Director Duncan Gibbins had his film career cut tragically short by the devastating 1993 Southern California wildfires. He was trying to save his cat from the blaze and he unfortunately didn’t make it out alive. His death feels like more of a bummer after watching the new Blu-ray of Eve of Destruction, Gibbins’ 1991 sci-fi thriller. It’s a damn good movie that shows tremendous promise for a music video director transitioning onto the big screen. There’s some really well-crafted suspense and a pitch perfect performance from Gregory Hines, a man known more for his tap dancing than roles in action flicks. And now Scream Factory has rescued Eve of Destruction from the DVD bargain bin and given it a sharp (albeit bare bones) Blu-ray release.
Hines stars as Colonel Jim McQuade, a hotshot sharpshooter who’s pulled from hostage situation training and given a drastically more urgent assignment. A secret government female terminator known as Eve VIII has gone haywire and McQuade must shut her down (shoot her in the face) before she goes nuclear. I mean literally nuclear – besides being a super strong invincible killing machine she’s also a two-legged nuclear bomb (in heels!).
Eve is modeled after one of her creators, Dr. Eve Simmons (played by Dutch actress Renée Soutendijk), a level-headed, career-minded woman who comes from a broken home. Robo Eve is (somehow) instilled with some of Dr. Eve’s memories. So when she goes berserk, McQuade figures if they check out the doctor’s old haunts they’ll eventually run into her. Funny enough, the first place Robo Eve goes to is a dive bar that Dr. Eve used to fantasize going into as a teen and pretending to be a hooker. Robo Eve gets all ’80s rock video slutted up and seduces a good ol’ boy. It’s great stuff.
For a while, I was actually rooting for Robo Eve because she was only killing assholes. She stops a bank robbery, bites the dick of a misogynistic creep, and targets a scumbag yuppie in his fancy car. Why would I root for anyone else? But, y’know, then her internal nuclear device is armed and I suppose it’s better to stop her in order to save thousands of innocent people. I guess.
As the no-nonsense Luddite hardass McQuade, Hines delivers a truly great performance. I always remembered him as the guy with the big smile who tap danced with Sammy Davis Jr., but after watching Eve of Destruction it’s clear the man had a wealth of talent. McQuade is likable, heroic, and really funny, usually at the expense of Dr. Eve. When she explains to him the evolution of the project, he replies “You spend billions of dollars of tax payers’ money…and forgot to put in a fucking off switch?!” Hines and Soutendijk have good chemistry together and I like that they didn’t try to force any unnecessary sexual tension between them. McQuade is all business and at times it seems like he loathes the doctor and her work. He’s obviously anti-technology, but he does have one helluva futuristic-looking laser sight on his pistol.
There’s some nice doses of dark humor in the film that help ease the tension. The comedy also takes some jabs at bullshit bureaucracy and lack of accountability in government. Once Robo Eve’s nuclear weapon is armed, the G-men behind the scenes quickly begin covering their asses. They’re out to blame anyone – Saudis, Libyans, whoever happens to be “on their shit list.”
Whether the action takes place in a confined motel room or the streets of NYC, Gibbins obviously had vision and knew what he was doing. There’s some really impressive stunts too. Sure, everything is saturated in CGI nowadays, so pretty much anytime there’s a practical stunt unaided by computers it seems more exciting. But Eve of Destruction has some genuinely great stunt work – lotsa dudes being thrown through walls and windows. Special effects coordinator Steve Galich and his team did a terrific job as well. Galich has worked on everything from Blade Runner to Transformers and is still going strong with American Horror Story. Here he does some nasty looking work with human tissue and wounds near the end of the film. It’s light on gore, so when graphic shit does appear on screen it’s effectively shocking.
Eve of Destruction is probably not a film most people would’ve thought of when Scream Factory was announcing titles, but I’m glad they did. It’s a solid 100 minutes of sci-fi thrills and humor with a furiously gripping finale. RIP Gibbins.
The 1080p transfer is perfectly fine. It’s never spectacular looking, but whatever source they used was in great shape.
The 2.0 audio track is really good and nicely highlights Philippe Sarde’s jazzy score.
Just a trailer and reversible cover art. Hrumph.
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