'Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter': Film Review

Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Desperately cheesy.
6/2/2017

It's humans versus computers in Neil Johnson's sci-fi actioner.

Most makers of fan-fiction cinema spend their time imagining stories in a familiar universe: They introduce new Sith-fighting Jedi knights; they imagine new starships serving the United Federation of Planets; they dress up in Batman cowls and punch men wearing Joker makeup. In Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, Neil Johnson goes a different route. Perhaps unwittingly, he presents us with a weirder hypothetical: What if some of the characters on TV's Baywatch inhabited a Terminator-like dystopian future?

Unfortunately, the question is more tantalizing than the answer supplied by this wholly cheesy, almost entirely witless creation, which somehow attracted the attention of Sony for home video distribution. The pic will be an option of last resort for sci-fi-hounds who simply will watch anything with a spaceship or talking robot in it.

Tracey Birdsall produced and stars as the fighter who goes rogue: Sienna, who enters the story on some desert planet, arriving to meet an arms merchant with everything protected from the sun and sand except her blue eyes and four or five inches of cleavage. After Sienna gets her slo-mo hair-toss intro, there's a moment in which viewers will hope they're witnessing self-aware, comedically Cormanesque schlock: Sienna gets into a car controlled by artificial intelligence, and has to tell it "start the engine" over and over as the AI makes its introductory spiel — like a frustrated consumer shouting "Operator!" at the automated menu on a tech support phone call.

Sadly, no. Though there are arguably one or two smaller laughs to come, Johnson's script is mostly focused on cobbling together sci-fi tropes — tetchy robot helpers, hopeless quests to destroy massive superweapons — so the director will have something to do with all those really, really unconvincing CGI spaceships he has made.

As we hear more about humanity's long battle with an out-of-control AI bent on galactic domination, one recurring theme is that any robots that humans do still deal with must be "tethered" so they don't get out of control. This leaves the good-guy robots resentful about the rights they've been stripped of; Sienna's floating robo-sphere sidekick is particularly full of complaints. If our future really does involve a bill of rights for man-made intelligences, it should include a ban on forcing robots to participate in movies this shoddy.

Production company: Empire Motion Pictures
Distributor: Sony
Cast: Tracey Birdsall, William Kircher, Daz Crawford, Stephen Manley, Tim McGrath, Ashley Park, Tony Gibbons
Director-screenwriter: Neil Johnson
Producers: Tracey Birdsall, Neil Johnson
Director of photography: Kyle Wright
Production designer: James Zicree
Composer: Alex Staropoli
Casting director: DebraLynn Findon

101 minutes

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