Film: Cyborg

Cyborg is a 1989 post-apocalyptic action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as Gibson Rickenbacker. Rickenbacker battles a gang of marauding thugs led by Fender Tremolo, played by professional-surfer-turned-actor and co-star Vincent Klyn on his debut.

The film starts After the End, in a world that has been shattered by war, the collapse of civilization, and just for fun, a plague ravaging the survivors. The titular cyborg, Pearl, has been sent from Atlanta to New York City to retrieve information for a group of scientists and doctors looking to both cure the plague and start restoring society. Unfortunately, Fender learns of the mission and moves to intercept Pearl and her bodyguard. The bodyguard is killed, letting Pearl escape just long enough to encounter Gibson for the first time. Gibson is a "slinger", a mercenary who fights bandits like Fender's gang, but he's already hunting Fender for personal reasons.

Gibson and Pearl get separated by a couple of Fender's mooks, and Fender offers to escort her back to Atlanta, where he plans to steal the cure for the plague and kill the holdouts. Pearl agrees, hoping that the resources of her superiors will enable them to kill Fender's group when they arrive, and in the meantime Gibson tracks them and is joined by Nady, a survivor of one of Fender's raids who has lost many loved ones to the plague and is determined to help Pearl get the cure to the scientists.

Directed by Albert Pyun and produced by The Cannon Group, it is considered one of Pyun's most mainstream and commercially successful films. Had two sequels, but In Name Only. The first sequel marks Angelina Jolie's debut.

Not to be confused with the upcoming film adaptation of the Cyborg comics, which Warner Bros. recently greenlit as part of the DC Cinematic Universe, to be scheduled for release in 2020.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: At one point Gibson tries to escape from Fender's gang in one. Amusingly, the opening to said sewer looks like it would probably be too narrow for Fender's crew of evil bodybuilders.
  • Action Girl: Cash is one in the sequel, nearly to the point where you wonder why she needs a bodyguard to begin with.
  • Action Survivor: Nady isn't a trained fighter at all, she's just a regular person who happened to survive one of Fender's attacks by hiding. She's often out of her depth when it comes to fighting, but she at least does well enough to help take out a few mooks.
  • After the End: "First there was the collapse of civilization... anarchy, genocide, starvation... then we got the plague."
  • And Then What?: Gibson's friend Mase asks him this question, asking that if somehow Gibson does take out Fender, what he'll do with the rest fo his life. At the time, Gibson doesn't have an answer. At the end of the film it's implied that Gibson has more or less developed a case of Chronic Hero Syndrome, and will continue helping people against bands like Fender's.
  • Artistic License Geography: While visiting a friend who runs a bar near Hoboken, New Jersey, Gibson talks about taking a short cut to Charleston, South Carolina. The two cities are about 760 miles (1225 km) apart. It's hard to imagine that there would be a reason for a "short cut" to exist between those two cities, or that there's any way to travel that distance on foot that would beat a boat which has enough people on it to be piloted 24 hours a day. (Pyun's director's cut does offer a small justification about the two of them making it to Charleston around the same time by saying that Fender has been making stops to recruit more pirates and extra muscle along the way due to the trouble he's expecting to encounter in Atlanta.)
  • Awesome but Impractical: Gibson's gun, which seems to be a hybrid of a pistol, a shotgun, and a mini-gun. Looks cool and post-apocalyptic. Too bad the gun offers no other way of holding it besides grabbing it by the barrels of the mini-gun itself, and the gun requires that one turns them manually after each shot. The barrels would be scorching hot after firing just a round, making it pretty useless unless one waits an hour or two for the barrels to cool off between shots.
  • Ax-Crazy: Fender. He's just a maniacal mass murderer who loves the death and pain of others. In the final fight he even acts in a bestial way, roaring like a lion while brandishing knives.
  • Badass: Gibson, Nady and Fender.
  • Badass Grandpa: Mercy, in the sequel, is essentially a one-man rebellion.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final fight between Gibson and Fender.
  • The Berserker: Most of Fender's "pirates" act like this.
  • Big Bad; Fender.
  • Big Good: Mercy in Cyborg 2 is the leader of what little rebellion there is and the mentor of the two main characters.
  • Big Word Shout: FENDER!!!!
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The director's cut has Fendor asking Gibson who the hell he is on several occasions, so obviously Fender has no recollection of the horrors he inflicted on Gibson. In both versions, he finally seems to remember during the final fight scene when Hayley's pleading for Fender to stop beating on Gibson appears to allow Fender to make the connection.
  • But Now I Must Go: Basically as soon as Gibson gets Pearl back to the base in Atlanta, he leaves again. Although he seems happier and less revenge driven, he seems set on continuing to fight bands of pirates like Fender's gang and protecting normal people.
  • Camera Abuse: The camera gets some sand, dirt, and blood sent its way.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Fender is a cruel sadist who loves misery, death, and destruction and doesn't mind admitting it either.
  • The Cast Showoff: Van Damme's trademark leg split actually has a point on this movie, which also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome. When Gibson is being followed through a dark, almost lightless sewer and is being slowed by an unconscious Nady, he seems to realize he's not going to be able to successfully outrun the pirate chasing him, so he sets Nady down, uses the leg split to suspend himself above a narrow point, and waits. When the pirate passes underneath... well, just watch it for yourself.
  • Cat Fight: At two different points Nady goes one on one with female pirates.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Utilizing concealed weapons, sneaking up on victims, and shooting knife wielding opponents are all specialties of Gibson.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Just before his climactic fight with Fender, one of the last pirates left has a one on one with Gibson. He brandishes a large machete and boasts about killing slingers, (mercenaries like Gibson hired to fight off pirates) then launches an incredibly telegraphed and clumsy attack which Gibson easily counters before beating the absolute shit out of the guy.
  • Cyborg: Pearl Prophet.
  • Cyber Punk: The sequels tend to be more cyber punk and Just Before the End since civilization is still around but now controlled by an Evil Inc. or two. The original is more apocalyptic.
  • Darker and Edgier: Quite possibly the darkest of Van Damme's earlier works.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: Cash manages to clear a hallway full of mooks in Cyborg 2 by throwing a knife at one them, who then proceeds to mow down everyone behind him in his death throes.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: As Troubled Production says, it partly originated from a Masters of the Universe sequel. Some TV stations still give the film's title as Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg.
    • Cyborg 2 was supposed to be it's own separate movie called Glass Shadow (the name of the self-destruct program in the film), but the studio had recently bought the rights to Cyborg and decided to turn it into a sequel at the last minute by inserting random footage of Jean-Claude Van Damme's character from the first film.
  • The Dragon: The pirate Brick Bardo (the guy in red who is killed by Gibson in the sewers) seems to be the closest thing to a Number Two that Fender has, as he's seen giving instructions to other mooks and speaking to Fender with familiarity.
  • Dual Wield: One of Fender's pirates pulls two knives before going after Gibson.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: While Fender slaughters a local settlement to steal their boat, we get cuts of what looks like the cake topper of a wedding cake burning in the flames set by the pirates.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Gibson gets his by expertly sneaking up on and effortlessly dispatching a couple of mooks, Fender through the opening narration and his encounter with Pearl's bodyguard, and Haley looks away and shuts her eyes as Fender kills the bodyguard, hinting that she's different from the other pirates...
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: For the good guys. A few of the bad guys are shown with some pretty horrific looking yellow-green teeth.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Fender has a very deep voice. It's actually mechanically deepened since it's not Vincent Klyn's normal voice.
  • Eye Scream: An actor lost an eye after being accidentally stabbed with a prop knife — and it is apparently in the film.
  • Faceless Mooks: Many of Fender's mooks have face concealing masks or wraps, at least partially because it allows the actors to do double or triple duty and play multiple roles.
  • Flash Back: A number of them are used to explain why Gibson pursues Fender.
  • For the Evulz: Most of Fender's actions, if not all, seem to be done solely for this reason.
  • Friend to All Children: For such a hardass who prefers speaking a syllable at a time, (if that) Gibson has a huge soft spot for kids.
  • Future Slang: The film is pretty light on it, but Hired Guns who fight against pirates are "slingers" (presumably taken from Gunslingers), and Fender casually refers to Pearl the cyborg as a "skin job."
  • Hollywood Healing: Fender crucifies Gibson, puncturing his wrists all the through. Apparently all it took was some bandages and a few days of traveling for those wrists to heal up perfectly with nothing but a small scar. Gibson shows no loss in, say, his range of motion, sensitivity, or ability to use his hands afterward either.
  • Genre Savvy: Fender expects that Pearl is trying to lead him into a trap in Atlanta.
  • Honor Before Reason: Despite otherwise being a Combat Pragmatist, before the final fight Gibson announces his presence to Fender and the remaining pirates by firing an arrow just in front of Fender's feet, instead of, say, shooting him in the throat and taking advantage of the element of surprise to turn the movie into a complete anticlimax.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gibson leaves Fender impaled on a large meat hook by the end of the movie's climatic fight
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality:
    • Played straight in one scene where Gibson has a one on one fight against a pirate with a Simple Staff who gives him much more trouble than most of the other opponents he faces throughout the movie. Then the guy hits a button that makes a hidden blade come out, turning the staff into a spear, and tries to land a killing blow, but overextends himself to do so and it allows Gibson to badly wound him.
    • Averted in any scene involving guns. Gibson is almost killed by a random mook with a gun early in the movie, Fender wounds Gibson with one, and Gibson happily mows down several knife and spear wielding pirates with his gun.
  • Invincible Hero: Averted. Gibson is a skilled fighter and a first class Determinator, but suffers a number of defeats and setbacks, including being badly beaten in his first fight against Fender before being left to die nailed to a cross.
  • It's Personal: Fender in a flashback caused the death of Gibson's love interest along with her little brother and took away her sister Hayley with him to serve him as a slave. This explains why Gibson is so obsessed with killing Fender.
  • Just A Flesh Wound: Fender shoots Gibson in the shoulder, but it is never even acknowledged after that scene ends.
  • Knife Nut: EVERYONE. Aside from Pearl and Gibson's family in the flashback, literally every character, male or female, carries at least one knife. Gibson stands out though, carrying a Kukri, a big Bowie knife, a boot knife that he likes to throw, and even a spring loaded knife in his shoe.
  • Kukris Are Kool: Gibson carries a kukri among his many knives. The pirate "Brick Bardo" also carries a large kukri-like knife (it actually looks closer to a Thai e-nep, but since the e-nep is based on the kukri, it's close enough).
  • Large Ham: Fender. Vincent Klyn used to be a professional surfer and this was his film debut so he probably had some fun playing a threatening and imposing villain.
  • Left for Dead: Fender's crew leave Gibson for dead three times, once in a flashback, and twice in the present. The first time in the present was really gratuitous, as there was no reason not to verify that Gibson was really dead.
  • Local Hangout: A friend of Gibson's runs one somewhere around Hoboken. They talk for a bit when Gibson passes through heading south.
  • MacGuffin: The information Pearl was sent to get. Pearl herself becomes a Living MacGuffin.
  • Made of Explodium: Shortly before the movie's climatic battle, Gibson sets one of Fender's mooks on fire. The mook then limps and falls on the bonnet of an old, abandoned, and rusty car — and the whole car explodes.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: In Part 2, Cash remains young-looking but Cole eventually dies of old age.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nady is shown totally naked in one scene. In another she exposes her breast to Gibson.
    • Cash in the sequels gets quite a bit of time devoted to her body as well. In pasrt 2, she was played by Angeline Jolie, after all.
  • Musical Theme Naming: Most characters are named after guitars and manufacturers. Gibson Rickenbacker, Fender Tremolo, Marshall Strat, Les (Paul), Pearl Prophet...
  • Oh Crap:
    • At one point Gibson goes for a jump kick against a badly wounded pirate. Because it's done in slow motion, you have just enough time to see the look of panic on the guy's face just before Gibson connects.
    • This combined with pure fury is the last expression for the guy that Gibson kills in the sewer as well.
    • One mook with a gun is carefully taking aim Gibson in Atlanta, then he turns because he hears a noise and sees Nady, knife in hand, and already in mid-swing.
  • Papa Wolf: Gibson
  • Raised by Orcs: When Gibson and his Love Interest lived together, she had two younger siblings, a boy and a girl named Haley. Then Fender and his gang came along, threw Gibson, the Love Interest and the boy into a well, and took Haley. Gibson encounters her in the present, grown up, and probably having served as Fender's slave/toy for all those years.
  • Red Right Hand: Fender's almost inhuman Icy Blue Eyes. Possibly an effect from the plague.
  • The Remake: Gangland, an extremely rare and ultra-low budget Direct-to-Video release from 2000. Starring Costas Mandylor, Sasha Mitchell, and Vincent Klyn in an identical role. Just imagine Cyborg without the titular cyborg.
  • Retired Badass: Gibson was this, until Fender and his goons trashed his life and forced him back out of retirement, looking for revenge.
  • The Reveal: Gibson's motivation. Both of them.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Gibson during the final act.
  • Rule of Cool: The movie runs exclusively on this and Testosterone Poisoning.
  • Same Language Dub: All of Vincent Klyn's dialogue was dubbed by an uncredited actor.
  • Scavenger World/Schizo Tech: On the one hand, working guns are rare objects, and only Fender, Gibson and one random mook are seen wielding them, on the other hand the last scientists are able to turn Pearl from a human being into a cyborg with a mechanical brain, no sweat. And unless we assume that Fender is a fan of Blade Runner, then he's apparently encountered other cyborgs and expects his crew to understand what he means when he refers to her as a skin job.
  • Scary Black Man: Fender.
  • Screaming Warrior: Fender and Gibson turn it Up to Eleven in the movie's climatic battle, but it's there throughout. Screaming happens consistently in fight scenes, or with bad guys chasing the good guys, or vice versa, etc. Special note goes to the first female pirate that Nady fights one on one, who seems to communicate in nothing but screams.
  • Secondary Character Title: The title doesn't refer to Gibson, but to Pearl, who is the MacGuffin.
  • Shirtless Scene: Van Damme, several times throughout the film, especially towards the end, during the penultimate fight with Fender.
  • Sinister Shades: Fender wears these.
  • Slasher Smile: Fender in Gibson's flashback, just before pulling that whole thing with the well.
  • Tap on the Head: Nady is knocked out at least 3 separate times, (in a movie whose running time is slightly under an hour and a half) and suffers no ill effects. Gibson is knocked out twice himself.
  • Time Skip: The third film takes places decades after the ending of the second since Cole died of old age.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback
  • Unstoppable Rage: Gibson in the movie's climatic fight. The guy gets thrown through a CAR and that only makes him angrier.
  • Villainous Crush: Fender looks like has one for the Pearl as he strokes her cheek in one scene.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Gibson's top priority is killing Fender, while Nady is focused on Pearl and the cure for the plague. This leads to some distrust and conflict between the two, and several times Nady refuses to follow Gibson's commands out of fear that he'll let something happen to Pearl in his desire to get at Fender. At the end, however, Nady manages to get Pearl away from Fender but goes back to try to help Gibson when it seems like Fender is going to win their fight, and promptly gets introduced to the business end of Fender's knives.
  • You Remind Me of X: Never spelled out, but in their first encounter Gibson claims he tried to help Pearl because for a second he thought she was someone else- his girlfriend, who was murdered by Fender.

Alternative Title(s):

Cyborg 2