A distinct improvement on the previous entry in the TRANCERS series, this third installment is a small-scale but entertaining genre entry. It's Christmas 1992 in Los Angeles, and former Trancer hunter Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is now making a living as a private detective. He's in the midst of divorce proceedings with his wife, Lena (Helen Hunt), but in...read more
A distinct improvement on the previous entry in the TRANCERS series, this third installment is a small-scale but entertaining genre entry.
It's Christmas 1992 in Los Angeles, and former Trancer hunter Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is now making a living as a private detective. He's in the midst of divorce proceedings with his wife, Lena (Helen Hunt), but in an attempt at reconcilation, he makes arrangements to meet with her for dinner.
Those plans are scuttled, however, by the arrival of Shark (R.A. Mihailoff), a scary-looking android emissary from the future who wisks Deth back "down the line" to the year 2352. There he encounters a wartorn Los Angeles in which the zombielike Trancers have slaughtered most of the "normals," and
meets up with his former wife Alice (Megan Ward), now a colonel in the dwindling resistance against the Trancers. She sends him on yet another time jaunt--to 2005--when, she says, Lena will have found out who created the Trancers in the first place. Deth's mission is to track the responsible party
and end the menace at its source.
Escaping another attack, Deth arrives at his destination year, where Colonel Daddy Muther (Andrew Robinson) has begun the trancing program as part of an elite underground military corps. After one of his "10th level" soldiers (Don Dowe) goes murderously berserk in a club, a lower-level female
Trancer-to-be named R.J. (Melanie Smith) goes AWOL from the program. She winds up feeding information about Muther's program to Lena, now a newspaper reporter. Tracking her down after reading one of her stories, Deth finds that she has remarried and had a daughter since he mysteriously disappeared
on her eight years before. She turns out to be hiding R.J., who agrees to help Deth bring Muther down and later proves herself by detecting that a cop who stops to question them is actually one of Muther's subjects. Before long, the pair are captured by Jason (Tony Pierce), a non-Trancer goon
working for Muther, and brought to Muther's underground complex.
There the sadistic colonel forcibly reinstates R.J. back into the Trancer program, straps Deth down and gives him the first injection designed to turn him into a Trancer, but R.J. frees him just as influential Senator McCoy (Hunter Von Leer) is visiting Muther's facility. The pair shoot Jason, and
Muther puts his soldiers on alert; Deth and R.J. take several of them down, but R.J. soon begins to feel the trancing drugs take hold and begs Deth to shoot her before she can turn on him, which he reluctantly does. He is then confronted by Lt. Ryan (Ed Beechner), one of Muther's best fighters,
and is in danger of losing when Shark shows up again and saves him.
The android is incapacitated in a subsequent confrontation, however, and Muther confronts Deth, attempting to use his drug-accentuated influence over him to make Deth shoot himself. Deth resists, however, and kills Muther instead; Shark reactivates, and the pair return to 2352. There, Alice and
her associates are now in charge of a glittering city, and, impressed by Deth's handling of his assignment, appoint him Peacekeeping Emissary of Time and Space. Deth, not especially thrilled with the appointment, nonetheless heads off with Shark for more adventures.
While TRANCERS III will probably appeal most to those who have already seen the first two installments, it can be enjoyed by the uninitiated who are able to extrapolate a bit from the dialogue and situations presented here. In any case, writer-director C. Courtney Joyner (who also wrote
PUPPETMASTER III, the best entry in that Full Moon series) has kept his screenplay packed with incident. While not exactly complex, the film is certainly busy enough to sustain interest through the movie's brief running time. It's also clever in the way it manages to work almost all of the series'
previously established characters into the story, provides a reasonable explanation for where the Trancers came from and includes an effective subplot about Lt. Ryan's younger brother Matt (Randal Keith), who wants to join the Trancer corps, only to fall victim to his own older brother in one of
Muther's brutal staged combats.
Tim Thomerson continues to be this film series's greatest asset, delivering his tough-guy dialogue with assurance and finding humor in his character without playing against the material. Hunt, who was game enough to return to this low-budget franchise even as she was appearing in major films like
MR. SATURDAY NIGHT and THE WATERDANCE, does well with her brief screen time, and Robinson is an effectively slimy villain.
Joyner stretches his limited resources pretty well and comes up with a couple of good action scenes, but regrettably lets an uncomfortable misogyny creep into his work; with the exception of Lena and the briefly seen future officials, every female character in the film dies a nasty and sometimes
protracted death. It's an unfortunate indicator that TRANCERS III never really transcends its exploitation film status, even though it's in many ways an above-average example of the genre. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
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