AKA: Spear of Destiny
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Writer: Anthony Maharaj, J. Lee Thompson
Cast: Robert Patrick, Linda Carol, Ed Crick, Bob Schott, David Light, Paul Holmes, Peter Shilton, Ursula Marquez, Elizabeth Oropesa, Bruce Le (aka Huang Kin Long, Wong Kin Lung), Hwang Jang Lee, Richard Norton, Mike Abbott
Running Time: 96 min.
By Paul Bramhall
There are some movies which simple defy normal comprehension, and even before reading any sort of synopsis, just by looking at the cast you can tell Future Hunters is going to be one of them. Brought to the screen by the same team that would make Mission Terminate a year later, Future Hunters is helmed by Cirio H. Santiago, a somewhat legendary figure in the Filipino film industry. The son of Dr. Ciriaco Santiago, who founded the Premiere Productions studio in Manila way back in 1946, Cirio would go on to become one of the most recognized names in the world of B-movies, making everything from Blaxploitation, to low budget Vietnam war flicks, to kung fu movies.
Future Hunters somehow seems to escape fitting into any single genre, instead coming across as some kind of half baked version of The Terminator meets Mad Max meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I normally try to stay away from going into in-depth plot descriptions when I review, but in this case it’s the nature of the plot which essentially defines my opinion of the movie, so bear with me and we’ll see how things turn out.
Proceedings open in a barren desert landscape with one of the greatest voiceovers I’ve ever heard, which explains that the year is 2025 and the holocaust has wiped out all of mankind, leaving only the few to scavenge for what they can. However amongst the despair and desperation, there is one man who can put mankind back on track, that man’s name is – Matthew. For reasons never explained, the only way to get mankind back on track is to find the spear that pierced the body of Christ, which will allow whoever finds it to go back in time and stop the holocaust from ever happening.
Matthew, as it turns out, is played by everyone’s favorite Australian, Richard Norton. Yes long before he was in A-list Hong Kong productions facing off against the likes of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Cynthia Rothrock, Norton was making movies like this one. He bursts onto the screen looking like a bearded version of Mad Max, even driving an almost identical car, as a high speed car chase in the desert unfolds which eventually leads to Norton left with nothing more than his leather waistcoat and pants, oh, and his studded belt. Nothing says post-apocalyptic landscape like a studded belt.
Pursued by a small army of foot soldiers, a few tanks, and a fleet of cars, without saying a word Norton wipes out virtually a whole town full of bad guys using his fists, feet, and a machine gun, before thankfully stumbling across the spearhead in question, just before the whole building that he’s sheltering in is blown to smithereens. This whole sequence is the first 10 minutes, and the titles haven’t even rolled yet. Yes these types of movies are undeniably of the B variety, but you have to give them credit for fitting more action into the first 10 minutes than you find in a whole finale of an Expendables movie!
After the titles do roll, things go all Terminator-ish and Norton wakes up to find he’s in 1986, all be it in the exact same spot we last saw him. Displaying no signs of confusion whatsoever, he’s soon rescuing a young couple from a trio of rowdy bikers, with the couple in question being played by Linda Carol, you know, the actress from Carnal Crimes, and her boyfriend is none other than Robert Patrick. Yes, that Robert Patrick, as in the guy who 5 years into the future from this movie, would play the T-1000 in Terminator 2. Something strange is going on here. Back to Norton though, he’s no sooner appeared that he’s shot and mortally wounded, leaving him to deliver a completely incomprehensible speech thanks to his rather broad Aussie accent, but which we can assume is something along the lines of “Use the spear to stop the holocaust that wipes out mankind mate!”
Through some inconsequential exposition, the actress from Carnal Crimes and the T-1000 hightail it to Hong Kong, where they believe a professor resides who knows the secret to the spear. In this section of the movie things get really strange. The couple are picked up from the airport by a taxi driver, a taxi driver played by Bruce Le! Le explains to them some nonsense about how he may know someone that can help them called the Silver Fox who guards a temple. Wait, isn’t that the name of Hwang Jang Lee’s character in classic kung fu movies like The Secret Rivals? It is, but don’t worry about that as nothing much makes sense here anyway. Le also seems to have been dubbed by two different people, so half the conversation he sounds like the constipated Filipino that dubbed him in Mission Terminate, and the other half he sounds like a British gentleman with a stiff upper lip. It’s all a little disconcerting.
Soon they arrive at the temple, but when I say they, I just mean the T-1000 and Bruce Le, as the actress from Carnal Crimes has disappeared with no explanation. They meet the Silver Fox, and bizarrely, it is Hwang Jang Lee! He’s not so willing to give out information though, which leads to one of the most WTF moments in cinema history, as we’re treated to a 2-on-1 fight of the T-1000 paired up with a Bruce Lee imitator taking on the greatest kicker to have ever graced the kung fu movie world. Thankfully the fight is treated with a degree of reality, and the T-1000 is knocked out cold early on, leaving Hwang Jang Lee to unleash his kicks on Le, who, just like in reality, turns out to have a pair of nunchucks tucked away in one of his boots. Surprisingly, the fight is pretty good, Hwang unleashes his trademark triple flying kick, and there’s even a section which pits staff against nunchucks. It’s a definite highlight.
Somewhere in-between, it’s revealed that the person they’re after isn’t in Hong Kong at all, and that they need to seek out a place called the Venus Valley, which contains a race of “Amazonian female like warriors”, where they’ll find the staff which the spearhead belongs to. So after a brief car chase and an exploding car, it suddenly cuts to Manila Airport. It should also be mentioned that from this point Bruce Le and Hwang Jang Lee are never heard of again. Combined with Richard Norton, the movie just lost all of its genuine fighting talent at not even half way in! What we do get though, is an evil group of Nazis (is there any other type of Nazi?) who want to wipe out humanity and create a genetically engineered race of perfect humans.
Soon the Nazis are pursuing are heroes again (the actress from Carnal Crimes has now reappeared). After trying to trick them into meeting for a pleasant evening meal, the T-1000 senses something is wrong, and a foot chase gives way to a night time car chase. About a minute later, we can only assume they’ve been chasing each other for around 8 hours, as it’s inexplicably become daylight. A little later, a night time gun fight also suddenly becomes broad daylight, for no logical reason whatsoever. By the end of the movie it’s safe to assume that most of the characters haven’t slept for 48 hours straight.
By the final half hour, things have descended into Twilight Zone territory. Captured by the Nazis, our fearless couple are held at their camp in the jungle, only to be attacked by a group of what look like post-apocalyptic Filipino bandits on horseback. The attack goes on for about 10 minutes, and at no point do we have any clue who the group that are attacking them are. It’s only when, after they escape, events end up in a cave which is home to a significant population of brown robe wearing dwarves. This kicks off a completely unnecessary sub-plot involving the dwarves. The T-1000 explains that in a private meeting with the head dwarf (that not even we got to witness), the dwarf told him they’re always getting attacked by the post-apocalyptic Filipino bandits, but they also know the location of Venus Valley. So, help them get rid of the bandits, they’ll reveal the location of the valley.
What this means is that, what was minutes earlier a movie with Bruce Le and Hwang Jang Lee, suddenly becomes about an army of hatchet wielding dwarves in brown robes, disguising themselves as walking cardboard boxes. The boxes then proceed to attack the bandits, who’ve already just been involved in a lengthy action scene minutes before, with the only difference being that we now know who they are. Worst of all, when they do attack, the actress from Carnal Crimes and the T-1000 hardly help at all! They’re so useless that at one point one of the dwarves actually saves them from being attacked. The little guys should have just told them the location of Venus Valley to begin with and be done with it. But then we wouldn’t have a dwarf action scene.
Eventually the dwarves prevail, and they give them directions to the Venus Valley, which finally gives us a glimpse of those “Amazonian female like warriors”! What this translates to onscreen of course, is a large group of young well endowed Filipino females (I won’t say actresses) decked out in fur bikinis and bottoms. But the action isn’t over! The Queen Amazonian wants the T-1000 for her own lustful needs, so the actress from Carnal Crimes finally has her chance to shine when she has to fight above a crocodile pit with the tribe’s strongest fighter (strongest i.e. most well endowed). Needless to say, the scene ended with me being quite envious of those crocodiles.
Will they find the missing piece of the spear the pierced the body of Christ and save humanity, or will those pesky Nazis catch up and ruin everything? If it wasn’t clear already, Future Hunters is a truly bizarre slice of Filipino action cinema, one which isn’t afraid of using the likes of Bruce Le and Hwang Jang Lee in little more than extended cameos. However, if you’re a fan of the post-apocalyptic jungle warfare kung fu dwarf action Jesus related genre, then Future Hunters may just be the movie for you. Of course, it would be a real spoiler to give away the actual finale, so I’ll leave it at that.
Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 6.5/10