Movie Review – Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time (Portland Film Festival)
This movie would be perfect for the SyFy channel. It’s basically on the level of Sharknado (2013) but more so Sharknado: The 4th Awakens where by this point everybody is in on the joke and everyone just embraces the ridiculousness and near stupidity of it all but purposeful stupidity for comedy’s sake. Anthony C. Ferrante directed all four of those Sharknado movies and I feel as if Ferrante would be good friends with Rob Taylor who is the director of this movie. Yet, Ferrante is an easy comparison. Taylor is probably shooting more toward Mel Brooks. This movie is a spoof, very much in the vein of Mel Brooks, and Taylor very much seems to have come from the school of Brooks. Brooks stopped directing 20 years ago and never got around to spoofing the kind of film Taylor is spoofing here.
Taylor who also co-wrote this movie with Nic Costa seems to be mocking the kind of action flick with a sci-fi premise that years ago might have been led by a Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell or Charles Bronson-type. Everything is exaggerated and cartoon-like. It’s not an Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau situation. Taylor and Costa very much know what they’re doing and are doing it on purpose.
One might not assume so, given the look, which feels like Taylor and Costa had a budget extremely lower than that of the first Sharknado. The futuristic world and its flying cars and whatnot are not seamless in its depiction on screen, and its production design seems no better than the original Lost in Space (1965) or the original Star Trek (1966). When looking through the movie’s end-credits, it’s obvious that Taylor and Costa wore many hats other than director and writer. The two also did the editing, the art direction and the visual effects, and they weren’t just leading or guiding those departments. They seem to have been doing some of the grunt work as well.
A lot of directors and writers will work in other departments within their own film, especially in independent projects. Vincent Gallo wore practically every hat for his film The Brown Bunny (2003). The Strausse Brothers who directed Skyline (2010) also did the visual effects mostly and worked in other departments, but the difference here is that Taylor and Costa were also actors in the movie but not just actors playing one or two characters. Each were doing triple duty. An argument could be made that as a result, they spread themselves a little thin, but Mel Brooks acted and sometimes played multiple characters in his movies. He played two in Spaceballs (1987).
Arguably, this movie is a reboot of Taylor’s schlock video called Evil Cult (2003) featuring the same protagonist named Neil Stryker, played by Taylor, and a Mad Scientist villain, also played by Taylor. Here, the Mad Scientist has a brother, again played by Taylor. Many scenes are just Taylor talking to himself and even being narcissistic and aroused by himself. The Mad Scientist’s brother is some Beatnik, artistic dude with a man-crush on Stryker.
Stryker is a tough loner though who doesn’t give a crap about anything aside from doing his job and getting what he needs, except that Taylor’s performance has a bit of a Will Forte-vibe that never allows you to take Stryker or his hyper-masculinity seriously. He’s a borderline sociopath who would fit nicely in a Saturday Night Live sketch, which is what this movie feels like but stretched perhaps too far. It’s MacGruber meets Back to the Future 2. His Mad Scientist is something pulled from Mystery Science Theater 3000 or perhaps Beekman’s World, or some weird, weekend-morning, animated series.
Trying to relay the plot is utterly pointless. Logic or even character-development are not to be found here. There’s some nonsense about a Time Portal, but it’s all just contrivance for one silly, action set-piece after another, laced with foul language, bloody violence and sprinkled with juvenile humor. Time travel didn’t even seem to be much of a factor here. It’s more or less a throwaway joke, or an excuse to shoot Nazis in actual, Nazi Germany.
The center set-piece has no relevance to anything else and seems to be an excuse to have a low-rent, Jim Henson, Gremlins or Critters knock-off. It’s a pointless, 15 minutes of the movie, dedicated to puppetry antics. I suppose, however, that because it makes good use of Walter Koenig, the iconic Chekhov from Star Trek, that it’s still worth checking out.
Not Rated but has bloody violence, nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.