Awfully Good: Robot Jox

PACIFIC RIM is an epic blast, but I was getting a serious case of déjà vu while watching it…

Robot Jox (1990)

Director: Stuart Gordon
Stars: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo

Transformers meets Mighty Morphin Power Rangers meets the game of Risk.

You may know director Stuart Gordon for his work in the horror genre, from H.P. Lovecraft adaptations of RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND to the twisted man-in-windshield drama STUCK. But what you may not know is that somewhere in between there, Gordon made a giant fighting robot movie. And it was cheesy and amazing and awful and good.

Sadly for Achilles, his "robot" was not more than meets the eye.

Well, it’s a giant fighting robot movie in spirit, at least. There are really only two robot fights in ROBOT JOX, one in the first act and one at the end, and neither are that spectacular. Half of each battle involves the opponents just standing around shooting lasers and missiles at each other. (It's not as exciting as it might sound.) I’ll give Gordon credit for using stop-motion animation as opposed to men-in-suits, thus sparing ROBOT JOX from Power Rangers-style fights, but if you’re expecting an action-packed sci-fi flick you’ll be pretty disappointed. ROBOT JOX doesn’t even have GODZILLA-level destruction, let alone half the action glimpsed in just one of the five PACIFIC RIM trailers. Instead we’re treated to 80 minutes of poorly realized apocalyptic future, hilariously evil Russians and one hell of an awkward "love" story.

"I’m Powers Boothe…"

The future world order has been destroyed by nuclear annihilation. Now the remaining two factions of humanity (USA vs. Russia, natch) are fighting for land and global domination. However, instead of beating the crap out of each other in real war, they solve their differences in carefully refereed "games," where guys controlling big ass automatons duke it out for territory. Essentially they’re playing a real life game of Risk with giant Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots. That’s ROBOT JOX in a nutshell.

"…now I’m Billy Bob Thornton…"

Even if the action isn't memorable, the robot designs are at least fun, with the mechs boasting the standard laser cannons, flying fists and chainsaw penises. (More on that later!) However, the rest of the movie is a cheesy relic of the late 80s Cold War flicks with stereotypical characters and cliché plot points. Writer Joe Halderman, author of "The Forever War," claims he wrote a more serious sci-fi film, but director Gordon insisted on dumbing JOX down to a Saturday morning cartoon. The only real surprising beat in the movie is the priceless scene where our hero tries to save a crowd of onlookers from being injured by an incoming robot missile…and instead falls on the bleachers, ending 300 innocent lives.

"…now I’m go f*ck yourself!"

Star Gary Graham overacts like a champ as the sulky hero Achilles ("I'm gonna get in this thing, and I'm gonna KICK…YOUR…ASSSSSSS!") while looking like an intriguing mix between Billy Bob Thornton, Tate Donovan and a young Powers Boothe—depending on the camera angle and lighting. He’s also oddly illiterate, which has no bearing on the story, but is brought up nonetheless. Anne-Marie Johnson plays love interest Athena, a genetically engineered, disturbingly masculine fellow pilot. However, the true MVP of ROBOT JOX has to be Paul Koslo as Alexander the bloodthirsty Ruskie villain, the best of his kind since Ivan Drago. Alexander exists solely to laugh evilly and taunt our hero with hilarious one-liners about death and blood.

Wow, some people are seriously morans.

All that animosity between the American and the Russians comes to a head in the drawn-out final showdown, which runs the gamut of robots fighting on land, robots fighting in space (?!), a robot turning in to what can only be described as a mentally handicapped tank, and finally human hand-to-hand combat. And I can't be the only person that noticed the not-so-subtle robot anal rape scene, where Alexander flips over Achilles' bot so its metal ass is in the air, unleashes a phallic chainsaw out of his crotch, and then proceeds to hump/cut him in to submission. That really happened, right?

Audiences were not kind when John Goodman brought his own cowboy interpretation to the role of The Thing.

However, that still doesn’t hold a candle to my favorite part of the movie: the ending. I will now spoil the conclusion of ROBOT JOX, which I have no problem doing due to how stupid it is. In the final scene, after years of national hatred, attempted murder and trash talk, the American hero tells the Russian villain (out of nowhere) that they can both be friends and live. Then the two men awkwardly smile and the movie ends…with them fist bumping. No joke.

A sample of Russian villain Alexander's awesome one-liners.

An epic hero fail, robot anal rape and the world's dumbest ending.

You get an eyeful of the genetically engineered girl’s "champion" ass.

Crash and burn! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:
  • Someone says "Crash and burn" for good luck
  • The hero’s scars change position, size or texture
  • You can see strings on the special effects
  • Alexander says something awesome
  • Someone gets slapped on the ass
Double shot when:

Thanks to Richard and Stephen for suggesting this week's movie!

NOTE: Jason will be at Comic Con next week and looking for Awfully Good movies! If you're bringing a B-movie to the Con, send him an email or follow him on Twitter and give him a heads up.

Extra Tidbit: Trent Reznor must really love this movie. He sampled screams from the tragic crowd scene in the Nine Inch Nails' song "The Becoming" from The Downward Spiral.
Source: JoBlo.com



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