Today’s flick is Brandon Lee’s “Laser Mission,” an odd little low-budget action movie with more ambition than sense.
The director for “Laser Mission” was BJ Davis, who is an accomplished stunt worker with experience on movies like “Fatal Games,” “The Hand,” “Darkman,” and “Army of Darkness.” He also directed a handful of other smaller pictures, such as “White Ghost” and “Forget About It.” The two writers of “Laser Mission” were Phillip Gutteridge and David Frank, neither of whom have any other screen credits.
The producer and cinematographer for “Laser Mission” were the father and son duo of Hans Kuhle, Sr. and Hans Kuhle, Jr. The latter of the two had previously worked on films like “City Wolf” and the BJ Davis movie “White Ghost.”
The music for “Laser Mission” was interestingly provided by David Knopfler, who is best known for being part of the band “Dire Straits.”
The effects team for “Laser Mission” included Debbie Christiane (“River of Death,” “Gor”), Debbie Nicoll (“Gor II,” “Lethal Ninja”), and Jannie Wienland (“The Order,” “Cyborg Cop,” “Sweepers”).
The three credited editors for “Laser Mission” were Bob Yrtuc, E. Selavie, and Robert L. Simpson, who received an Academy Award nomination for 1940’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” “Laser Mission” was his last credited picture, and was released an astonishing (and suspicious) 12 years posthumously.
The cast for “Laser Mission” includes a number of vaguely familiar faces, specifically Brandon Lee (“The Crow”), Ernest Borgnine (“Small Soldiers,” “The Dirty Dozen,” “McHale’s Navy”), Graham Clarke (“Space Mutiny,” “The Evil Below”), and Debi A. Monahan (“Night Court,” “Shattered”).
The story of “Laser Mission” centers on a freelance operative is sent into an African nation by the CIA to rescue a kidnapped expert laser scientist. He is running against the clock, as communists are hoping to force the kidnapped expert to build a devastating laser weapon.
Reportedly, David Hasselhoff was at one point considered for the lead role that ultimately went to Brandon Lee. I’m honestly not sure if that would have been an upgrade or a downgrade, but Lee is certainly one of the stronger aspects of the film.
Robert L. Simpson’s editor credit absolutely baffles me. As far as I can tell, he was long dead before any shooting ever even happened. It could just be an IMDb error, or a weird tribute by the filmmakers. I’m sure someone out there knows the story, but I wasn’t able to dig it up.
The reception for “Laser Mission” has been generally negative, as it has accrued a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 25% and an IMDb rating of 3.4. I couldn’t dig up any financial details, but there is no way that this was a particularly expensive production. I assume the went straight to video, but who knows? It might have had a limited theatrical run somewhere. In any case, it has a bit of a following now as a good-bad classic, and is considered by some to be the platonic ideal of a low-budget schlock action movie.
As far as issues with “Laser Mission” go, it is hard to rank them in terms of severity. The first thing I noticed is that the film quality is just awful, which isn’t surprising for this sort of small production. Still, it just looks awful, in a way that you just know how terrible the movie is going to be out of the gate.
Brandon Lee’s acting is probably one of the few mildly positive aspects of the film, but the rest of the acting is atrocious. There is no romantic chemistry at all between Lee and his partner, Borgnine’s accent is all over the place, characters rotate nationalities, and the comic relief bits are just unbearable. The writing is obviously at least partially at fault here, as the unnecessary and clunky attempts at humor certainly don’t help anything. The title of the movie is even awkwardly wedged into a bit of dialogue, which is just spectacular.
The unnecessary comic relief cop duo, who don’t really serve a purpose for the overall story, make for some of the most unbearable moments in the film. All of their bits boil down to “Women can’t do _____!” / “Yes I can!”, with the occasional interspersed physical comedy routines. It feels like they wandered in from an entirely different movie, and all of the plot progress has to grind to a halt to make room for them.
During the first few sequences of the film, Brandon Lee’s character literally wears Clark Kent glasses as a disguise, which was worth a legitimate laugh. However, it was one of the few that the film pulled from me.
The cinematography on “Laser Mission” is nothing short of awful, to the point that it is hard to tell what is happening in any given shot. Shots are constantly too far away from the action, off-center, and linger far too long, which is just weird to look at.
As far as positive things go, there are certainly some good stunts throughout “Laser Mission,” which isn’t a surprise given the director’s professional background.
“Laser Mission” has a few good moments here and there, including a ridiculous conclusion and a laughable diamond heist, but overall it is pretty slow and uneventful. The clunky acting and dialogue are front and center if that is your thing, but I generally consider this a deep cut only fit for hard core bad movie fans. I just don’t see it working for a mixed audience of casual movie watchers.