Robotrix (1991)

Directed by: Jamie Luk
Writen by: Jamie Luk & So Man-Sing
Producer: Chua Lam
Starring: Aoyama Chikako, Amy Yip, David Wu, Hui Hiu-Daan, Billy Chow & Wu Fung


Released before Sex And Zen actually but a performer like Amy Yip had wind in her sails after Erotic Ghost Story the year before so the creation of Robotrix isn't all that far fetched but few did a, as one reviewer quoted it to be, a mixture of a Russ Meyer film and Robocop! Directed by Jamie Luk, who has several acting credits under his belt but I can't think of one role where he was lead or even supporting actor. It was instead filmmaking that made Jamie break on a creative level. Responsible for a variety of genre movies, it's pretty clear he was thriving when being more out there as Doctor Vampire, this and Hello! Who Is It? are both hoots, silly and in the case of the latter, really a dark ghost romance with goofy cops. His finest movie though is the quirky, synch sound murder mystery The Case Of The Cold Fish from 1995, featuring a terrific, comedic double act between Michael Chow and Michael Wong (who's willingly sending up his SDU and lacking in Cantonese-image). Those movies didn't feel vibrant, although necessarily flat but one important note about a fairly high concept movie like Robotrix is that it doesn't represent Hong Kong stepping it up to thoroughly compete with a Robocop or Terminator. No, it's at times as flat as ever, employing the throwing a lot at the wall to see what sticks and there's no better period to practice this free for all stance towards pleasing audiences. Because Robotrix is indeed pleasing, knowing its audience are in it for the sight that is Amy Yip, the silliness AND violence that can come with such a stance.

A prince of a sheik is kidnapped by Ryuichi Yamamoto (Lam Chung) as the sheik has refused to co-operate with the scientist on creating the Robot Legion. Ryuichi proves his power by transferring his mind into a powerful robot body (Billy Chow) and goes to town torturing the prince and raping women all over town. Killed in duty by Ryuichi, cop Selina (Aoyama Chikako) is revived as a robot by Dr. Sara (Hui Hiu-Daan) and along with one of her other robot creations Ann (Amy Yip), the female trio joins the police force (led by Selina's boyfriend played by David Wu who goes through confusion and tackling his fear of heights throughout) to bring down Ryuichi Yamamoto and find the prince...

You have confidence in the early 90s era of Hong Kong. Confidence that it can survive lazy opening credits OF Hong Kong and that it doesn't even try and be eye popping and grab you considering the concept here. Shows confidence by Hong Kong cinema itself and you have to divide your view and grades on the filmmaking level here. Because partly Jamie Luk brings a cheap sci-fi flick with T & A to the table but energy, possibly fun AND violence is needed however and Luk rarely has a problem getting his onboard and accepting the movie's rather embarrassing attempt at design and conveying the futuristic world of Hong Kong. Here the wealth are treated to demonstrations of the latest robotic technology and nations have their best (Mark King and Ken Goodman in a delightfully silly scene) duke it out... before Hong Kong themselves prove they lead the race.

Amidst the very 80s in design Frankenstein lab of Dr, Sara, they explain quickly that transferring minds is risky and uncontrollable as human feeling are but don't expect a Ghost In The Shell-like dissection of the soul. The demo is setup, that Hong Kong rules is setup and most of what is done in the name of HIGHLY ADVANCED technology is both neither shown and done on the cheap. But the tone is infectious and for a reel mid movie concerning the goofy cops enjoying Amy Yip's presence and trying to catch the prostitute killer they don't know is Ryuichi Yamamoto, they place her undercover at a brothel. Good news for her and them (and us) as she's curious about this thing called intercourse. As crass and cheap as it sounds, Jamie Luk clearly is working well with Amy Yip as a reactor to comedy around here and she's game for the scenario that obviously in more than ways than one becomes structured around her body. Especially so since she drums up business in mere minutes at the brothel!

But Robotrix is a movie that usually concerns itself with a mood and then turns its back to it. Because when you have Billy Chow as well as ever taking the chance to chew scenery to vicious bastard-levels, Luk makes sure to jolt audiences nicely by amping the darkness and violence (rape and forced oral sex is part of nastiness here). Flirting with Story Of Ricky style gore as well, Chow's robot with high endurance for sex, rape and getting his head cut off is perhaps the only aspect here that could measure up with outside cinema. Robert Patrick's T1000 got a competitor in Billy Chow and while Jamie Luk's work has been a few notches better in mentioned movies, Robotrix is his most high (low-fi) concept movie, his most known (without most knowing or caring to know who yelled 'Action' and 'Cut') and it's also reassuring knowing his skills as director that he delivers a steady stream of goofy, sexy and violent energy.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson