Eve of Destruction (1991)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2014-02-12 07:20

Written by: Duncan Gibbins, Yale Udoff
Directed by: Duncan Gibbins
Starring: Gregory Hines, Renée Soutendijk, and Michael Greene

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

“Well this is quite some toy you have yourselves here gentlemen. I suppose you want me to put it back in its box."

Hollywood wasn’t about to let the 80s slip out of the backdoor without a fight, so it deployed Eve of Destruction, another movie that revealed its decade-long preoccupation with killer robots and ripping off those killer robots with lesser films. This one’s essentially a lady version of Robocop because with the 90s would also come female empowerment, and what better way to reflect that than with a movie that unleashes an out-of-control woman cyborg with unchecked estrogen levels, right?

Dr. Eve Simmons (Renee Soutendijk) is a modern woman: super-educated, divorced, and with a government job that has her toiling away on a super-secret project involving android technology. Specifically, she’s designed a robot that serves as her doppelganger, only it’s been programmed to enter hostile situations and diffuse them. When a test run goes awry during a bank robbery, the Eve VIII model goes haywire and embarks on a killing spree. To keep the carnage in check, the government brings in Colonel Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines), its top field operative who specializes in defusing high-pressure situations. Did I mention that Eve VIII is also outfitted with a nuclear bomb that will detonate when her stress levels reach a certain threshold?

So, in short: Gregory Hines (!) is dispatched to rein in the wrath of a temperamental cyber-woman with the help of the real woman who created the killing machine. Eve of Destruction is definitely an 80s movie trapped in a 90s release date; it’s not only another robophobic misadventure but also another mismatched buddy-cop movie featuring the damnedest of all pairings to boot: the typically mild-mannered Hines is not the first person I'd expect to take on the role of a hard-ass black ops commander, while Soutendijk is a Dutch import and occasional Paul Verhoeven collaborator making her American debut. Her transition is a rather demanding and sometimes awkward one that has her juggling a dual role as the buttoned-up Eve Simmons and the decidedly buttoned-down, more sultry Eve VIII. I’m not sure which suits her best, but she’s just a tad more convincing as the former, perhaps because even the cyborg Eve looks like she’s one hideous shoulder-padded suit away from looking like a typical 80s mom (but that could be because we see her in the Simmons role first).

Hines and Soutendijk have a decent but one-note rapport that sees the former busting the latter’s chops about playing God and creating a weapon of mass destruction without an off switch. Most of the fun lies with Eve’s alter-ego, whose path of destruction is lined with some amusing sequences, such as a mouth-breathing creep’s ill-fated bar and hotel room rendezvous with the bot. The guy vaguely resembles Chuck Norris, and I have to wonder if it wasn’t a coincidence since the sequence revolves around the literal emasculation of a bunch of guys, so there’s a weird meta implication if she’s taking down a stand-in for an 80s representation of on-screen masculinity. Or am I reading way too much into a shitty movie about a psychotic android with a penchant for biting off dicks? It’s sort of interesting that Soutendijk starred in a couple of Verhoeven’s films because this one obviously owes more than a little bit to Robocop, and one has to imagine that the Dutchman would have found even more splattery amusement in this sort of stuff (a gruesome “autopsy” on one of the Eve models feels more like Cronenberg’s thing, though).

The climax is also sort of bonkers and revolves around Simmons’s ex-husband and her son once her killer robot makes her way to New York (from California—in 18 hours, presumably without air travel because how terrible would airport security have to be to allow a robot on board? Nevermind.). It’s like Kramer vs. Kramer with a fuckin’ cyborg and an eventual subway skirmish. Anyway, the robot feels compelled to do this because she actually represents her creator’s primal impulses, so of course she would want to protect “her” son at all costs (though, given that she’s a walking nuke, maybe it would make more sense to get the hell out of dodge instead? I guess nobody thought anyone would question the logic of this movie because killer girl robot, you guys). Eve VIII’s true nature is an intriguing little wrinkle, at least, as it forces the real Eve to backtrack through her traumatic life to plot the android's movements, a dark journey that opens the door for more trashy subplots involving her father’s (Kevin McCarthy!) domestic abuse and whatnot.

There’s a treacly sort of Lifetime movie sentiment behind its notion of “empowerment,” which only seems even more disingenuous when you realize that the film’s villain is essentially the unchecked female id and a collection of negative, shrewish stereotypes. I’d make a joke about Defcon levels of PMS or something, but I think that’d be feeding into the machine, and, if I’ve learned anything from this movie, it’s that you don’t wanna mess around with machines, especially ones that are equipped to shoot you in the face. Perhaps not as gonzo as it sounds (or as it should be), Eve of Destruction is an okay little diversion that works better as an action movie than it does an outright horror movie due to its predominant silliness. Scream Factory has rewired it for optimal home video viewing with a no-frills Blu-ray that packs an adequate presentation (the film is kind of soaked in that drab, gritty early 90s look anyway) and a lone trailer (sadly, its rap-themed TV spot didn’t make the cut). Still, it’s a noticeable upgrade from the film’s lone full-frame DVD release and proves that Scream is doing a fine job of curating an eclectic library with both classics and forgotten oddballs like Eve of Destruction. Just don’t let her catch you calling her that. She’s sensitive. Rent it!

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