Cinemax Friday: City Limits (1984, directed by Aaron Lipstadt)


Fifteen years into the future, a plague has wiped out almost everyone legally old enough to drink and it has instead left behind a post-apocalyptic hellscape dominated by teenagers.  Tired of living in the boring desert, Lee (John Stockwell) hops on his motorcycle, puts on a skull mask, and drives to a nearby city.  He hopes to join the Clippers, one of the two gangs that is fighting for control of the city.  However, the Clippers aren’t as easy to join as Lee thought they would be.  As well, an evil corporation (led by Robby Benson of all people) is manipulating the two gangs as a part of a plan to take over the city and also the world.

City Limits is one of those films that would probably be totally forgotten if it hadn’t been featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It’s a good episode but, unfortunately, it’s also led to City Limits getting a reputation for worse than it actually is.

City Limits is a dumb, low-budget movie that was made to capitalize on the success of films like Mad Max.  The plot is impossible to follow, too many scenes are shot in the middle of the night, and Robby Benson is somehow even less intimidating as the villain as you would expect him to be.  (All of Benson’s scenes take place in the same bare office and feature him sitting at a desk.  It probably took a day at most for Benson to do all of his scenes.)  Even with all that in mind, though, City Limits is a fun movie, especially if you can turn off your mind, just relax, and not worry about trying to make it all make sense.  John Stockwell is a likably goofy hero and, Benson aside, the film has got a surprisingly good supporting cast, including Rae Dawn Chong, Kim Cattrall, Tony Plana, Darrell Larson, and even Kane Hodder in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him type of role.  James Earl Jones wears a big fur coat and blows people up.  He also narrates the film, which automatically elevates everything that happens.  Some of the action scenes are exciting.  Fans of people shouting insults while riding motorcycles will find a lot to enjoy in City Limits.  And, finally, there are a few genuinely funny moments.  I loved that the gangs borrowed all of their plans for old comic books.

City Limits is stupid but entertaining, whether you’re watching it on your own or with Joel and the Bots.

 

Cinemax Friday: Boulevard (1994, directed by Penelope Buitenhuis)


Having been knocked up by her abusive boyfriend, Jennefer (Kari Wuhrer) gives up her baby for adoption and then promptly gets the Hell out of town.  She runs away to the hard streets of Toronto, where she meets and moves in with a prostitute, the worldly Ola (Rae Dawn Chong).  Ola shows Jennefer how to survive in the big city and the two of them bond over how terrible their circumstances are, eventually becoming lovers.  Eventually, in order to make ends meet, Jennefer becomes a prostitute herself.  However, this means dealing with Ola’s sadistic pimp, Hassan (Lou Diamond Phillips), who is the type of creep who likes to practice his golf swing in between beating people to death.  Detective McLaren (Lance Henriksen) wants to take Hassan down but Jennefer knows better than to work with the cops.  Meanwhile, Hassan is growing more unstable and dangerous and Jennefer’s ex-boyfriend, J-Rod (Joel Bissonette), has shown up in town.

Boulevard is an interesting film.  It’s undeniably sleazy and exploitative, with the camera lingering over every sex scene and act of violence.  At the same time, it’s also a film with a conscience.  It’s on the side of the girls on the boulevard and it makes clear that every man who claims to be on their side, with the exception of McLaren, is actually a dangerous pervert.  Jennefer and Ola can only depend on each other.  Kari Wuhrer was rarely cast for her acting ability but she gives a surprisingly good performance in Boulevard and she’s matched every step of the way by Rae Dawn Chong.  Lou Diamond Phillips appears to be having fun getting to play a villainous role.  In fact, he has too much fun and goes so overboard that he sometimes takes you out of the reality of the situation.  Far better is Lance Henriksen, whose seen-it-all persona is used to good effect in Boulevard.

Boulevard is a sleazy film with a heart.