Double Impact! Presents ‘Trancers’ (1984)

From the cinephiliac minds of Sailor Monsoon and Vincent Kane comes a new collaborative review series called Double Impact! For these opinion pieces, we watch a film, break it down and analyze it, and then haphazardly try to attribute points and awards to individual scenes and/or actors. Through our convoluted thought process, neither one of us truly understands, we will definitively determine whether or not certain sacred cows are worthy of praise and alternatively if childhood favorites hold up or are better left in the past. The goal is to get you to rewatch old films you love, check out great stuff you haven’t and skip the overrated classics you’ve heard about but never got around to. This is a celebration of the stuff we love and a takedown of the shit we don’t. This is Double Impact!


SAILOR’S PICK


The Plot

A gruff bounty hunter travels back in time to the 1980s Los Angeles to stop a twisted criminal who can transform people into zombie-like creatures.


The Discussion

Sailor: How familiar are you of Empire Pictures/Full Moon?

Kane: If it came out in the 80s and had a puppet in it, I’m almost positive I saw it.

Sailor: So Ghoulies and Puppet Master and the like?

Kane: Yes. I’m also pretty sure I saw Gingerdead Man and a few others. Did they do TerrorVision? I think I saw TerrorVision and I know I saw Robot Jox.

Sailor: I’m not sure about TerrorVision but that’s not the film we’re going to watch anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

Kane: Please God don’t tell me it’s a Subspecies or one of those Evil Bong films.

Sailor: It’s not but you’re giving me some great ideas for MonsoonVision.

Kane: Goddamn it.

Sailor: Before I reveal what we’re going to watch, I’m going to give our lovely readers a half-assed overview of the company’s history and why they still have a cult following today.

Kane: You can’t just do that later? Not to break the illusion but we’re watching this like three days before this article drops, so why not write it then? Why waste my time with…

Sailor: It’s called copy and pasting my dear lad.

Kane: Hurry up. And never call me lad again.

Sailor: Formed in 1983 by Charles Band, Empire International Pictures was an independent film label that focused on cheap genre fare that felt like the middle brother to Roger Corman’s stuff and Troma sleaze. They operated for just under a decade and in that time, they made such cult hits as: include Re-AnimatorFrom BeyondTrancersDolls, PrisonTroll, and Ghoulies. After 1991, Band switched gears and turned Empire into Full Moon Pictures, which still operates today. They mostly make unwatchable trash now but back in the day, back in the days of the movie stores, they were the kings of the regrettable rental.

Kane: Is… Is that it?

Kane: Are you done?

Sailor: Yes.

Kane: Are you going to tell me what the movie is now or am going back to porn?

Sailor: Watch that sass or I’m going back to the history of Empire. I didn’t even mention Puppet Master. Or Charles Band’s father, who’s also a director. Or Killjoy or…

Kane: Ok! Jesus, enough. Please!

Sailor: Trancers. We’re watching Trancers.

Kane: I feel like this is going to be a shitty sci-fi action film starring Robert Z’dar or a shitty sci-fi action film starring Robert Z’dar that also includes puppets.

Sailor: Who knows. Maybe it’s both.

Kane: How would that… That doesn’t even make sense.

Sailor: Empire Pictures doesn’t have to make sense.

Sailor: You’re thinking too much. You can’t think when you’re watching an Empire Pictures movie.

Kane: I haven’t even hit play yet!

Sailor: Yeah but you’re coming at it all wrong. You can’t start the film thinking. Or sober. In fact, if there’s a way to just remove your brain and replace it with booze, I suggest you figure out how to do it and then do it.

Kane: Sailor, why are you making me watch a film that requires a Jack Daniels lobotomy in order to enjoy?

Sailor: I’m not saying it’s bad per se but you have to meet these films on their terms. You have to feet into the proper mindset to enjoy them.

Kane: And that mindset is piss drunk?

Sailor: Preferably, yes.

Kane: Oh boy, here we go.

Sailor: That’s the spirit laddo!

Kane: Goddamn. It.

Sailor: So, what did you think?

Kane: I’ll say this, I fully expected a Robert Z’dar cameo and/or a puppet monster, so the fact that we didn’t, is all the more insane. So I give points to it for that.

Sailor: And how many points for Tim Thomerson, the time travel plot, and or Helen Hunt?

Kane: Negative 20, I don’t care and she never got naked, so.

Sailor: Before I address your sour disposition, I want to first talk about the time travel in this and how fantastic a concept it is.

Kane: The more you talk, the less I have to and trust me, I really don’t want to talk about this movie. It’s boring and….

Sailor: You see, much like X-Men: Days of Futures Past and Assassin’s Creed, the time travel in this works by sending someone in the future back to the past by way of their ancestors. Since your great ancestors are so biologically similar to you, it’s the easiest way to jump back without creating a paradox.

Kane: There’s no way there are no paradoxes in this movie.

Sailor: There most likely is but I still like the system. It’s surprisingly clever for a film whose main character is called Jack Deth.

Kane: Can we talk about Tim Thomerson now and how bad he is?

Sailor: He’s no Rutger Hauer or Kurt Russell, that’s for sure.

Kane: Yeah, he’s terrible and I can see why he only did these low rental type films.

Sailor: He’s fine enough. He perfectly captures that over the top tough guy cheese.

Kane: All I see is bad acting.

Kane: Before watching this, I was pretty sure I had seen it and liked it as a kid but I must be confusing it with something else because this is awful.

Sailor: It ain’t that bad!

Kane: It’s not that good either!

Sailor: Name five things about this film you disliked.

Kane: 1) the cast 2) the characters 3) the pace 4) the story 5) everything else.

Sailor: The time travel is a bit wonky, I’ll give you that but what’s wrong with Jack Deth??

Kane: I just told you, he’s lame as shit. This might be the only film in which both the lead and the villain are bland and vanilla as fuck. Nobody does anything in the entire film. There’s so much talking. And Ugh.

Sailor: But he shoots Santa Clause! And kills zombies! And got four sequels out of this film because he’s so badass.

Kane: Somehow, that’s both correct and completely wrong at the time.

Kane: Wait.

Kane: WAIT!?

Kane: I just found out Helen Hunt was in three of these fucking things. Three of them! One of which came out the same year as her show Mad About You!!

Sailor: I’m pretty sure it’s because these movies are fun and she likes having fun and stretching herself as an actress.

Kane: I’m not even paying attention to whatever stupid shit you’re saying. I’m still in absolute shock. They must have incrementing photos or something.

Sailor: Of her and a goat or something.

Kane: Normally I’d call you a sick weirdo but this time, I think you might be onto something.

Sailor: Alright, are you ready for the casting choices?

Kane: Yes.

Sailor: I know this is obvious, but we’re picking Josh Brolin for the lead, right?

Kane: Ooooo I like.

Sailor: He can play it serious, he can lean into the ridiculous and make it a comedy or he can do action in case it happens to get rebooted as a straight-on action flick. He can do it all.

Kane: I want someone strong-willed and sassy for the Helen Hunt role.

Sailor: Tessa Thompson.

Kane: No! I hate her.

Sailor: Brie Larson.

Kane: I hate her even more!!

Sailor: Kristen Stewart?

Kane: Ok, now you got my attention.

Sailor: Adding her to the list.

Kane: What about the villain?

Sailor: I don’t even remember who the villain in this was.

Kane: Some guy who went back in time to kill the ancestors of the crime counsel who can somehow create zombies called Trancers to yada yada yada I don’t care.

Sailor: Well, since he’s so forgettable and boring, why don’t we get someone fun.

Kane: Willem Dafoe?

Sailor: He’s great but he might be too good for this.

Kane: True.

Sailor: Paul Giamatti?

Kane: I love him in Shoot Em Up.

Kane: Which should be a MonsoonVision movie by the way. Pin that shit.

Sailor: Pinned and what about William Fichtner? He’s always solid and he needs the work.

Kane: I love him in Drive Angry.

Kane: Which should also definitely be a MonsoonVision movie. Pin that shit too.

Sailor: Pinned even though no.

Kane: Wait, is that it? Who the fuck else is there?

Sailor: The cop in the future and I guess the piss drunk bum.

Kane: Stephen Root.

Sailor: For which one?

Kane: Yes.

Sailor: I’m going to just pick him as the cop and go with Nick Frost for the bum. He’s fun.

Kane: Who’s directing this?

Kane: What about the guy who directed the Usual Suspects?

Sailor: Ummm, he’s been cancelled as hard as anyone has ever been cancelled.

Kane: Oh. No. I meant Christopher McQuarrie. I thought he directed it for some reason.

Sailor: He wrote it.

Kane: Ah.

Sailor: I like him but he’s attached to do back-to-back Mission Impossible movies, so he’s going to be busy for a while.

Kane: Busy making shit for a while.

Sailor: Why not Tim Miller? He’s competent enough.

Kane: Yeah, I’m fine with that.

Kane: Is that really all the people left to cast?

Sailor: Yeah, pretty much.

Kane: Oh thank God.


The Cast

Director: Tim Miller (Deadpool, Terminator: Dark Fate)

Jack Deth: Josh Brolin (The Goonies, No Country For Old Men)

Leena: Kristen Stewart (Adventureland, The Twilight Saga)

Whistler: William Fichtner (The Dark Knight)

McNulty: Stephen Root (Barry, Dodgeball)

Hap Ashby: Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz)


Final Thoughts

Sailor: While Re-Animator is clearly the best thing either Empire Pictures or Full Moon ever put out, I think Trancers does enough things right that it has proper claim to the title of the second best film Charles Band ever released. The time travel is unique and interesting, the world building, while sparse, is a nice touch and Helen Hunt is just the cutest. Oh wait, I forgot about Robot Jox and From Beyond and Dolls. Well, it’s a strong number five then. A respectable fifth place.

Kane: I hated it. There were no puppets in it, there was no Robert Z’dar in it (and I don’t even like Robert Z’dar), no tits, no action, no nothing. Nothing happens in the film. Early in the main character uses his time-stopping watch for ten seconds and I swear to God time never unfroze. That’s how boring and uneventful it is. Helen Hunt was cute though.


Impact Rating

Sailor: C

Kane: F+


After Impact

Do you think we will ever actually get time travel?

Nope.

I like to think that someday it will happen.

It won’t.

But let’s say it does happen.

Then it will be the end of the fucking world. Which…honestly, doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

Why would it be the end of the world?

Because, we all know, sorry ladies and you male feminists out there, it will be a dude who figures it and will go back in time and fuck shit up.

Yea, you are right. But it would be cool is all I’m saying.

Okay, question.

Shoot.

Time travel is real and you are the only person who can do it.

Go on.

You can travel back in time as much as you want and do whatever you want without messing up today’s world.

I’m liking this so far.

But your time portal machine…

My TARDIS

Your what?

TARDIS

What is that?

It’s Dr. Who’s…

Imma stop you right there. I’ve never seen Dr. Who and don’t care.

Fine! My DeLorean.

Your DeLorean is a place only you can enter…

I’m starting to regret this.

And it’s through…

Please don’t.

Lena Dunham’s vagina.

Goddamn it!

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