They came from the future... to destroy the past.
Eric Roberts has done a lot of films. He's an actor we have barely scratched the surface of, appearing in everything from 80's classic Best of the Best, to 90's made-for-video actioners like Freefall and a slew of SyFy channel monster films in the 00's like Raptor, Cyclops and Sharktopus. It really was great to see him as the villain in The Expendables, as he played the role of a bad guy so well, but in Past Perfect he is on the other side of the law.
Past Perfect is a sci-fi action film from the good people at Nu Image. In an alternate 1996 that's only a slight exaggeration of reality, violent crime is at such a stage that even kids are gun and drug running. One group of such teenagers is led by a kid called Blade (Yee Jee Tso) and his associates Skull, Shy Girl and Rusty. These kids steal automatic weapons from drug dealers and know how to use them, blowing away a stack of other bad guys and even cops when trying to make their escape. The law is always on the side of minors in this society, so when Detective Dylan Cooper (Eric Roberts) catches one of them - Rusty - during an explosive car and helicopter chase, he has to act quick to get information on the other kids before he is released back to his parents.
It all gets a bit weird when three strange characters appear out of a portal in a junkyard and start hunting down Rusty's other gang members. These three people appear to be cops, but one is a woman with a mechanical arm (the braun), one is a guy with skin that looks like glue (the boss) and the other is Saul Ribinek (Unforgiven, True Romance, the boss in the series Warehouse 13, or other bad-action films like Memory Run or Hostile Intent) - the brains. The first of the three escapees are caught, tried for crimes they will commit in the future, and executed with some sort of super-Tazer. Then one of their eyes is removed (!), I guess as proof that the sentence was carried out. After finding the first and second bodies, Dylan and his hot partner Ally (Laurie Holden) try to keep Rusty safe as well as find out who is playing the vigilante cops.
This was a pretty good time. You had elements of I Come in Peace (with Dolph Lundgren) in the form of the cat-and-mouse style chases and the overall gritty atmosphere, and of course a lot of influence from Timecop (with JCVD). There was an onslaught of gun violence - somebody is always shooting at somebody else in Past Perfect - ranging from pistols to machine guns - from the back of vans, rooftops, running down the street, and the classic twin-gun shootout in a restaurant kitchen. If gunplay is your thing you will be happy with what is on show in Past Perfect.
The three future-cops were the best thing about this film. Nick Mancusco (Under Siege 2, Rapid Fire) plays Stone, a cop from the future (well, 2007) sent back in time with a mechanical arm wearing woman and a court record keeper to locate, convict and summarily execute individuals that will detrimentally affect the world of the future. He's the cold, heartless bad guy we all love to love and he takes great pleasure in his job as executioner. The woman with the mechanical arm, Zoe (Marcie Mellish) was a good hitman. The mechanical arm is not explained (though we see her putting it on) but it added some believable braun to her otherwise slim physique. Rubinek, simply referred to as Bookkeeper, plays the role sheepishly as it's evident it is his first time in the field, and he reluctantly reads out the sentence to the victims.
The special effects were pretty amusing and somewhat resemble a cheap version of those found in I Come in Peace, and perhaps American Cyborg. Zoe is in charge of these twin spinning pyramid things that are launched to hunt down victims and immobilise them. They look pretty crappy, but not as bad as the reverse-death effect we see. The science of the movie dictates that to travel back in time you need to be completely encased in a protective shield (a transparent glue), and if it breaks, you revert to the age you should be in the current year. If you aren't born yet, which is the case for one of the future-cops, you turn into a child, then a baby, and then vanish into your clothing! It's about as good as the logic in Timecop where you can't touch your past-self or you merge together into a screaming blob of goo.
Interesting fact: Eric Roberts and Yee Jee Tso went on to star opposite-each other again in the pretty awful Doctor Who movie made the same year, where Tso played a similar kind of role as Chang Lee and Roberts played the series best enemy and arch nemesis of the Doctor, The Master. That was probably the first time I had seen Roberts as an actor and it stuck with me for years, unfortunately not in a good way. Being the rabid Doctor Who fan that I am, seeing an American playing The Master was enough make me steer clear of Roberts for many years to come. Of course I now see the errors in my ways, and can actually see some good aspects to Roberts' portrayal of the classic villain.
Overall, I enjoyed this quite a lot. The action was fast-paced and pretty continuous, with rarely any dull moments to slow the pace down. The three characters from the future-world were great fun and it was good just to see Ribinek in something else. Roberts was solid looked to be having a good time with the character, even managing a quip ("You have the right to remain silent - forever!"). Laurie Holden works well with Roberts on screen though her character isn't anything special. The science was baloney, but inventive, and the explosions were plentiful and of a decent size. Recommended.
I reviewed the R4 DVD put out by Reel Entertainment/Ninth Dimension. The film was presented 4:3 which may or may not be its original aspect ratio, it is hard to tell. The picture is mostly fine, but the compression on the disc was a little too high and in some fast-moving scenes pixelation is evident. The stereo soundtrack is nothing special and a little quiet, but is good enough. Runtime approx. 90 minutes.
A department store for a fiver.