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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 10.26.11] movie review news scifi horror

Year: 2011
Directors: Steven Kostanski
Writers: Steven Kostanski
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Rick McGrath
Rating: 8 out of 10

Manborg is a goofy, hectic, often-hilarious bull in the china shop of tacky 1980s genre and exploitation flicks. Entertaining in every way, it suffers only from frustratingly unintelligible dialogue – not that we can’t understand what’s being said, but that we often can’t actually hear what’s being said. On the other hand, it probably doesn’t matter.

Our story is heroic: the armies of hell attack earth, and two soldier brothers are defending humanity. One gets hit and urges the other on. “Don’t do it for the killing”, the dying brother says, “do it for family”. Many laughs. Unfortunately the live brother is soon caught and executed on the battlefield by Nazi demons.

Cut to a scientist years later doing the robot chicken on the body of our downed soldier – using the Borg Book from Star Trek – and hey presto, we have a laser-eyed cyborg even Picard would recognize. Which puts him ahead of our creation. First, he doesn’t know what he is – or even that he’s been changed – and he suffers from amnesia. Immediately caught by the bad guys, he’s tossed into jail with three other humans, and one of the funnier early scenes is when he has to name himself for the other three. Tottering mechanically, he looks at his human hand and says “man…” and then his mechanical arm and utters, “…borg”. He looks up. “Manborg”, he asserts, and a new superhero is born.

He has company. Writer/Director Steven Kostanski (of Astron-6 fame) delves into his favorite memories of the 1980s and comes up with #1 Man, an Asian martial arts expert who speaks like Tonto on downers, Mina, a knife-wielding anime hottie, and Justice, a gun-toting Aussie with a bad accent and enough nervous energy to outhop a kangaroo.

Off our heroes go to deal with the hellhounds and much fighting and banter ensues, a wonderfully zany romantic sub-plot emerges, and generally it’s all fun & games til the good guys win a rather short 60 minutes later. No matter, for the happy crowd enjoying the Canadian premiere at the Toronto After Dark fest, it was well worth the visually wacky ride through a maze of speedy stop-motion monsters, crazy costumes, myriad miniature sets and a completely berserk soundtrack, which, as I mentioned earlier, either overcomes the dialogue, or the recording of the dialogue, or how the dialogue has been digitally altered.

In a film like this acting is probably not anyone’s main concern, but Matthew Kennedy does a good job as Manborg, unsure of his powers, who he is, or what’s going on. And he does a great version of the Robocop walk. Adam Brooks is great as both Doctor Scorpius (he invents Manborg) and Draculon, and the fully-masked Jeremy Gillespie does well as The Baron. Ludwig Lee is fantastic as the overly good “you’re safe now” #1 Man – he almost steals the show – and Meredith Sweeney calmly underacts her role as Mina. Conor Sweeney, superb in Father’s Day, doesn’t quite seem comfy in his role as the hyper Justice, and for some reason blurts out his lines in such a thickly fake accent as to be almost unintelligible. Andrea Karr is only slightly scary as Shadow Mega.

What can one say? Manborg doesn’t pretend to be anything than what it is – a helter-skelter look back at one filmmaker’s favorite genre memories – and as such should prove to be a festival funnybone tickler for years to come. Obviously done on a budget by Mr Shoestring, Manborg is one of those movies that will no doubt assist the very talented Mr Kostanski in his ambition to become a bigtime director. I highly recommend Manborg. Do it for family.

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