Bullet Points: Automatic (1995)
One of the more common forms of feedback I get from fans of the site on social media is that our posts often conjure up fond memories of the action movies of the past. I have heard on more than one occasion that our reviews allow the readers to relieve movies that they remember seeing at the theater or renting from the video store. I recently had one of those fond trips down memory lane when I stumbled across a movie I had not seen in more than twenty years. The movie was Automatic starring Olivier Gruner…
- Horrible Timing: The Robgen Corporation is in trouble. The competition in the cyborg industry is really heating up. Robgen has competitors nipping at their heels and the bank breathing down their neck. But there is a silver lining. They are about to launch their next line of “automatics”, a product that promises to revolutionize the cyborg industry and make Robgen some serious bank. With the launch of the new line less than 24 hours away, it is not strange that the top marketing executive for Robgen, Seth Barker (Stanley Kamel) would ask the most promising executive assistant in the company, Nora Rochester (Daphne Ashbrook) to stay to work on some of the marketing campaign materials. What is strange is that Mr. Barker would use the night before the launch to try to force himself sexually on Nora Rochester! Fortunately for Nora, J269 (Olivier Gruner) is walking by and hears her cries for help. I should point out that all the automatics in the J series look like Olivier Gruner. I should also point out that they are programmed to protect and in J269’s case he is programmed to protect the employees of Robgen. So J269 steps in to help Nora, despite Barker telling him to leave. When J269 does not comply, Barker pulls out a gun and shoots J269. J269 instinctively goes to disarm Barker, a scuffle between the two breaks out and in the process Barker falls, hits his head on the edge of his desk and dies.
- Don’t Cross the Boss: The visionary leader of Robgen is Goddard Marx, played by the always entertaining John Glover. Glover’s portrayal of Marx is equal parts charming and cunning. Glover is a real boon for the film and elevates it from your average direct to video flick of the time. Marx is the first person the Robgen head of security calls after J269 reports the death of Mr. Barker. The J series was never programmed to kill, this was an accident brought on by a horny executive but if news of this accident got out it would sink the new line of automatics before they were unveiled and destroy Robgen for good. Goddard Marx immediately goes into damage control mode. The entire facility is put on lockdown, nobody can get in or out unless Marx wants them to and all forms of communication have been shut down. Marx then buys himself some time and tells J269 that “the police” are on their way since J269 is programmed to report any all crimes to the authorities, this means the only way to stop the news from getting out is to take J269 off line. But taking out an automatic that has been built to be superior to humans in every way is easier said than done. Fortunately for Marx he has a man who can do his dirty work… Major Simon West (Jeff Kober).
- Cyborg Hunters: When “the police” show up, it is really Major West and his band of mercenaries. J269 and Nora realize they have been deemed expendable by the boss and now they find themselves on the run in the massive skyscraper headquarters of Robgen. Major West soon finds out the elimination of J269 is an even taller order than expected, so West calls for some reinforcements in the form of The Epsilon Team led by the lovely and talented Marjean Holden of Ballistic fame! This escalates the level of mayhem and chaos going on inside Robgen headquarters. Nora and J269 are everywhere in a desperate attempt to escape… the crawlspaces, the laboratory, the elevator, the ventilation system, they even go the Robgen Museum and everywhere they go, the mercenaries and the action soon follow!
Automatic is arguably Olivier Gruner’s best movie. The cyborg protector character hid Gruner’s shortcomings and highlighted his skill set beautifully. Daphne Ashbrook is a delight in the damsel in distress role. John Glover is magnificent as the “captain of industry” who is doing whatever he can to keep his empire from crumbling. Jeff Kober plays his role as the money hungry mercenary to perfection. And then the movie said we aren’t done yet and one of my all-time favorite women of action, Marjean Holden shows up! Talk about stacking the deck in your favor. Automatic gets two big thumbs up from me and some Bonus Bullet Points too…
- Infomercial: The movie begins with a commercial for Robgen’s J series. The commercial features a reenactment of a home invasion. First scenario shown is the family without a J series automatic protecting them and the carnage that ensues. The second scenario is the same family with a J series automatic protecting them resulting in a much happier ending for the family. This whole segment had a real Verhoeven feel to it.
- AKA: Automatic was released as Prototype J-269 in the French speaking portions of Canada. This is unfortunate as that title is way too similar to the awful and completely unrelated movie known as Prototype X29A.
- Familiar Faces: Character actor Dennis Lipscomb (WarGames and Firetrap) plays Raymond Hammer, the banker who sticks his neck out for Marx and pays for it. But at least he got to have some fun with two topless women first… Troy Evans plays the head of Robgen Security, Buck James. You may recognize Troy from such actioners as Under Siege, Demolition Man and Kuffs.
- Missed Opportunity: The soundtrack to Automatic did not include The Pointer Sisters’ 1984 hit song “Automatic”.
- The Twist: There’s a twist at the end of Autotmatic that involves the unveiling of Robgen’s new line of automatics.