles!
  • Yeah, might as well give the guy you betrayed the super-rage chip
  • About time we had some monkeys attack some mad scientists
  • A guy in a space suit SHOULDN’T be too hard to find, no
  • Way to show that window dressing who’s boss
  • Acid guns. That sounds practical.
  • Was that truck carrying a nuke the way it went up in flames?
  • Being crushed to death in a car is too good for you, jerk
  • Well that was an anticlimactic showdown with the bounty hunter

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