Albert Pyun's 1992 film Nemesis takes place in the future of 2027. Here it's common for criminals and cops alike to ‘upgrade' themselves using cybernetic bits and pieces in an effort to make themselves more than human. In this world lives Alex Raine (Olivier Gruner), a bounty hunter in the employ of the Los Angeles Police Department. Alex, who is enhanced himself, barely escapes an assault from The Red Army Hammerhead, a gang of cyborg terrorists. When their leader, Rosaria (Jennifer Gatti), confronts him about his genetic makeup, he reminds her that he's still 86.5% human. Alex winds up taking a long time to recover, but recover he eventually does at which point he makes a point of tracking down Rosario and putting an end to her illustrious career, permanently.
After this, a series of circumstances lead to Alex being tasked by Commissioner Farnsworth (Tim Thomerson) to track down Jared (Marjorie Monaghan). She is his one-time girlfriend and an android herself. According to an informant named Germaine (Nicholas Guest), she is now suspected of working to get information to the Angie-Liv (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), the leader of the cyborg terrorists who almost killed Alex earlier in the film. Of course, that won't be easy and it gets complicated from there… and in order for it to happen, a whole lot of people are going to have to get shot. Oh, and he's only got three days to do this because when Alex was repaired, there was a bomb placed inside of him that will detonate in seventy-two hours!
While Nemesis, which was made by Pyun for Imperial Pictures after his stint working for Cannon Films came to an end, received only a limited theatrical release it's rightly developed a cult following over the years thanks to VHS, laserdisc and DVD releases. It's quirky mix of heady sci-fi ideas and violent action, a film with a distinct visual style that moves at an enjoyably quick pace, occasionally short shifting plot and character development in favor or effects-heavy set pieces. While Nemesis could and should have been a bit smarter and less cliché than it turns out to be (at times it feels like Terminator meets Blade Runner meets Escape From New York), the effects tend to impress and the action scenes that are the core of the picture's appeal definitely deliver. The violence in the film is pretty strong and then it occurs on screen, it hits pretty hard. The film also gets points for style, it's nicely shot and features some great locations (the film was shot in Hawaii, California and Arizona). The look of Nemesis really works quite well, even by modern standards.
As to the performances, up and comer Olivier Gruner was cast mainly due to his military background, martials arts skills and kickboxing abilities more for than his acting chops, but he holds his own here, handling the material well enough to make it work. When the action scenes hit is when he really shines, but he's good here and you can't help but feel he should have become a bigger name in the action movie scene of the nineties than he did. Marjorie Monaghan, who will look quite familiar to Babylon 5 fans, is quite good here as his main foil and Tim Thomerson is enjoyably surly as Alex Raine's boss. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Nicholas Guest are also entertaining in their respective parts.
The film also features a supporting role from the late, great Brion James, one of the most instantly identifiable character actors to ever make a name for himself primarily in genre fare. A young Thomas Jane also appears briefly in a small role.
The 50GB Blu-ray disc contains Nemesis framed in two different aspect ratios: 2.35.1 (which is the default option) and 1.78.1 (which can be accessed through the setup menus). The two transfers look to be from the same source, but are authored a bit differently. Color reproduction seems to match between the two options, and this aspect of the presentation is handled well. Colors are well-defined throughout, primary hues shining nicely and black levels remaining pretty solid as well. Neither transfer exhibits much in the way of print damage at all, just the odd white speck here and there. Grain appears more naturally in the 2.35.1 version, however, with the 1.78.1 transfer showing what looks like some mild to moderate noise reduction. As such, detail isn't quite as strong, and grain not as noticeable on the 1.78.1 transfer. It's watchable enough, sure, but the 2.35.1 version does look much better and much more film-like with better detail, depth and texture.
The main audio option on the disc is an English language LPCM 2.0 stereo mix. There isn't an abundance of channel separation here but it's there in spots when you listen for it. Otherwise, the track is fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to complain about.
Optional tracks are provided in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Optional subtitles are offered in English SDH and German. The English 5.1 mix sounds a bit artificial and the sound effects lack the punch that they have on the 2.0 LPCM track, making that one the better option on the disc (it's also the default).
Extras are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:
Disc One (Blu-ray):
First up is a thirty-six-minute Interview With Albert Pyun where the director offers up some insight into his early days in the business, his thoughts on the film, insight into what it was like working with the cast and crew and a fair bit more. After that, we get a thirty-three-minute Interview With Eric Karson where the film's producer speaks about how he came to be involved in the project, his thoughts on the movie, Pyun's work, the cast and quite a bit more. Both of these are interesting enough that you'll want to check them out.
The Blu-ray also holds a standard definition version of Nemesis 2.0 that comes complete with commentary from Pyun as well as a brief audio prelude that plays over a still of some promotional artwork. The 2.0 version features a different opening and a different ending and is essentially Pyun's ‘Director's Cut' of the movie that, in his words, more closely approximates what he was going for but unable to accomplish the first time around. Pyun basically walks us through the differences between the two cuts and tells some interesting stories from the set. The commentary is the only audio track available for the 2.0 version of the movie on this disc.
Rounding out the extras on the first disc are trailers for the feature and its first two sequels as well as for a few other MVD Rewind properties, menus and chapter selection.
Disc Two (DVD):
The second disc also contains the Nemesis 2.0 version of the movie (with its regular audio, as opposed to the commentary only option on disc one) as well as the longer Japanese cut of the film (there are forced Japanese subtitles on this version). The 2.0 version is in widescreen, taken from a tape source. The Japanese cut of the film runs ninety-seven-minutes and it contains some violence excised from other versions as well as an alternate ending. It's also tape sourced and presented in fullframe with English audio and burned in Japanese subtitles.
Additionally, the second disc features a whole host of short video extras such as a two-minute intro from Pyun, a three-minute intro from Olivier Gruner, a minute-long afterword by Pyun, a quick two-minute interview with Gruner, a seven-minute Making Of featurette, a three-minute piece on the stunt work in the film, a two-minute piece on the VFX work in the film and a two-minute ‘kill count' piece that helps you keep score of the body count in the movie. None of these are all that deep but if you're a fan of the film they're worth checking out at least once.
Rounding out the extras on the second disc is a behind the scenes still gallery, a promotional art still gallery, almost five-minutes' worth of TV spots, menus and chapter selection. This release comes packaged with a slipcover and also includes a folded poster inserted inside the clear Blu-ray case.
Nemesis is a really entertaining sci-fi/action hybrid that, while hardly the most original picture, succeeds in its aim to entertain. Gruner's got the action skills and screen presence to work in the lead and the supporting cast are all pretty solid in their own right. This with a soft spot for action films made on a modest budget will find a lot to like here, and MVD's two-disc set offers the film up in nice shape, with decent audio and with an impressive array of extras. Recommended!