(Tibor Takacs, US, 1997)
Another entry into the futuristic action stakes courtesy of the Marquee video label, and like many others they have released, despite the 'straight to video' tag, there's several good reasons to catch this tape. Rutger Hauer stars as American black market smuggler John Wade who is killed after a deal in illegal fantasy computer chips in a future Russia goes sour. His body is picked up by the Russian military who using the latest technology bring him back to life as part of their experimental 'Resurrection' programme. However, having escaped, Wade sets about dodging the authorities and getting his revenge on his killer (Mark Dacascos) whilst recovering his money from the deal.
A variation on the age old "You killed my brother/friend/girlfriend and now you must pay" revenge plot (more like "You killed me and now you must pay!"), Armageddon is an effective if simplistic hour and a half. The futuristic setting is by the by - this is an action thriller at heart. Utilising impressive Hungarian locations convincingly standing in for the Russian setting (this is a Canadian and Dutch co-production filmed in Hungary) and kitted out with cool clunky, retro-techno fittings the look of the movie has shades of Max Headroom and Brazil about it. In contrast to much of his other straight-to-video work, here Rutger Hauer is on top form and does well with the somewhat slightly-written character he's given. Similarly, the supporting cast are all solid enough. Crying Freeman's Mark Dacascos makes an effective villain and Yvonne Scio also convinces as Hauer's main squeeze. The smaller characters and extras are mostly played either by Russians or eastern-Europeans so there are none of those dodgy Robbie-Coltrane-as-a-Russian-in-Goldeneye accents.
The backdrop to the story is a post-Soviet Russia of economic decline for the masses and debauched decadence for the social and criminal elite. There also a sub-plot about the female President using the military to maintain order during an election year and a possible military coup, both of which unfortunately remain unexploited. The serious stuff is not allowed to get in the way of Hauer's big gun and the occasional glimpse of flesh. A good sense of humour is an unexpected plus and were not just talking Arnie one-liners here. During an episode on TV of "Moscow's Most Wanted" (!) a bizarre visual pun based upon the Odessa steps sequence of Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin is worked in! There's a couple of other passing funnies (including an ad for central Russia's authentic Hawaiian resort park!) that seem to exist as a perfect example of post-Robocop, Verhoeven-induced, style of cinema. Despite the title being something of a misnomer, this is directed well enough by Tibor Takacs (of The Gate fame) and with an imaginative score by Guy Zerafa that throws in everything from waltzs and rumbas to traditional Russian folk songs, fans of Hauer will have plenty to enjoy beyond watching their hero strut his stuff.