Film Review: Programmed To Kill/The Retaliator (1987, dir. Allan Holzman & Robert Short)


Samira (Sandahl Bergman)

Samira (Sandahl Bergman)

That screenshot look promising? Well, it isn’t. Programmed to kill? More like programmed to bore. This movie is like Atomic Cyborg in that it’s a Terminator inspired movie. However, unlike Atomic Cyborg, this movie is awful.

I would love to say the movie is about Samira who is captured after participating in a terror attack in Greece and turned into a killing machine, but it’s not. Look at this shot below and guess when it happens out of the 90 minute running time.

I bet that number you thought of wasn’t 40 minutes! Take a look at the shot below when she kills someone in the field as a cyborg and take another guess.

This happens at 52 minutes. It takes this movie 52 minutes to capture her, transform her, and send her into the field. The movie is only 90 minutes long with credits! Just wow! What the movie is actually about is this guy who captures her, then tries to track her down to finish her off.

Eric Mathews (Robert Ginty)

Eric Mathews (Robert Ginty)

The majority of the film is with him, his wife, and kid. The rest of the time is the surgery and exposition. I love when they are walking down this underground hall with pipes running it’s length. Why? So they have plenty of time to tell us that their plan to turn her against her own people by transforming her into a cyborg is going to backfire down the road. What a waste of time! I wonder if the VHS release of this had a sticker on the front of it that said “Press Here” so it’s audience would know how to insert it into the VCR. Oh wait, this was for an audience expecting something kind of cool so maybe it says “insert to fucking box” like Explosive Fighter Patton for the Famicom Disk System does.

At least we can hope that the action, when it happens, is good, right? Nope, it sucks. The stuff near the end kind of suffers from the 2014 Godzilla problem of not putting enough light on the action. Not that much is going on anyways, but still. I really love this shot below.

It’s clearly supposed to be all arty and dramatic as he talks about how she is out to get those who wronged her, but oh please. It’s like the movie wanted to be taken seriously. As if it had an important message to deliver it’s audience. Atomic Cyborg covers the same sort of territory so much better and has arm wrestling. The best you get here is when she calls up a guy and screeches so loud into the phone that his ear bleeds, he crashes the car, and dies. I’m sorry, but if I want murder by phone, then I’ll watch Murder By Phone (1982).

There is one bright point though. Eric’s son is played by none other than Paul Walker!

Paul Walker

Paul Walker

That’s a good thing for me because it means I can mention Tammy and the T-Rex again. Otherwise, there is no bright point to this movie. It’s just terrible. Please watch Atomic Cyborg or Lady Terminator instead.