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The Lawnmower Man - The Director's Cut (1992)
26th Oct 10
Virtual reality turns a simpleton into a God...it happens all the time!
Given the amount of celluloid dross that surfaced as a result of being adapted from Stephen King's novels and short stories you'd think the fella was oblivious to such output. But no! There he is as a priest in the woeful Pet Semetary, behind the camera on the appalling Maximum Overdrive and failing to see the brilliance of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, endorses a limp TV mini-series adaptation instead. It is apparent that for all his genius as a writer, he fails to know a good film when he sees one and is quite happy for his name to lurk heavy on the bottom shelf at Blockbuster.
When The Lawnmower Man was released theatrically in 1992 and sold as being a Stephen King adaptation, the bespectacled author saw red and asked that his name be taken off it. In fact so incensed was he that he took the makers to court despite the producer's insistence that the film had been based loosely on King's 1975 short story of the same name. King won his case stating that the finished movie had little in the way of meaningful resemblance to his tale and sued the makers for ten thousand dollars a day as compensation until his name was removed from the by then video release. Who would have thought that from the same guy who allowed cinema audiences to groan their way through the likes of Graveyard Shift?
Director/co-writer Brett Leonard's movie is fun for a while until our formerly dumb Jobe heads out for vengeance against those that did him ill and then it all gets a little silly. Jeff Fahey is grossly miscast as simpleton Jobe Smith; he is a simpleton-by-the-numbers with a daft haircut and talking in child-like wonder. It's not often one gets to say that Pierce Brosnan is the best actor in a movie but here in The Lawnmower Man Director's Cut he is.
Former Bond Brosnan as Dr. Lawrence Angelo is having a tough time of things. A chimpanzee he has experimented on using a mixture of virtual reality and drugs to enhance it's intelligence goes AWOL and ends up being shot. Conflicted with the guys in power paying his bills, Angelo would rather the advancements he had been making benefitted mankind rather than be used for military purposes. To prove he is conflicted, he squabbles a lot with his partner and partakes of the alcohol in volume whilst recording his grumps.
Salvation comes in the form of Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey) who found the errant chimp and assumed it to be the star of a comic book series he enjoys. Jobe is not the brightest of people. We know this because he has a hairdo-from-hell that would put Worzel Gummidge to shame and talks like no simpleton you'd ever really meet....so much for method acting or any acting method at all! Angelo reasons that the experiments he was conducting on a chimp could probably have similar results on an adult man with a low IQ. WRONG!
Soon Jobe's sponge of a mind is gobbling up information at an alarming rate and he's getting down and dirty with drooling local widow Marnie (Jenny Wright) having probably discovered what those fleshy appendages are now for in his trouser department, finally brushing his hair and ditching those dodgy dungarees. However things soon get out of hand and Jobe realises he has abilities far beyond the norm and although first scared he decides such abilities would come in handy for getting back at his tormentors.
Rather than dazzle us with such talents, he rather unimaginatively sends in a lawnmower, powered by his mind of course, to take out one such bully, and everything else is rather daft. Never mind, Angelo is on hand to remind the audience that there should be an element of drama now as it seems Jobe has some rather scary ideas about transferring out of his physical form and in doing so take over the world.
For fans of the original this director's cut is a more satisfying experience, however on the preview disc received there was no director's commentary to explain why nearly forty minutes had been chopped for the theatrical release. Why is the director's cut more satisfying? Well, for starters there's more explanation at the beginning, and the stuff with the chimp Rosco isn't so rushed. There is also more about Jobe's obsession with comic book hero Cyboman amongst other slight plot alterations.
The Lawnmower Man Director's Cut is a must for fans of the original and for those that were less fussed first time round, they too are likely to warm to this fuller version but still shake their heads in disbelief come Jobe's revenge. So was it really a foresight into how virtual reality would affect our existence as the makers had us believe at the time? Not at all, but as a disposable horror/sci-fi hybrid, it makes for a cheerfully daft Saturday night's viewing.
Also included within the two disc set is...
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (1996)
Jobe is back and keen to take over the world as we know it again!
At the end of the first Lawnmower Man movie Jobe had made well on his promise and infiltrated every phone line there is. He was no longer part of the physical world, his body now just a husk and following a rather large explosion a badly burnt one at that.
However let’s forget all that shall we? Which is exactly what the director Farhad Mann and his team of writers have done. Instead, we have a fully operational and physical Jobe who somehow managed to lose his blonde locks along the way and indulge in a shaved bald look instead. We can appreciate that perhaps Jeff Fahey wanted nothing to do with this sequel – and quite rightly too – however couldn’t the makers at least have tried to get someone that looked like him?
This sequel set in a near future that apes Blade Runner badly sees a fully revived Jobe up to no good for baddie business man Jonathan Walker. At first, it looks like Jobe is doing as Walker wishes however our bald computer wizard has other plans which will see him take complete control over the world’s computers. Isn’t that exactly what Jobe achieved at the end of the first movie?
Peter Parkette (Austin O’Brien – the only returning cast member from the original) knows a thing or two about computers too, and with the aid of his band of geek misfits seeks out the help of Dr. Benjamin Trace (Patrick Bergin) to put a stop to Jobe’s nefarious plans.
Peter’s appearance shows another glaring fault with the set-up of Lawnmower Man 2. Given that the movie is set in a future very unlike that first time round, it surely can't be that far in the future given how little Peter has aged? And the grumbles do not stop there.
Patrick Bergin is grossly miscast and what’s with his hair resembling Prince in his 'Sign of the Times' days and Matt Frewer seems to forget that he is no longer playing Max Headroom. Add to that some woeful visual effects, which are even more embarrassing given that the likes of Jurassic Park preceded this by three years and the first Matrix movie was just another three years away and you have a sequel that puts the Highlander ones to shame in terms of crapness and lack of continuity.
For those of you that use imdb.com, Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace presently sits in its top hundred lowest rated movies and quite rightly so. It shows the disdain that even the distributors have for this movie when they can't be arsed to put the whole title on the DVD menu.
Fans of the first movie have every right to be pissed off, and for those that are not quite as keen, they will still find little here to recommend. This comes as part of the special edition release of The Lawnmower Man – Director’s Cut. If you have any sense you’ll leave this in the case! Avoid! Zero out of five stars!
1st Nov 04 Above all though, it is the relationship between John and Laura Baxter which is the film’s central focus throughout, and the gradual disintegration of their relationship amidst a haze of grief.