The framework of "Terminator" has been replicated ad nauseam. The bulk of these clones turn out to be technically inferior. But some, like "R.O.T.O.R.," more than make up for this shortcoming with a winning combination of cheap action and idiotic fun. Director, producer, and idea man Cullen Blaine stands up to James Cameron admirably with the kind of hopeless positivity about the challenge that one might find in a ten year old who proclaims that they will one day be president. "R.O.T.O.R." moves forward on slim rails of its shoestring budget and its shoestring plot. It’s core elements being wonderfully odd reinterpretations of several 80’s blockbusters. The result is a fun, wildly-spraying hose of leaking thoughts on "Robocop," "Dirty Harry," and "Beverly Hills Cop."
The story centers around Dr. Coldyron (pronounced, “cold-iron”), a police scientist charged with the task of building the perfect, automated police officer. Unfortunately all funding allocated for the ROBOTIC OFFICER TACTICAL OPERATION RESEARCH has been picked clean by a descending ladder of corrupt officials. They’ve left only crumbs of the pie for Dr. Coldyron to work with. A clever piece of writing when used to explain away the under-developed R.O.T.O.R. technology that's prematurely animated by sex-deprived janitor “Shoeboogie”; he does this by sticking his switchblade-comb into an electrical field, which should give you some idea of the level of in-joking present. At least a Mona Lisa smile is occurring here. Now I understand that when you skim from the R.O.T.O.R. fund, your product isn’t going to come out looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the William H. Macy look-a-like that emerges from the plexiglass chamber is an unexpectedly perfect casting of "failure." It works perfectly as an undermining, non-force to be reckoned with that resonates hilariously throughout scene after non-threatening scene. The R.O.T.O.R. is left with little more than a stiff walk and “the ability to see things that already happened," a technology just one step up from the Casio watch. With this, he is supposed to stalk a third rate Linda Hamilton through the movie, not on the premise of destroying her unborn son, but because she was speeding. In my book, these things are successes. Look, it’s a silly, but fun film. Richard Gesswein is so fucking fun to watch in this. Any time this guy talks it is worth my time. A tenth-rung Marlboro Man type with a queasy Dirty Harry delivery that would be more appropriate for a NyQuil commercial, he takes the part of sub-Clint Eastwood badass to soaring new heights of action-hero absurdity as Dr. Coldyron. Coming in at a close second is Dr. Steele, a female scientist with body-builder frame that comes in handy while running interference with the power of the R.O.T.O.R. Her skunk-striped mullet-perm tops off muscles bursting from a black tank-top and huge cargo pants.
The first twenty minutes of the film are the absolute best, featuring a deliriously surreal board meeting where the R.O.T.O.R. technology is introduced. The ambition of the filmmakers is held out on their sleeve here, take it or leave it. Please, take it! Take everything about it! Dr. Coldyron explains in great detail why complicated (see “expensive to put in a movie”) robotics are unnecessary thanks to Dr. Steele’s design. The crammed table of curious officials endlessly rub their chins. Meanwhile, a shitty looking dime store robot demonstrates its ability to salute, bend over and kung-fu kick! The choppy stop motion display is interspersed with an AMAZING Q&A session from which everyone's answering machine deserves a clip. The esteemed panel offers priceless dialogue juxtaposed against the cheesy effects expounding on the philosophy of crime and punishment in the overall context of a film called "R.O.T.O.R." for God's sake! This is the shit dreams are made of! The film can often be felt bursting out of the seams of its tiny budget like this, and the viewer benefits in SPADES!
Some other notable highlights include the good doctor exploding dead trees on his ranch using lassos of dynamite, more equally juicy dialogue between Dr. Coldyron and his boss, the token black cop named “Detective John Mango”, and the R.O.T.O.R. waiting in the bushes to issue speeding tickets like any good police technology of the future would. My only complaint involves the missed opportunity to use the shot of Gesswein feeding coffee to his horse from a massive “TEXAS COFFEE CUP” for the back of the box art.