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Circuitry Man

This film is worth seeing, or, more precisely, hearing, for the music of Deborah Holland. The sleek, cool, and stylish composer, songwriter, and lead singer for the musical group Animal Logic is listed as the film's soundtrack composer, singing four of her own songs and making a brief appearance as a lounge singer. Her contribution aside, this is yet another tired rehashing of BLADE RUNNER, with touches of MAD MAX (including the casting of ROAD WARRIOR villain Vernon Wells as the heavy). Stop us if you've heard this one before: the film is set in the not-too-distant future, long after the Earth's surface has become uninhabitable. The ozone layer is but a fond memory and the destruction of the ecology has led to a contaminated atmosphere virtually devoid of oxygen. Cities are now underground, and in subterranean Los Angeles, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (perhaps best remembered as the towel-clad damsel in distress opposite Chevy Chase in FLETCH) plays Lori, the film's hard-bitten "Mad Max" stand-in. She's an ex-bodyguard trying to launch a career as a fashion designer. Her plans are sidetracked when her old gangster boss, Juice (Lu Leonard), forces her out of retirement for that ever-popular "one last job." Juice has a briefcase filled with computer chips and she needs them to be delivered to New York in a hurry. Juice has a dangerous partner in Plughead (Wells), a gruesome humanoid whose bald head is mottled with various outlets he uses to tap into human emotions, especially pain, to give himself drug-like rushes. Juice brings Lori along as muscle for a meeting with Plughead, but things go awry when a couple of inept cops try to crash the meeting. In the chaos, Lori escapes with the chips and decides to carry out her mission, heading for New York, with male android pleasure unit Danner (Jim Metzler) along for company. Along the way, they get help from underground dweller Leech (Dennis Christopher), and love develops between Lori and Danner. This could have been a fairly entertaining film. The cast is solid (especially Leonard, who offers a funny, well-tuned performance as Juice), the special effects are imaginative and technically above par, and Jamie Thompson's expressive cinematography makes good use of the California desert locations. But Steven Lovy's direction, along with the script he co-wrote with his brother, Robert, are tired and uninvolving. The film lacks narrative coherence and is filled with gaping plot holes--the most troubling being that it never bothers to explain just why the chips Lori is toting are so valuable. At every chance, CIRCUITRY MAN opts for the banal and the conventional. Its action scenes lack drive and conviction, as though the filmmakers were too cool to condescend to providing simple popcorn movie entertainment. In the final analysis, CIRCUITRY MAN's greatest failing may be that it is just too smart for its own good. (Violence, profanity, adult situations.)