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Film / Laser Mission

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Laser Mission is a troperiffic 1989 South African action film starring Brandon Lee and Ernest Borgnine.

A giant diamond has just been stolen. If combined with the expertise of the laser expert Dr. Braun, it could be turned into a weapon of phenomenal destructive power. Who will get to Braun first — the American mercenary Michael Gold, or the ruthless KGB colonel Kalashnikov?

This film provides examples of:

  • All There in the Script: The name of the bald CIA agent is not made clear. Late in the film, when Gold refers to someone named "Prentiss", the audience can only guess who he's talking about.
    Gold: "Prentiss sent you?!"
    Bill Corbett: "Oh, that is classic Prentiss!"
    Kevin Murphy: (sotto voce) "Who's Prentiss?"
  • Almost Dead Guy: Gold and Alissa reach Professor Rice mere seconds before he dies, giving him just enough time to impart a cryptic clue.
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  • Alternate DVD Commentary: In 2011, it was the subject of a RiffTrax commentary featuring Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: What are Cuban and Soviet soldiers doing in Africa? This actually happened in 1988, during the Angolan Civil War.
    Bill Corbett: "It's a hard life here in South American Africa."
  • America Saves the Day: Whether for personal profit or national security, the Americans come out on top.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: "You see, with the Virbeck Diamond, and my laser, I can create a nuclear weapon."
  • Artistic License – Physics: During a chase scene, a jeep drives up a stack of wicker baskets as if they were a ramp.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The Cubans are too busy playing dice to follow the Big Bad's orders.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Kalashnikov and Eckhardt work together, but they have their own motives and agendas.
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  • Bloodless Carnage: Except when they feel like using a squib. It depends on the filmmaker's mood.
  • Book Dumb
    Dr. Braun: "Are you acquainted with theoretical physics?"
    Gold: "No... I specialized in recess and girls."
  • Brawn Hilda: Braun's real daughter more than lives up to the family name.
  • Bulletproof Vest: One ingredient in Kalashnikov's incredible resiliency.
  • Bulungi
  • Bumbling Henchmen Duo: Manuel and Sgt. Roberta, the wacky Cuban soldiers.
  • Code Name: "Alissa Braun" is really a CIA agent codenamed Zephyr. We never learn her real name.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: Kalashnikov ties up Alissa, torments her with a razor, and then leaves her with the razor. Jolly decent of him.
  • Covert Distress Code: Averted. When Kalashnikov forces Alissa to telephone false information to Gold, she doesn't slip him any hint that she's speaking under duress.
  • Creator Cameo: Director B. J. Davis plays the assassin who attacks Gold in the desert and tells him about Eckhardt.
  • Crossing the Desert / Shifting Sand Land: After the destruction of their Microbus, Gold and Alissa have to walk hundreds of miles across the desert to Namibia.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "I shall pluck out Mikhail Gold's eyes with my fingers!"
  • Damsel in Distress: Alissa is tied up and menaced with a razor blade by Kalashnikov.
  • Dare to Be Badass: The CIA guys more or less double-dog-dare Gold into undertaking a dangerous mission.
    Prentiss: "For all we know, you've already shopped Braun to the highest bidder."
    Gold: "That didn't happen!"
    Calloway: "Prove it."
    Gold: "How?"
    Prentiss: "Bring him back."
  • Death Ray: Dr. Braun has the know-how to build one, apparently.
  • Dirty Communists: Kalashnikov and the Cubans.
  • Double Agent: Prentiss tells Gold that Alissa Braun is KGB. In fact, she's CIA. And she isn't really Alissa Braun.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: To bluff the Cuban soldiers, Gold poses as a Cuban officer.
  • Drives Like Crazy: When Gold tells Alissa to drive, she warns him, "You'll be sorry."
  • Eagleland: Type 1. The film leaves no doubt as to which superpower is the benevolent one.
  • Energy Weapon: Averted. Despite the title and premise, not a single laser appears in this film.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Eckhardt's walls are totally covered with trophies, and he has a special room just for human heads.
  • Evil Colonialist: Eckhardt wears khaki, lives in a fortress, and enslaves the natives. He seems to qualify.
  • Evil Counterpart: Gold is a good mercenary, Eckhardt is a bad mercenary.
  • The '80s: New wave soundtrack, poofy perms, and late Cold-War politics.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: After crashing into some baskets and coming to a gentle stop, it's natural for a military jeep to explode in a ball of fire.
  • Fictional Currency: "That will be the presidential suite. One thousand kwanjas a night."
  • For the Evulz / Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: As if the villains aren't evil enough, they keep slaves for some reason that has nothing to do with their villainous scheme.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus / Product Placement: When Gold opens his suitcase for the customs inspector, it contains a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. Later, when talking to Prentiss and Calloway, Gold namechecks this book.
  • Fruit Cart: At the same moment during a chase scene, two different vehicles crash into two different fruit stands in two totally different locations.
  • Funny Foreigner: The Cubans, in theory.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Immediately after Eckhardt's death, a ninja materializes out of nowhere to attack Gold. Then Gold kills him. This all happens in literally seven seconds.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Much of it badly mispronounced.
    Sgt. Roberta: "Muchas gracias, madre! Numero uno!"
    Mike Nelson: "Other remedial Spanish phrases!"
  • A Handful for an Eye: Gold is not above throwing sand in an enemy's eyes. The enemy responds with Spiteful Spit.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Cubans switch sides to save their own skin.
  • Hired Guns: As the theme song endlessly reminds us, Michael Gold is a mercenary man.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Kalashnikov is engulfed in flames when his own time bomb goes off.
  • Hostage Situation: Kalashnikov tries to use Alissa as a human shield, underestimating Gold's marksmanship.
  • High-Voltage Death: The mook outside of Eckhardt's compound is punched into an electric fence. The effect of electrocution is accomplished with a handful of sparklers and some writhing by the actor.
    Bill Corbett (as mook): "Aahh! Firecrackers on the fence are lightly burning me!"
  • Historical In-Joke: The guillotine in Kavango was a "present from the king of Belgium", a reference to Leopold II and the Congo Free State.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Eckhardt's hobby, judging by his collection of noggins in jars.
  • I Don't Like You And You Don't Like Me: Gold's relationship with his CIA employers.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Once Kalashnikov has Alissa tied to a chair, he decides to take advantage of her. He is rewarded with a Groin Attack.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: After falling off his roof, Eckhardt is skewered on the spikes of a wrought-iron fence.
  • Kangaroo Court: Gold is sentenced to death without a trial.
  • Keeper of Forbidden Knowledge: The CIA fears that Dr. Braun's techniques will fall into the enemy's hands.
    Prentiss: "He's got a very dangerous mind. We need him under our control or dead."
  • Kidnapped Scientist: Dr. Braun.
  • Kindly Vet: Alissa Braun. Or perhaps that's just her cover.
  • Knockout Gas: How Eckhardt steals the Virbeck Diamond.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Kavango = Angola
  • MacGuffin: The film begins with the theft of the Virbeck Diamond, the largest diamond in Africa.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Subverted. The woman who claims to be Braun's daughter turns out to be a CIA agent sent to keep tabs on Gold. Braun's real daughter is not introduced until the last few minutes. She turns out to be a Brawn Hilda whose unconventional looks are Played for Laughs
  • Major Injury Underreaction: During the final battle, Gold is shot through the gut by Kalashnikov. Then he goes off and does action guy stuff for another twenty minutes, forgoing the most rudimentary first aid. By the end of the film he is laughing and carefree, and seems to have forgotten that he was shot.
  • Man on Fire: During a battle, a mook spontaneously bursts into flames.
  • Master of Disguise: Michael Gold poses as a businessman, a Cuban army officer, and a beggar.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words:
    Braun: "One dinosaur chasing another, eh?"
    Mike Nelson: "Yes, that is exactly... what?"
  • Mexican Standoff: Lampshaded by Kalashnikov.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Prentiss, the bald, moustachioed CIA man with a flair for Realpolitik, is distinctly reminiscent of G. Gordon Liddy.
  • No Escape but Down: During the rooftop chase, Gold evades capture by falling through a ceiling and landing on a couple's dinner table.
    Gold: "I just dropped in to say... bon appetit!"
  • Overt Operative: Michael Gold is famous in Kavango, with his face plastered on wanted posters.
  • Played for Laughs: When the Cubans steal the CIA helicopter, all the other characters burst into riotous laughter.
  • Plot Armor: Armed with a few guns and a dilapidated Volkswagen Microbus, Gold and Alissa destroy an entire compound filled with heavily armed mooks.
    Bill Corbett: "Are they using a cheat code?"
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Sgt. Roberta and Manuel serve no other purpose.
  • Politically Correct History: The film focuses on foreign communist troops in an African country, but ignores the context in which they arrived. There is no acknowledgment of Apartheid, which contributed to the intervention, and which was strongly opposed by communist nations.
  • Ransacked Room: Professor Rice's study has been trashed by the KGB. Even the picture frames have been un-straightened.
  • Rasputinian Death / Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Kalashnikov is shot several times, hurled down a pile of jagged boulders, engulfed in the fiery explosion of his own time bomb, and finally hit by a jeep and crushed against a brick wall.
    Kevin Murphy: "He must be descended from Rasputin."
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr. Braun isn't very eager to put his knowledge to use. One wonders why he became an expert in death rays in the first place.
  • Revealing Skill: Alissa is supposed to be a veterinarian. But when danger rears its head, she draws a pistol and cuts down a mook like a trained professional.
    Gold: "Let me guess. Just in case you meet a charging rhino?"
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In 1988, Cuban-Soviet forces intervened in the Angolan Civil War. The Cubans supported the Angolan government against the rebels, who were backed by South Africa.
  • Roofhopping: No mean feat when you're dressed in a robe.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Gold and Eckhardt wind up fighting on the roof, before deciding to hurl themselves off.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Manuel finally notices that his commanding officer is a woman when her T-shirt gets wet, revealing her breasts.
    Manuel: "Sargeant? You are no sargeant! You are a woo-man!"
    Sgt. Roberta: "Loco! I have always been a woman!"
  • Sex Is Cool: Gold and Alissa have sex because it's the suave thing to do.
  • Scenery Porn: If you like deserts, that is.
  • Shout-Out: Of all things, Gold namechecks How to Win Friends and Influence People, a classic self-help book by Dale Carnegie.
  • Sissy Villain: Eckhardt.
  • Slave Liberation
  • Smash Cut: When the guillotine blade drops on the mook, the scene cuts abruptly to an American flag flapping in the breeze.
    Kevin Murphy: "And the Oscar for clumsiest transition goes to..."
  • Smithical Marriage: Gold and Alissa check into the Swakop hotel as a married couple.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Sgt. Roberta, despite having a feminine name, face and voice, is taken for a man by Manuel. It should be noted that Roberta is never shown or implied to be trying to hide her gender. Wearing a male uniform (an ill-fitting one that hides her curves) is all it takes to throw Manuel.
  • Take That!: Viewing the film as a response to the Angolan Civil War, South Africa's international rivals are not treated kindly. The Russian is a sadistic villain, and the Cubans are incompetent morons.
  • Theme Tune: Mercenary Man by David Knopfler, which plays about a dozen times over the course of the film.
  • There Are No Police: Gold and Alissa rampage through an urban area in Kavango, battling mooks with machine guns, without drawing the attention of law enforcement.
    Mike Nelson: "Aren't there any police in police states?"
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Kalashnikov invariably refers to Michael Gold as "Mikhail". Because he's Russian, you see.
  • Time Bomb: The bad guys put one in the mine.
  • Title Drop: Prentiss speaks of the Soviets carrying out a "laser mission", though he never explains what a laser mission is.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: When Eckhardt catches Gold and Braun meeting on the beach, he shoots them both with tranquilizer darts.
  • Troperiffic: Even by the standards of 80's action flicks, Laser Mission ticks a lot of boxes.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: At the end of the film, Gold keeps the Virbeck Diamond for himself.
  • Vagueness Is Coming:
    Prentiss: "Herr Braun is perhaps the world's leading expert in laser weaponry. And his presence in the Kavango means that the Soviet bloc is planning some sort of laser mission. That could tip the balance of power in the entire African continent."
    Gold: "Why didn't you tell me this before?"
    Kevin Murphy: "Also, what's a laser mission?"
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: While breaking out of a prison in Kavango, Gold kills a bunch of innocent guards. That's fair enough. Standard action movie procedure. But at the end of the scene, Gold casually stuffs one of the guards into a freaking guillotine and chops his head off.
  • Watch the Paint Job: The VW Microbus has its windshield smashed out, its doors ripped off, and is eventually blown up with a rocket-propelled grenade. 
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?:
    Mike Nelson: "You know, mispronouncing every third word is not the same as having an accent."
    Tom: Oh, for stop with the fake accents!
  • White Man's Burden / Monochrome Casting: A bunch of white people fight for dominance in Africa. Seems strangely familiar.
  • World War III: What to expect if the bad guys win.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Kalashnikov would do a lot more than hit a girl.