Overview: When a somewhat madman steals a diamond and a scientist capable of converting it into a nuclear weapon... somehow... it's up to an American mercenary and a porn star to save the day.
Directed By: BJ Davis, 1990.
The Case For: This movie stands as proof that Brandon Lee made crappy movies, thus making his untimely death seem like less of a tragedy.
The Case Against: Ernest Borgnine is in it, thus making his career seem like more of a tragedy.
Action! Excitement! Sense! These are three things that are conspicuously absent from "Laser Mission." Most of the movies that come across my desk these days are no-budget horror flicks made by three fat, sweaty guys with a borrowed digital camera, so it's a nice change of pace to see a movie like this one. It restores my faith that action movies with reasonable budgets starring relatively respectable actors can suck just as hard as anything else. "Laser Mission" tries to capitalize on nuclear paranoia toward the end of the Cold War, but it runs into a few small problems, such as massive logical holes, dialogue that would make Aston Kutcher blush, and actors who seem to be largely unaware of what country their characters are supposed to be from. But on the upside, the movie does feature a repetitive song about mercenaries which it plays over and over again, so things can't be that bad! Oh wait, yes they can. In fact, things can be precisely that bad.
BJ Davis introduces us to two major motifs of the movie - namely, people wearing clothes and a rousing power ballad about mercenaries - by showing shots of a man suiting up in black commando gear while the mercenary song plays. We cut to a formal gathering where a man in a tuxedo unveils a 526 karat diamond to the crowd of onlookers. As one would expect from a group of privileged individuals who probably had to pay thousands of dollars apiece to get a seat for this unveiling, the diamond is received with hooting and whistling. That just about sets the pace for actors getting into their roles in this movie. Before the tuxedo guy can make a toast, someone shoots a canister of crazy knockout gas into the room and a bunch of commandos swarm in and steal the diamond! Oh my gosh! I didn't see that coming at all, because I suffered a severe head trauma as a child and things take me a little longer!
Now that the first part of the plot has been established (oh, and don't expect to hear about that diamond again for a while), we make a rickety transition to the second part, starting with a shot of an airplane landing filmed from underneath the airplane. It's an interesting angle, in the sense that it puts you right in the perspective of the particular air molecules that happen to be underneath the plane at that point. Those air molecules will play an important part later on, though, so you can see why BJ Davis would want to introduce them to us early on. We don't actually get told at any point which country this is in, even as people go through customs. There are several allusions to Cuba, and a number of the bit players speak Spanish, but for the movie to make any sense at all, it has to take place in Africa. So, to avoid confusion, we'll just say that it's in Cubafrica.
Michael Gold, professional American hunk (played by Brendan "I got killed during 'The Crow' but they made two sequels anyway" Lee) scoots through customs and immediately heads down to the beach. Thanks to a Cubafrican works project a number of years back, all beaches are now equipped with Official Benches for Old White Men to Sit On and Feed Birds. That is where Gold finds Professor Braun (Ernest "I won an Oscar for 'Marty,' what am I doing here" Borgnine). I'm sad to say it, but Braun is the first in a series of actors who absolutely cannot maintain their accents. I think he's supposed to be German - I mean, he says some German words every now and then - but his accent really just falls under the category of the ever-popular Generic European Dialect. Braun and Gold chat for a little bit before Braun is struck by the realization that he has absolutely no idea who this American guy is. Good catch, professor. Gold explains that the Americans sent him to see how much it would take to get him to defect. Their conversation is cut short, however, when a dick named Eckhardt who shouldn't be legally allowed to attempt a German accent in public shoots a dart in Gold's neck and captures Braun. The plot thickens, and the bad accents are just beginning!
Gold wakes up in a Cubafrican prison. There, a military officer by the name of Kalishnakov (okay, now we've gone from Cubafrican to Cubafrussian) informs him that he will be executed the next day for being a filthy American spy trespassing on good, hearty Socialist soil. The guard, who definitely looks Spanish, tells Gold, "Ha ha. They going to cut off your head manana." This doesn't speak a word of English. The thing is, his accent is so horrible that I've got the impression he doesn't speak any Spanish, either. In any event, he clearly has absolutely no idea what his line means, including the "ha ha" part.
We skip to the next morning, which has precisely the same lighting as the previous day and the transition is so weak that it ends up looking like BJ Davis and crew just filmed this scene five minutes after they wrapped up the last one. Gold overpowers the same guard, then proceeds to enact the most ridiculous escape I've ever seen. He takes out at least twenty armed guards with either a single shot, a single knife, or a single punch or kick. There are a couple shots where he just waves a rifle back and forth and an entire line of bad guys just fall down at random. At one point a guard leaps through the air at Gold, but Gold pats him on the back as he flies by, causing the guard to, you know, hit the ground, where he promptly dies. I mean, it's not even like Gold is exceptionally lucky. For this escape to occur, the entire camp of soldiers would have to actively want to be killed. If Cubafrica actually had an army this ineffectual, they would have been conquered by the Swiss decades ago.
The action and music cut off suddenly and we cut to an American government installation. Two CIA guys who may or may not actually have names, so we'll just call them Bald Guy and God-I-Hope-That's-a-Toupee Guy, bust Gold's chops over not bringing back Professor Braun. The Bald Guy is worried that the Soviets will use Braun's scientific expertise to plan "some sort of laser mission." Get it? "Laser Mission?" Now that's writing! The CIA guys are nervous about sending Gold back in to retrieve Braun because he's a freelancer.
Bald Guy: "Freelancers have a nasty habit of changing sides."
Gold: "I don't."
Well then you're not exactly a freelancer, are you? You're basically a CIA agent who works on commission. But whatever. The CIA guys decide to send Gold back in anyway. Now, the country they send him to is definitely African, although it's still possible that they made it up entirely. Gold claims that they want him dead there, suggesting that it's the same country where he just killed a bunch of army guys. But that place was supposed to be Cuba! I hate this movie. In addition, the CIA guys tell Gold to meet up with Braun's daughter Alissa, who is a veterinarian as well as being a KGB agent. And of course, it makes perfect sense that the CIA would want to partner a man they don't trust with a KGB agent, because we're living in Bizarro World. And as they say in Bizarro World, this movie is great!
Gold disguises himself as a Cuban military officer in order to avoid being caught in Africa. Yes, you read that right. Yes, I want to kill myself, too. So as a Cuban military officer, he leaps from a plane and manages to parachute right into the middle of a Cuban army camp. In Africa. When he addresses the troops there, Gold is sure to be loud and intimidating so that no one thinks there is anything suspicious about an officer dropping out of the sky, speaking English with a godawful attempt at a Cuban accent, barking out some totally random orders, displaying a complete lack of any knowledge about what is going on at the camp, stealing their only jeep, and driving away. He addresses two members of the Cuban military, Manuel and his commanding officer Sgt. Roberta, who looks sort of like Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph if she was dipped in a huge tank of scorpions. They are there to provide the comic relief, although most of the comedy comes about due to the fact that neither of them seem to have the faintest understanding of what the words they are saying actually mean. They look to be Spanish in origin, but their accents are appalling. I seriously think that the dialect coach on this movie was a deaf-mute.
Gold checks into a hotel in his military officer disguise. Meanwhile, our old friend with the Russian-sounding name and the quasi-Slavic-sounding voice Kalishnakov pays Sgt. Roberta and Manuel a visit. He informs them that they have been tricked, then vows his revenge, swearing, "I shall pluck out Mikhail Gold's eyes... with my fingers!" He really emphasizes the use of his fingers, as if Manuel and Roberta would otherwise assume that he would be using some sort of automated plucking machine. Personally, I think that the verb "to pluck" implies the use of one's fingers. Nothing else really gets the same feel. If you use a stick or some sort of sharp object to remove the eyes, it's going to end up being more or a stab or a poke, or at best a pry. Even if you use a spoon, it's more of a scoop than a pluck. I suppose you could use tweezers and fairly call that plucking, but Kalishnakov doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who would use tweezers. Or if he did, he wouldn't talk about it. Maybe he's only emphasizing how he's going to use his fingers because in actuality he's got a secret addiction to tweezing things and he doesn't want anyone to know about it, so he's trying extra hard to cover it up. Yeah, that sounds about right. You see, that's the sort of depth that BJ Davis gets out of his actors in "Laser Mission." Oh crap, I've gone insane. That can't be good.
At least we meet Alissa, the veterinarian KGB agent. There are a few observations that spring to mind after watching Alissa for a few seconds. First, she has a high, squeaky voice that makes her sound like a twelve year old girl. However, she has the hair, mannerisms, and cleavage of a porn star. Also, she tends to find any way she can to make her lines suggestive, so she actually sounds like a twelve year old girl who wants to hump until she passes out, and that's just not okay. What's also not okay is that she is about to become the co-star of this train wreck of a movie, and that voice of hers is really goddamn annoying. She has a lot of lines that are supposed to be strong and assertive and put her male counterparts in their places, but she's too freaking squeaky to take seriously. She's like a chew toy, but with boobs. Well, I guess in a manner of speaking those are chew toys, too, but you know what I mean. As she is walking someplace or other, a beggar in 14th century Arabian garb hobbles alongside her pleading for alms. Shock and awe, it's really Gold in one of his trademark disguises and crappy accents! Thankfully, he drops the beggar voice once he knows that he's got the right woman, although one would have to think that would blow his cover. Oh well. They arrange to meet at a restaurant later on.