Eve of Destruction

She resents the B word
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1991
Director: 
Duncan Gibbins
Starring: 
Gregory Hines, Renee Soutendijk, Michael Greene, Kurt Fuller
The Setup: 
Human-like robot goes on violent rampage. Oh, and she's a nuclear weapon, too.
Discussion: 

I saw this available for cheap rental from iTunes before going on a trip, and thought it would be good fun. I've seen having a good return to cheesy 80s thrillers lately, what with Fright Night and Goonies and Black Moon Rising and now this, and oh, how satisfying they are! This one opens with a guy getting dressed in a mirror. Then we see that he's actually in a fake hotel room inside a high-tech lab, and he's a robot they deactivate, then wheel him away on a hand truck. Already you can see that this is just a tiny step above TV quality, especially notable in the hilarious music cues, which suddenly come on with delightfully 80s synth cheese, say for a tiny insert of a video screen showing a trip through a robot's bone, then suddenly stop when that shot is over. When we see that our credits play over the camera traveling down a long, slightly futuristic train tunnel, I had to marvel that the tone of this thing was EXACTLY right--for my sensibilities, at least.

Now we're out on a "field test" with Eve 8, a comely blonde robot they have sent out to see how successfully she interacts with humanity. She is getting come onto by a guy on the train, as an agent observes from a few seats away. She gets off and goes into a bank, when suddenly there's a robbery! The agent overseeing her is shot, and Eve 8 processes the guns, and violence, and we're meant to understand that this is tripping her into some kind if survival mode. She is also shot, which makes her malfunction. We see blood and bones in her wound, and have to wonder if she's a cyborg with living elements, or what. Anyway, she gets a machine gun and takes off.

SUDDENLY we're in some sort of Mexican hostage situation! Wow, that was a shock. There's even the cheesiest possible mariachi music to tell us: MEXICO. Then--the Army invades! They rescue the hostages! This scene had me laughing because, even though I've never seen any of this, every single shot is a cliche from other action movies, making each shot delightfully humorous and cheesy. Then--GREGORY HINES! He springs up and starts shooting people, while you're like "Wait, so he's a hostage, but now he's shooting the Army rescuers? Whose side is he supposed to be on?" I wouldn't expect too much in the way of an answer, but he runs around and BLOWS PEOPLE AWAY in a way that says "That's right, I'm a badass action hero now, I'm not just some wussy ballet dancer from the only other movie you remember me in, White Nights. I KICK ASS." Then--turns out it was all some sort of anti-terrorism training exercise! And Hines is an Army Colonel! Then--he is whisked off to consult on this rogue robot situation!

So now we meet Eve Simmons, creator of Eve 8, who, it turns out, is modeled after her (and is played by the same actress). So from now on, Eve Simmons is going to be RE, for Real Eve, and the robot is going to be E8, for Eve 8. Got it? So we meet RE at home with her young son, maybe six or eight, who is talking to his mother about vaginas and penises and the other things he has learned recently. So RE is taken to meet with Hines (his name is Jim McQuade, but let's just call him Hines), and they have the typical chilly reception of each other. Gee, I know it's crazy, but I wonder if they'll forge a grudging respect for each other by movies' end? Anyway, she tells Hines that E8 has gone into BATTLEFIELD MODE, which means she is cranky, cranky, and he delivers a lot of unhelpful sass back. There is also discussion of a terrible secret about E8, which I could not possibly divulge until the time is right. Oh by the way, in here we learn that E8 is made with fake human biology so that she can "medically pass" is she is ever operated on or anything. Why she would have to be operated on if... you know what? Let's just forget it.

So E8 goes SHOPPING! And she centers immediately on this SO, SO 80s bright red leather jacket that she will wear for the rest of the film. Then she is somewhere, forget where, perhaps a hotel? Where we see that she's wearing black lacy panties and hose. Hmmm, pretty sexy for a robot. She goes out to this redneck bar where she flaunts herself, and attracts the attention of the local goons. The lead goon goes over to her--after some dialogue in which it is strongly implied that they are planning on him hooking E8 up for the three of them--and approaches E8, who soon asks him home. Now we have a LONG scene in which the redneck--who I must admit is quite my type, and sleazy in just the most delightful way--makes numerous outrageous come-ons to E8, and receives numerous strange but intrigued expressions in return. You might be wondering what is happening, why are we spending so long on this content, and why is this robot trying to pick up guys anyway? Well, all good questions. So the guy finally whips out the staff of life, and we have a lengthy reaction shot to it. But then he makes the fatal mistake of calling E8 a bitch, which she REALLY doesn't like. So she crawls up to him with her mouth open, as shown in the shot below, but then bites off the offending appendage (not shown). His buddies, waiting outside (for the moment to enter and join in?) burst in, and things don't end so well for them, either. Then Eve goes outside and lays waste to a whole force assembled to detain her.

So Hines and RE go to the bar, where the bartender says that E8 was "lookin' to get laid," and RE is shocked and disturbed. You see, she implanted all of her own memories into E8, and it would seem that E8 is acting out RE's barely conscious fantasies! Because RE used to hang out at that bar--it was a hooker bar, she explains (does that mean that RE used to be a hooker? The idea is kind of left in the air)--and RE had fantasies of picking up hot sleazy rednecks and getting gang banged by them in dive bars. You know, me and this lady have something in common! But wait a minute--stop--is this whole concept actually kind of interesting? This whole idea of splitting a character into two and one of them represents the uncontrolled id of the other one? But you might not have too long to ponder it before another question hits you--So, RE went from redneck prostitute lurking in sleazy bars to advanced robotics engineer working in bleeding edge artificial intelligence? Wow, who says class is destiny, right? She must have taken night classes at TCI technical college.

By now we've noticed that Hines' role, like that of so many African-Americans in movies, consists largely of his slinging superior (but down home!) condescending sass at the ignorant white person. One of his big lines that made the trailer is he can't believe those big-shot scientists would create a deadly robot "without an off switch." Ooh SNAP. But you know, man's hubris, etc.

But wait, because there are more evil men out there with a low regard for women, and they're about to meet the wrong robot. E8 is just casually driving down the road when some dude comes up behind her, riding the back of her car and honking for her to go faster. They are driving along the twisty Pacific Coast Highway, with lots of cliffs around. So E8 seems to be driving reasonably for such conditions, making the guy behind her pretty much an out-and-out psychopath. Well, sometimes one does encounter such people. He pulls alongside E8 and makes the fatal mistake of calling her a bitch, which we know ticks her off real bad. So she rams him repeatedly until she drives him off a cliff. There is a really funny moment when the guy, after essentially having gone psycho for no reason and been quite aggressive and demeaning, then gets run off the road and exclaims "Jesus Christ! Has SHE got a short fuckin' fuse!"

SPOILERS > > >
But there is something you must know IMMEDIATELY. You see, not only does E8 have this weird battlefield mode (does she also have hostess mode? Veterinarian mode?), she also has a NUCLEAR WEAPON in her chest. Yeah why not, you have those things just laying around, why not throw one in? Into your experimental robot you have wandering around the streets? Sure. Anyway, RE had kept this a dark secret from Hines, but you see, when E8 rammed the guys car, she armed the weapon, and now she's going to explode in 24 hours!

But first, there's personal business. You see, some painful repressed memories are coming back to RE, of her father being a drunken abusive asshole to her mother, witnessed by the young Eve, and using the B word as a weapon. You see, this is a journey into the MIND. Anyway, RE intuits that E8 is headed over to Pop's to enact some late justice, and she's right, that's where E8 is at that very moment. It is the slightest bit interesting, because Dad, now old, thinks that it's the real Eve who has come calling. Hines and RE get there and RE watches E8 snap Dad's neck right in front of her. In here we've had reminisces that Dad was responsible for Mom's death, and further deployment of the word "bitch." You know, words can hurt. Words have consequences. E8 escapes, of course, then RE has cause to reflect that E8 is enacting all of RE's fantasies, and essentially living the life RE would live if she had the courage--which you have to admit is an interesting idea, much more interesting than this movie deserves.

But then--where'd she go? RE knows that she has flown to NYC to collect RE's son from the estranged husband's place, where he's staying. Please disregard the whole concept of getting through airport security, even at the time, with a huge metal cylinder (the nuke) implanted in your chest. And generally being a ROBOT. So while E8 is enacting family psychodrama, she might also demolish New York. E8 gets into the apartment, and the husband has a long scene with her, not knowing that she's a robot. E8 sees the son, grabs his arms in a scary way and tells him she loves him. This is like if they remade The Terminator for Lifetime television. Anyway, there's a pretty good scene in which RE calls the husband and tells him that, guess what, that woman in there isn't me, isn't really even a woman, and what's more, is quite dangerous. E8 ends up taking the boy in her arms and walking out, and we next see her in Midtown (from the Upper West Side), making it a little funny to imagine her just carrying the kid all that way. And she goes on carrying him even more, while you're trying to guess which shots are just a kid doll she's carrying.

E8 is on the subway tracks, kid in hand, but we learn that the transit authority's computers are "going haywire," and they're helpless to stop the rushing trains, which is also hilarious to the New Yorker as they never give any REASON to why the MTA's computers are going haywire, making it seem like just another day at the MTA, which, if you live in New York, you have to admit there is some kind of basic truth to. So we learn that E8 is the only super-advanced robot in battlefield mode who can spray an area with ultra-rapid machine gun fire, and STILL miss her target. Hines has her in his sights, but E8 is holding the precious child (who I'm guessing is accumulating serious trauma from having a double for his mother grievously abuse him in this way) in the way of her head, meaning Hines can't deliver the fatal shot. Then--the rushing train car! RE begs E8 to at least throw her the child, and for a moment, E8 has a pleasant memory, of throwing the young boy in the air in play, and she chucks him to RE just before Hines plugs her one in the eye, and the train runs her over. It is SO not a big deal for a train to run over a nuclear weapon.

So looks like all our problems are solved, except that E8 pops up for a last Terminator-like attempt at mayhem, forcing RE to plug her one in the eye, thus having her creator have to be the one to deal the final blow. Then we're all happy and that's it.
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It generally sucked, but it was kind of amusing and had some interesting concepts to keep you going. Basically the whole concept of this rogue robot being a psychic split of its creator, and going out and living out all her repressed fantasies, and you have to admit, a lot more interesting than just a straight-ahead rogue robot story. Unfortunately it isn't taken anywhere all that deep, and boils down to a pretty facile statement about "don't call women bitches," but it didn't have to have this interesting little thread at all, so let's be thankful.

At first I was thinking Gregory Hines isn't all that bad, it's just that he doesn't have that much experience being a badass cop, but after while I had to admit: he ain't great. He's just not all that convincing, and he never seems fully comfortable in his role. Let's stick to dancing and singing, buddy. Renee Soutendijk as Eve is a Dutch actress who was rising to prominence in films like Spetters and The Fourth Man, and apparently this was going to be her big break for international stardom, and it seems that this film is somewhat famous in the Netherlands for ending her promising career.

Anyway, while this film was fun and kept me entertained the whole while, I'm not sure I can recommend anyone needs to run out and get it. If you like cheesy early 90s B-grade action films, in this case with an added layer of surface-level gender politics, then go for it. But that can be a specialized taste, and everyone else can just continue to ignore its existence.

Should you watch it: 

If you like cheesy early 90s sci-fi action.