Trancers 4

Trancers 4: Jack of Swords (1994)

A quick trip to Romania, two scripts, same cast, limited budget and some crappy props. Trancers is back! And following the 4th entry franchise tradition, switches its numbering convention, in this case, from roman numerals to the arabic numeral system. Trancers 4 promises much more than it can deliver…

Trancers 4

Jack has settled in the future. His love life is a mess with Helen Hunt out of the picture and finds himself dumped by the future wife. Whilst on a job Jack is transported to a different dimension that seems to be having trouble with Trancers. Jack lends a hand.

To be entirely honest Trancers 4 starts out very well. It has some fun with the ubermacho hero and the audience is treated to some lovely quips from Deth as he struggles to deal with some primitive “screwheads.”

The Screwhead description works on a couple of levels. Firstly, this has a very familiar feel to it. Much like Army Of Darkness, a knucklehead of a hero is sent to a medieval period to do battle with an unwanted evil. The wisecracking misogynist blunders his way through an alien culture causing death and destruction to the locals whilst somehow building their respect.

The whole production feels similar to a bad episode of Hercules or Xena. Thomerson who initially seems very cool in the role ends up lampooning it with idiotic swordplay and over the top reactions. The final and most glaring offence is the illogical ending. Certainly, it is supposed to be a cliffhanger, however, it really lacks any concise narrative to build curiosity. Little is explained and the climax seems quite absurd.

The special effects are cheap and nasty, making 50’s B-movies, 80’s Dr. Who and that episode of Bergerac look good. However, with the new Blu Ray Band has gone back and given the effects a new lick of paint and they are much more appearing (in certain areas) than before. Deth’s wardrobe, whilst cool for him to stride around in as a cyberpunk detective in the future, really gets in the way when tumbling around the rural setting, scrapping with Trancers are throwing swords about. Thomerson looks uncomfortable. However, I will give it this, Deth smokes, he blows smoke about and he talks with the cigarette in his mouth. It’s a welcome sight that makes no apologies and a reminder why this horrible habit was considered cool.

David Nutter is at the helm of these entries, a veteran TV director who has tackled all sorts over the years, from Game of Thrones and The Pacific to ER and Shameless. It’s safe to guess that Trancers 4 and 5 are not highlighted in bold on his resume, if they feature at all. As a young director working on The X-Files and Bill and Ted Excellent Adventures, I’m sure the idea of doing back to back movies in Romania outside the studio system would have been pretty exciting.

Interestingly, both 4 and 5 were written by Peter David who also wrote the Oblivion series for Full Moon, that were also shot back to back in Romania and worked out a whole lot better.

Thomerson is the only returning cast member leaving a lonely feeling on screen. New characters feel underdeveloped, yet functional. A group of somewhat familiar faces populate the support with Excessive Force II‘s Stacie Randall, All My Children‘s Terri Ivans and an early performance from Lochlyn Munro.

There is no doubt that Band had stumbled upon a great location as I believe the main castle in Trancers 4 is the same location used in the Subspecies series. However, the Trancers series does not suit the backdrop given the science-fiction-cyberpunky focus of the story in previous entries. A bit of change is welcome, however, the course correction is too big for the series and there isn’t enough material for audiences to enjoy, especially given that is cut up and spread far too thinly over two feature films. 

Following the vastly stronger third outing Trancers 4 is merely a little more watchable than the second outing. What looked promising quickly turned to rubbish, as even the cracking original soundtrack that has been a staple of the series has been replaced. At 70 minutes, this is a pretty short entry, however, they leave the ending open for the next sequel that was filmed concurrently.

Poster art was magnificent and looked great on the video library wall. The more recent updates are passable, however, not necessary give how great the original art was.

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