Tagline: A criminal mind in an indestructible body.
Director: Richard Pepin
Writers: Evan Lurie, Richard Preston Jr.
Starring: Joe Lara, Evan Lurie, Michael Nouri, John Amos, Tina Arning, Tony Bernard, Rod Britt
18 | 1hr 41min | Action, Sci-Fi
If Hologram Man had been made during the early 1980s it may have been deemed futuristic. Unfortunately, it was made in 1995, a whole year after the original PlayStation was released, and the special effects on show are closer to Sega’s short-lived Mega-CD than Sony’s ancient, first generation console. This movie is about as high-tech as an episode of Quantum Leap. You know the kind of production, those where four-inch video phones and bogus virtual reality constitute the furthest reaches of technological advancement. Everywhere you look in Richard Pepin’s hilarious cod-sci-fi effort there are plastic soapbox cars cruising the streets like humming birds, while time bombs are cheap digital watches taped to Coke cans. There is also the central concept itself, one so improbable and with such a short shelf life the movie was bound to antiquity long before production ended.
Computer technology came on leaps and bounds during the mid 90s, and though extraordinarily primitive when compared with today’s standards, low-budget filmmakers were able to incorporate modern special effects at a much more affordable price. In 1992, Brett Leonard’s The Lawnmower Man cost $10,000,000 to make, but by 1995 Hologram Man was able to produce computer effects on par with its groundbreaking predecessor, a movie which had dated faster than the last model I-Phone―well, almost. With this increasing accessibility, filmmakers were able to produce high-concept fodder on the cheap, and as a consequence sci-fi schlock would develop a rather profitable niche market, one akin to the horror boom of the previous decade.
Hologram Man is certainly one of those movies, featuring an all-too-familiar landscape of corrupt power, media-driven indoctrination and a giant bio-dome protecting the wealthy and useful, as the rest of society are left at the mercy of a perishing Ozone layer. In terms of plot, the movie is an almost straight-up rip-off of 1993‘s Stallone Vehicle Demolition Man, even going as far as to reference it directly. Five years after super villain Norman Gallagher (Lurie) was sentenced to holographic stasis — a pointless and highly expensive process which sees prisoners leave their bodies indefinitely pending rehabilitation — a crook nicknamed Slash is up for parole, but our lumbering psycho is destined for atomization, and with the help of a quite improbable pseudo-genius he is released from cybertronic purgatory just in time to cheat death, returning in the form of an all-powerful hologram intent on sticking it to the man.
The only person who can stop him is Captain Kurt Decoda (Joe Lara), a Courtney Cox lookalike pushed to the brink by Gallagher’s incessant misdeeds. Lara became quite the B-movie attraction during the early 1990s, headlining such derivative classics as shameless Terminator 2 rip-off American Cyborg: Steel Warrior and Steel Frontier, the kind of movies very few have heard of and even less have experienced. He would even star alongside The Karate Kid‘s Martin Kove in the deliciously titled Final Equinox, which I’m sure is the most learned part of the entire production. The former John Kreese and Cagney and Lacey regular must have really been struggling for work at that point.
In Hologram Man, Lara slips back into a slight variation of the only role he’s ever played, and this time he is joined by Die Hard 2‘s John Amos, the latest 80s star forced to phone it in for a paltry payday. Decoda is a cop for the imaginatively named California Corporation, a heinously corrupt council so discreet they use the ‘all seeing eye’ as their insignia. So malevolent are the Cal Corp and its autocratic leader Jameson (Nouri) that Gallagher comes across as the true hero of the movie for opposing him, a fact which seems lost on the ideologies of the filmmakers as Slash is demonized for his crusade against deregulated capitalism and the dwindling rights of the common man.
Luckily for the ball of pure holographic energy tearing up his not-so-futuristic environment, nerdy lickspittle Giggles (Sanderson) has managed to develop a negatively charged polymer so lifelike it looks exactly like human flesh, meaning our antagonist can live a relatively regular existence while also possessing the power to morph into anyone he chooses, an ability he never once utilizes as the city’s entire police force swarm upon him and his cronies. Henchmen like the patch-sporting Cyclops are as trite and predictable as they sound, while a whole legion of cartoonish bozos sink to all new levels of ineptitude, most of them insisting on using debilitatingly grandiose artillery when others use regular handguns powerful enough to take down an aircraft.
Our crooks still manage to consistently outsmart a whole army of badly dressed law enforcement, and when Decoda is ruthlessly gunned down by his nemesis and left at the mercy of a Casio explosive, all seems lost. That’s until techie girlfriend Natalie (Holzbog) manages to replicate the extraordinarily complex process which made Slash immortal in a matter of seconds, despite the fact that she was completely baffled by it only hours earlier, and finally we are set for a battle of the holograms in a scene reminiscent of the original Mortal Kombat video game, only with slightly inferior graphics.
After infiltrating Gallagher’s hideout disguised as ruthless corporate tyrant Jameson, Decoda traps cyclops in a polymer chamber where his head melts into a plastic blob.
Most Absurd Moment
A newly digitised Decoda, dipped in negatively charged polymer, partakes in some positively charged sex with girlfriend Natalie, resulting in symbolic zaps of electric energy, while exploding alarm clocks and raging blenders hammer the innuendo home.
Worst Technological Advancement
Wearing a hi-tech suit straight out of the early ’90s, Power Ranger Decoda takes part in a virtual reality shooting simulation reminiscent of a Dire Straits MTV video. Pay special attention to our hero’s last digitally limp target, who looks at his pursuer in shock before exploding into a hundred crappy particles. Words cannot express.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Hijacking the corporation’s satellite, Slash lays out his evil misdeeds plain and simple.
Slash: Wake up, Los Angeles! Your saviour has arrived. Fuck the California Corporation! Take off your shackles and come and join me and my cause. Why should you work your asses off every day and never see a profit? Why can’t we have our own businesses again?
A violent dissident with corporate ambitions? Finally it’s all falling into place!