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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 7.14%
Average: 14.29%
Pretty Bad50%
Total Crap: 28.57%

1 review, 8 user ratings

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Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
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by Jack Sommersby

"Watch the Terrific Original Instead"
2 stars

Sporadically released in U.S. theaters and having garnered less than $3 million, it no doubt should've gone straight to home video.

Gosh knows I wasn’t expecting much from Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace, the sequel to Brett Leonard’s underrated science-fiction thriller The Lawnmower Man (which managed to make its way onto my top-ten list of its year), but it’s not bad, either. The original told the tantalizing tale of Pierce Brosnan’s government scientist conducting experimental research on Jeff Fahey’s mentally-retarded landscaper using the latest in virtual-reality technology: gradually, Fahey’s simpleton Jobe increased in intelligence to the point where he was soon surpassing every human on the planet in acumen; and with this increase was borne a megalomaniacal madness intent on world domination, which ended with Jobe regaining his conscience and saving not only the scientist but his only friend, the teenager Peter, from a fiery explosion that took out the research facility. The sequel picks up shortly thereafter, where the badly-burned Jobe (this time played by Matt Frewer) is transported to a hospital where his appendages are amputated, and is then taken under the auspice of the conglomerate Virtual Light Institute, where, under the false pretense that he’ll eventually be fitted with expensive prosthetics, he’s been brainwashed into manufacturing the revolutionary Chiron computer chip and designing an entirely-virtual city, which the evil mastermind CEO Jonathan Walker (Kevin Conway) intends on achieving total control by rendering all other computer systems obsolete, with full access to all information on everyone. It takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles, and, like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the surroundings are depressingly dire, chock-full of dilapidated structures and doom-laden rainy conditions; it’s only the filthy-rich who are making out, and the orphaned Peter (still played by Austin O’Brien) is living with a band of misfits in an abandoned subway car indulging in black-market virtual-reality programs like a junkie would a heroin fix; and it’s during one of these simulations when Peter comes into contact with Jobe, who, suspecting Walker is up to no good (which is quite easy to tell being that the usually-deft Conway gives one of those boo-hiss-worthy, over-the-top performances only a mother could love), tells Peter to seek out one Dr. Benjamin Trace (Patrick Bergen), the “father of virtual reality” who dropped out of sight and became a hermit when he found overreliance on technology “deadening to the soul.” Though initially reluctant, Trace eventually joins Peter’s quest, using his past romantic relationship with Walker’s lead scientist, Cori (the fetching Ely Pouget), to gain access inside the Institute and destroy the pyramid-shaped Chiron chip, but since this futuristic society has been rendered so apocalyptic, we haven’t a whole lot of stake in either it or its citizens’ survival.

The movie has been written and directed by Farhad Mann, whose only previous feature-length directing job was another sequel, the soft-core sex flick Return to Two Moon Junction. Working in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Mann demonstrates an undeniable eye for widescreen composition, and with the invaluable assistance of Tony Scott’s regular cinematographer Ward Russell (The Last Boy Scout) he’s able to give the proceedings more than enough visual suppleness to hold our attention. Granted, his camerawork doesn’t have the voluptuous fluidity of Brett Leonard’s, but, through thick and thin in many out-there scenes that could’ve been ludicrous, Mann maintains a consistent tone; and though his action sequences aren’t particularly well-staged, a good deal of imagination have gone into them, so there’s always something interesting going on within the frame. (There’s a chase involving four red motorcycles through a forest that’s more than a tad lifted from the speedy-bike chase from Return of the Jedi, but it lacks the finesse director Richard Marquand brought to the party. Mann simply doesn’t have the natural talent for juxtaposing, so what he engineers just doesn’t end up coming to much.) Working from a story idea cooked up by him and RoboCop’s Michael Miner, Mann serves up mostly familiarities, especially that of an altruistic protagonist going up against a soulless Big Business antagonist, and since both central roles have been classically miscast, we’re not afforded any solace in whatever halfway-competent actors might’ve contributed. Bergin, who failed to make much of an impression as the adventurer in Mountains in the Moon and Julia Roberts’s wife-abusing husband in Sleeping with the Enemy, is completely inadequate as Trace. Lacking the necessary charisma and power for the role, he comes off like an understudy thrown on the screen at the last minute who couldn’t hold water with a third-rate carnival tarot-card reader; there’s something hooded about Bergin, as if he didn’t trust himself to open up to the camera in fear that he might catch cooties from it. And as Jobe, who’s supposed to emanate malevolence with an undertone of goodness, the untalented Frewer (who starred in the short-lived television series Max Headroom) is about as menacing as a fly on a drinking glass -- where Fahey managed to suggest some depth in his characterization so we had something of an emotional stake in Jobe, the gruesome Frewer, an absolute zero, can’t carry so much as a half-minute of screen time without his terminal blandness deadening our responses to him. So with a clunker of a hero and a nondescript villain, The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace badly needs wit and panache, and only half succeeds. It’s like watching a player stuck on the same level of an Atari 5200 video game for ninety-three minutes.

Not the worst of sequels, its letterboxed DVD boasts a very good transfer.

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originally posted: 03/24/15 04:27:10
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User Comments

11/30/03 jmsynth Stupid Movie, But Not Boring. Frewer is good fun. 2 stars
6/26/03 cochese The first one sucked, why a second? 1 stars
1/22/02 Andrew Carden Well-Done Sci-Fi Flick. 4 stars
11/29/01 The $1.98 Pyramid Great Sequel, bad actor (Job) 3 stars
2/17/01 mister char it could have been better 3 stars
12/14/98 Shadow Raider What the kind of Max Headroom knockoff is that? 1 stars
11/23/98 Lord Of The Dunce A disgrace. A blight on the first. Like Toy Story without a point. 1 stars
8/21/98 {{{OZ}}} Max Headroom get's nasty. But not as funny. Hoofah, what a ripoff. 1 stars
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  12-Jan-1996 (PG-13)



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