Who’s Who? What’s What?
The near future of Nemesis seems somewhat plausible. It’s 2027 as Nemesis opens, with a monologue cynically regarding society’s “high-tech overload.” A shot of Los Angeles shows a skyline struggling to break a layer of smog. Hyper-racism is part of society, partially against Asians (Japan and America merged, you see) and also against cyborgs.
The cyborgs stretch things, but the rest fits.
Writer/Director Albert Pyun (Crazy Six) fuses a collection of then popular sci-fi. Pieces of Blade Runner and Terminator coalesce here. Even Pyun’s own Cyborg drops in. Reference points matter. It’s the only way to make sense of anything that happens.
Like nearly all futurist cinema, Nemesis takes place in an uninviting, cynical, and crass world. Hard-edged language litters the script, and heavy violence fills the decorative action scenes. Pyun displays a keen eye for keeping things distinctive and unique, with a touch of Sam Raimi’s rebellious streak. First-person views of bullets and rapid zooms give the fracas a crazy vibe, certainly enthusiastic. For a budget-conscious knock-off, there’s more style than expected from something of Nemesis’ ilk.
Unfortunately, this congeals into a messy and poorly defined narrative. Too often Nemesis strikes out in an attempt to look cool rather than situate its characters. A hotel action scene sees burly dudes rocking six-foot long machine guns, walking through walls while the hero Alex (Olivier Gruner) shoots his way down through the floors. To what end is a mystery of Nemesis’ own doing.
… who/what/why never stop being valid questions
… who/what/why never stop being valid questions
In a mass of anti-cop, anti-cyborg, anti-Japanese rhetoric, Nemesis’ blustery firefights drone on. There’s a chip. That chip holds data. People want it. Alex has it. That’s the short of it, although who/what/why never stop being valid questions. A lack of context chokes any life from this feature. Gruner’s stubborn performance and thick accent fails to help, leaving Nemesis sans star power, even in this low-grade VHS market.
Nemesis’ memorable trait, beyond some of Pyun’s eccentric camerawork, is the finale. There, animator Peter Kleinow’s stop motion work delivers a nostalgic climax. Kleinow handled similar work on RoboCop 2 and Terminator prior, and although jarringly stitched together, the work here is similar.
Certainly, this is all a shame. The morose tone cries for better grounding, reflecting a vicious, untethered existence. It’s harsh and cruel, while the streaks of bigotry line every act of violence. And, Nemesis displays an excess of violence. Nemesis is angry about things, but never slows down to explain why.
MVD packs three versions of Nemesis onto this disc. One of them, a director’s cut, plays only with Pyun’s commentary and in low-grade SD. It’s borderline unwatchable, so that’s a freebie. The second is a 2.35:1 edition, coming from a roughened up source at adequate resolution. The other, the main feature considered here, uses 1.78:1; this is the purest of the three.
Showing up with a clean, natural grain structure, often hyper-textured visuals deliver intense close-ups. Exteriors of jungle areas likewise impress. All of the smoke and steam poses minimal issues for this encode. Some of the brighter sequences do carry a smidgen of filtering, if limited in detriment.
Color tends to veer toward orange, representing the heat of Los Angeles and Brazil. Flesh tones bronze, and primaries sink in the same direction. Some greens do step out though. Representing the source, Nemesis captures the intended vibe without alteration.
High contrast imagery stays at that tier consistently. Dense shadows and strengthened highlights distribute depth. Little to no clipping is noted, while crush is avoided too. As a result, dimension is never less than substantial.
Like the video, audio options come in multiple forms. One is a PCM stereo mix. The other, Dolby Digital 5.1. Stick with the former. In 5.1, Nemesis is too often a mass of sound without direction. Effects fill the soundstage at once rather than relying on discrete touches. Bass support is minuscule, and highs like gunfire sound soft.
In stereo (and uncompressed), fidelity is more natural. A stretch into the fronts is organic and better suited to the VHS origins.
Two half-hour interviews show up on the Blu-ray, one with Albert Pyun, the other with producer Eric Karson. Each is worth a watch, and stretch both the production details and their wider careers. As mentioned above, Pyun delivers a commentary over a director’s cut.
On the included DVD, there’s yet another cut of this movie, this one from a Japanese laserdisc with burned-in kanji. As slew of old featurettes and interviews look great on the Blu-ray cover, but amount to little in the end.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
While it looks cool, Nemesis never makes much sense and it buries anything of interest in this near future, cyber-punk world.
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