[9 December 2013]
Eve of Destruction is one of the many sci-fi action films made in the ‘80s and ‘90s that feature a renegade robot going berserk in our world, with only one man who can save the day, much like The Terminator, Saturn 3 and Runaway. Naturally, this sci-fi action flick stars Tony Award winning singer and dancer Gregory Hines as the hardboiled military marksman sent to take down the dangerous cyborg. Who didn’t see that coming? The casting couldn’t be more perfect if Ben Vereen were cast as the lead in Terminator 5.
While it’s true that Hines had dabbled some in the action genre (since his Broadway debut in 1954), his unlikely casting as the angry military trainer Colonel Jim McQuade is far from the only problem with this film, nor is the all-too-“clever” title. Eve of Destruction centers around a surveillance cyborg named “Eve VIII” (played by Dutch sex symbol Renée Soutendijk) with a tiny atom bomb concealed somewhere inside of her. When the robot is shot during a bank robbery, she is damaged and goes rogue (as gynoids with gunshot wounds tend to do).
Considering the danger inherent in having a military-trained super strong atomic android walking around with a chip on her leather-clad shoulder, the government makes the bold choice of calling in Gregory Hines (clearly on a Broadway break) to team up with Eve’s lookalike creator and namesake Doctor Eve Simmons (also Soutendijk) to stop the rogue robot from working her way through her creator’s life, acting out every ID fantasy the scientist ever had. Theoretically, if he can’t shoot her to death, Hines could distract her with a soft shoe routine and hit her with a stirring rendition of “Mister Bojangles”.
While the premise is interesting (or, at least, no worse than the somewhat similarly themed Species from a few years later), the execution is a far cry from excellence. The plotline and silly synthesized score are both at least five years out of date in this 1991 film and each carry a distinctive deep-dish cheesiness.
To make matters worse, the technology is also hopelessly dated in this film. The huge computer banks with blinking Christmas lights are straight out of a ‘70s TV Movie of the Week. These, coupled with the cathode-ray tube computer monitors, cell phones the size of your forearm, walkie-talkies and hand-held pagers, make it very hard to believe that a state-of the art human-mimicking android is even vaguely likely to be created alongside such dated toys.
What really sets Eve of Destruction apart from its cyborg action brethren is that the film is consistently over-acted to the point that even Hines, a consistently satisfying actor comes off as over-the-top as he yells out his “psychological” approach to capturing Eve. He figures that if Eve is programmed with the thoughts and memories of her creator, the best way to trap the robot is to get the Scientist to reveal to him all of her “teenage sexual fantasies”.
That’s not the only wacky line in the script by Yale Udoff and Duncan Gibbins, either. When discussing the best ways to destroy the machine that bullets can’t kill, Hine’s character is advised to shoot Eve VIII in the pupils. His response “Looks like the eyes have it.”
Yes, we see what you did there, Colonel. Very clever.
This overacting stretches from the lead all the way down to varied extras, many of whose scenes appear to consist of first takes. Surprisingly, one of the few subtle and convincing performances comes from Soutendijk who, in her first American feature, seems sincere and sounds very much like an American (much more than Schwarzenegger did in his similar role). As both Simmons and her synthetic doppelganger, Soutendijk achieves some actual pathos and a range of emotions, even when the material she’s given is hardly the best and was surely hard to work with. Soutendijk was clearly hired to be a beautiful blonde in an action movie, but she manages to prove convincing as a scientist and a warrior, at least when compared to the convincing-factor of the rest of the cast.
Aside from Soutendijk’s performance, some of the better moments come in the finalé, which manages some suspense and some of the special makeup effects which prove to be relatively high quality. However, in general even the action feels forced in many areas with standard fight scenes and car chases propping up most of the otherwise derivative film. This may be no major surprise, considering the fact that Duncan Gibbins also directed the film and the closest thing to an action film he had directed prior to Eve of Destruction was Glen Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” music video.
The 2013 Shout! Factory Blu-Ray release is decidedly bare-bones with the closest thing to a “DVD Extra” being the theatrical trailer. With Gibbins passing away only two years after this film’s release and Hines passing away a decade later, a commentary might be a rough sell and any behind-the-scenes feature might serve to underline this underachieving film’s flaws much more than its successes.
More extras might also highlight this film’s excesses which still fail to distract the viewer from the logic leaps and plot gaps inherent to the story. This is too bad, too, because as derivative as much of this film is, the potential for a surprising action flick was there. As it stands, Eve of Destruction never quite gets going and is largely forgotten for a reason. Now about that Ben Vereen as Terminator idea…