Trancers III: Deth Lives! (1992) — Jack strikes at the heart of the Trancer program

“You know, Shark, this could be the beginning of a beautiful… forget it.”

Justin’s rating: Trancers has a nice trancey soundtrack. Fitting.

Justin’s review: While Trancers had its birth in the mid-1980s, it wasn’t until the ’90s that the franchise went all-out, pumping out as many sequels as Full Moon could get away with before its fanbase lost interest. And so a scarce year after Trancers II, the second sequel emerged straight-to-video with no signs of stopping.

Once again, Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) isn’t getting a happily ever after. His marriage to Lena (Helen Hunt, with one foot out the door due to her starring role on Mad About You) is breaking up, and he’s making a living by being a sleazy private eye. To make matters worse, a gigantic goon kidnaps our grumpy hero and yanks him “up the line” to 2352 A.D. to help with a Trancer war that’s threatening to sweep over the world. With the good guys on the verge of losing, it’s up to Jack Deth and an android named Shark (the aforementioned goon) to travel to 2005 to put an end to the start of the Trancer program.

Deth is as sardonic as ever, growling out cheesy one-liners that would be eye-rolling if they weren’t par for the course in a movie like this. He kind of reminds me of a budget Steve Martin in many respects. In any case, he’s not brimming over with intelligence or savvy, but Deth’s bull-headed focus makes him a problem for the military unit developing Trancer technology even so. But there’s a twist, as Lena turns out to be a married doctor in 2005 working on the Trancers program with the intention to be a whistleblower.

And what’s one more twist between friends? So Lena’s harboring a fugitive from the project named R.J. (Melanie Smith), a Trancer herself that has some sort of control over her increased abilities. Honestly, I don’t think he really needs the assist, as the military group is a bunch of klutzy weirdoes who are like kids playacting at being soldiers. It’s really hard to take any of them seriously as a threat. They’re all led by installment villain Col. Daddy Muthuh (Andrew Robinson, who you might know as Garak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), who exudes “mouth-breathing creep” like nobody’s business.

Charles Band didn’t return to direct the third installment, and that’s not the only change here. Trancers III is clearly trying to be darker and more “adult” in the kind of ham-handed ways that you’d expect from low-budget fare, and the lack of several members of the supporting cast of the first two films is sorely felt. It’s not quite as funny (although these movies were never straight-up comedy to begin with) even though it’s really trying to be in points.

Still, I liked that there’s a solid continuity from the first two movies that makes this a true “part 3” in a way that many trilogies couldn’t claim. So despite that ’90s low budget scifi feel and that hoary old “super-soldier” plot, I’ll give Deth Lives (wonderful subtitle, by the way) a grudging thumbs-up.

Didja notice?

  • That’s just a terrible commercial for a private eye agency
  • Is that Bill and Ted’s time traveling phone booth?
  • The future has very unsterile hospitals
  • Death by pool cue requires a kill quip
  • High-level combat tests take place with those padded foam Q-tips that you can rent from party suppliers
  • Everybody loves Deth’s ‘vette
  • The ocean has radiation level warnings in 2005, apparently
  • Evil villains live for a good long monologue with a katana
  • Need continued funding for your wackadoodle program? Have a soldier rip out another’s throat in front of a senator!
  • Well RJ ended up being a bust
  • High tech elevators need an “ELEVATOR” sign to designate them as such

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