It’s tempting to call Recon 2020 a cheeseball, dunderheaded rip-off of Aliens, Starship Troopers and every other film ever made about “space marines”…because that’s what it is. It’s also a towering achievement, given the obvious budgetary constraints, and a testament to the power of crummy movies. If ever a film could simultaneously exceed and fail expectations, this is it.
If you compare Recon 2020 to the movies that inspired it, then of course it seems like a cheap throwaway, but amidst the DTV backyard video wasteland, it’s downright blockbuster-y in scope and ambition, if less so in execution. It’s got pyrotechnics, make-up, costumes, computer graphics, robots, space vehicles, weaponry, cyborg kung-fu and an array of baddies that come at the marines in video game-like waves, from mutant roaches to alien squid to zombies, werewolves and vampires, a three-headed dinosaur and some really, really bad actors.
Anderson Bradshaw stars as Sergeant Sharp, an over-the-top black authority figure type who’s a caricature of the caricature Al Matthews played in Aliens. What Bradshaw lacks in acting skills he makes up for in “growliness,” literally barking his lines — and who can blame him when you have to deliver straight-faced monologues like, “We’re walking into a nest of vipers covered in dog shit!” and “We’re gonna have to be ready to get out of there faster than a half-fucked fox in a forest fire!” What does that even mean?
It’s this sort of writing that takes the money-strapped ambition of the filmmakers and turns it into the glorious dookie pile that is Recon 2020. The team of writers (let that concept sink in) somehow explains the assortment of monsters that attack the marines as the result of alien experimentation on humans to genetically alter their bodies into “biological weapons based on human myths.” Hmmm…with that in mind, why not:
- Santa Claus riding a unicorn
- The Pop Rocks-and-Coke-decimated corpse of Mikey from the Life commercial
- A white NFL running back
- A platonic, heterosexual male-female friendship
The acting — including that of Gillian Leigh as wide-eyed sorority chick/fighter pilot Fooks, who Sharp’s got the jungle fever for — is no better than the writing, but at least the cast commits to it — a key for any good bad movie. Recon 2020 understands that if a movie’s gonna be bad, at least make it actively bad. There’s nothing worse than a boring bad movie, and Recon 2020 is not boring. Ridiculous and mentally retarding, maybe, but not boring.