Monday, August 8, 2016

Full Eclipse (1993)

“The Wolfman.” “The Howling.” “An American Werewolf in London.” “Dog Soldiers.” “Ginger Snaps.” These are but a few classic werewolf films to grace the silver screen since the dawn of film. All of them had style, mood, atmosphere, intrigue, and finesse that catapulted them into the stratosphere. All of them were missing one key ingredient, however, to put them on the map as the greatest of all time. They were all missing Mario Van Peebles.

“Full Eclipse” has Mario Van Peebles, in the lead role no less, yet it surprisingly isn’t the greatest film of all time. It even has a premise that seemingly can’t be flubbed. A select group of Los Angeles police officers are injected with a serum that gives them the abilities of a werewolf. It brings them back from the dead, makes them nearly invincible, and skyrockets razor sales in the community. This makes the officers the ultimate defense in wiping out crime in the city.

And yet, “Full Eclipse” is lackluster. Not terrible, mind you, just very vanilla. It’s a run-of-the-mill crime actioner with werewolves thrown into the mix. Except that the werewolves aren’t as impactful as one would expect. Rarely do the cops transform completely, either growling (like a cheetah for some reason) and leaping tall bounds in their human form and occasionally sprouting fangs and claws to dice through criminals with. This does make sense, as a majority of the action takes place during the day and/or not during a full moon, so a full transformation wouldn’t suffice. The writers, Richard Christian Matheson & Michael Reaves, could’ve gotten around this by having the serum give the officers the ability to transform at will. It wouldn’t have been too tacky seeing how it gives them immediate healing factors and the ability to don claws and fangs at will.

The real reason for the lack of werewolf makeup is a minimal budget. “Full Eclipse” was made for HBO and, while boasting slick production values, it had to scrimp on the special effects. When we finally do see a full-blown transformation, it’s rather chintzy. Therefore, we’re left with adequately framed action set pieces. There are shootouts in night clubs and on the streets, as well as an intense drive-by. Said drive-by is the only unique action set piece, as it has one of the newly minted werecops hopping on the back of a perp’s motorcycle and crashing them both into a brick wall, causing a massive explosion (naturally). The werecop emerges from the flames unscathed and the denizens of Los Angeles are too smug to even notice. I initially questioned why the werecops weren’t acting subtly, but I guess there’s no need to.

That werecop is Jim Sheldon (Anthony John Denison), partner to our hero, Max Dire (Mario Van Peebles). And yes, Max Dire is his actual name. My friend grew tired of my constant dire puns throughout the film, but can you blame me? I’m surprised his partner wasn’t called Jim Grim, and even more surprised nobody in the film made the lousy puns that I did. For shame! Anyhow, Jim is gearing up for marriage and retirement, which means he’s going to die. And die he does, only to be brought back to life via the werewolf serum. He celebrates by performing the aforementioned motorcycle stunt, then puts a silver bullet through his brains later that night. When you vow to retire in a cop thriller, you will die one way or another.

Max is understandably confused by all of this, though Mario Van Peebles doesn’t quite show that in his performance. He always comes across as mildly perturbed no matter the situation. Partner dies, comes back to life, acts superhuman, and then shoots himself? Act mildly perturbed. You get shot through the heart and then are forcefully given the werewolf serum you’ve been protesting? Act mildly perturbed. Receive your check for starring in a made-for-TV werewolf flick? Laugh all the way to the bank. Mario does a fine job of dispensing charm into his role, but he’s given no direction by Anthony Hickox in how to handle the more dramatic elements. He’s simply here to snarl, shoot guns, look good in a suit, and charm the pants off of everyone.

Not helping “Full Eclipse” is the lack of a strong villain. There’s a dispensable mobster who acts as a target for the werecops. He’s so disposable that his name escapes me, so I’ll just refer to him as Mobster McGee. And that’s the only time I’ll refer to him, as he takes a backseat to the true villain, Adam Garou (Bruce Payne). He is the one responsible for recruiting the werecops and in orchestrating their attacks. It comes as no surprise that he’s corrupt as Payne’s performance spells it out for us. No good man gets into the fetal position on a chair whilst listening to his headphones unless that man is pining for his long-lost love. Garou does this randomly, which means he’s evil.

I wouldn’t call “Full Eclipse” boring, but it’s certainly underwhelming. It presents a tremendous premise, only to barely do anything with it. It’s a decent at best crime actioner and a lame werewolf flick. At least Mario Van Peebles looks good in a suit.

MVT: The action sequences. They’re framed well and, while rudimentary, fulfill their purpose and are slightly entertaining. That motorcycle stunt was fascinating.

Make or Break: The concept as a whole. It’s unique enough to keep one’s interest, but also not explored enough to be of great interest. Mileage may vary on how long it’ll keep your interest.

Final Score: 5.25/10

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