Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Roboforce (I Love Maria, Tie jia wu di Ma Li Ya) Directed by David Chung and Tsui Hark (uncredited) starring John Sham, Sally Yeh, and Tsui Hark (1988)

-Reviewed by Richard Glenn Schmidt

I first read about this film in Sex and Zen & a Bullet in the Head by Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins. It got stuck somewhere in the back of my head and almost completely forgotten until I saw this trailer. Needless to say, the intriguingly-titled Roboforce AKA I Love Maria jumped to the top of my list of things I needed to check out immediately. I don’t know much about cinematographer turned director David Chung other than his films sound pretty cool, especially Web of Deception (1989). And how much directing Hong Kong film industry legend Tsui Hark actually did on this, I have no idea. Anyway, let’s see what we got here!

An intrepid reporter named T.Q. (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) tries to get the scoop while the police are trying to stop a terrorist group called the Hero Gang from stealing a shipment of gold from a bank. This evil gang is using their unstoppable mecha called Pioneer I to make off with the loot. After nearly getting killed by Pioneer I, T.Q. meets Curly (John Sham), a weapons designer for the police who is too brilliant for his own good. His designs are so efficient and innovative that his colleagues hate him and cockblock his career. While drowning his sorrows in a bar, Curly meets Whisky (Tsui Hark), a down on his luck drunk that he has to rescue from getting beaten to death by some toughs. Whisky is a former stooge of the Hero Gang and his chance encounter with Curly makes his former colleagues want to kill him.

Don’t laugh, it looked cool on Gundam Wing

Meanwhile, the paranoid leader of the Hero Gang named Savior (Ben Lam) is questioning the loyalty his right hand lady Maria (Sally Yeh). He’s designed a robot named Pioneer II that looks like her and is constantly threatening to replace her if she screws up. Maria sends Pioneer II out to kill Whisky but he and Curly manage to disable and reprogram her to help them survive all this crazy shit. Double meanwhile, The Master (Ching-Ying Lam) one of the Hero Gang is a double agent trying to help out Curly and Whisky and bring an end to Savior’s reign of terror. I’m not even kidding right now, this is about 10% of this film’s fucking crazy plot.

My high school journalism club didn’t prepare me for this

I expected another overwhelming steamroller of insanity from the heyday of Hong Kong cinema and oh brother, I was NOT disappointed. Neither the kooky slapstick nor the ridonk action ever let up. With an infectious energy and a baffling storyline, Roboforce is never boring, that’s for sure! This contains so many varieties of HK weirdness even beyond what the writers and directors intended that I’m going to go ahead and say that the crew behind this film were dangerously insane. Just like other classic kitchen sink titles from this time period, Roboforce keeps upping the ante. The writers just keep throwing more and more awesome bullcrap at the audience and honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. If you dig either The Heroic Trio or Wicked City (both from 1992) then you’ll be in good company here.

Nobody interupts Lord Humungous when he's tryin to jerk it to Passion of the Christ!

One thing I love about this era of science fiction movies are the attempts at live action mecha. With the utterly weird Gunhed from Japan and the awkward as fuck Robot Jox from the good old US of A (and both released in 1989), it’s no surprise that this trend didn’t take off. I’m going to play the old fuddy duddy card but I gotta say, the pre-CGI days were just so magical, for realsington. The pure craftsmanship that went into making this insane shit come to life is just breathtaking, especially when it’s hilariously stupid.


The similarities between Roboforce and Robocop (1987) don’t end with the theme of what it means to be human and all that jazz, it also extends to liberally borrowing sound effects! The Pioneer 1 growls just like ED-209. It’s shameless! When something as unique as Robocop comes out and fries the collective unconscious of the movie industry, there’s bound to be reverberations in the form of blatant rip-offs. This is wildly better than the broken masterpiece of Robo Vampire (1988) which can’t be judged the way normal films are judged thanks to its utter incompetence.

Asian Bobcat Goldthwait

Composer Romeo Díaz brings the cheese but I ain’t complainin’. This score sounds like cheap and tinny MIDI garbage but it also kind of makes me think that Díaz put a hell of a lot of work into it to keep things from getting stale. Atmospheric synthesizer blasts and what sounds like final boss music from a video game are exactly what the cybernetic doctor ordered.

Yes, I’m aware that this looks like metal vagina.

My only regret is that I didn’t see this film when I was 12 years old and that should give you an idea as to the kind of mindset you’ll need to get into to enjoy this one as much as I did. Even back in the day, I might have lost my dang mind during the chase scene where everyone takes to the trees Tarzan-style and swings through the forest shooting at each other. Surprisingly, there’s also an emotional core to Roboforce as these losers and their crazy, mixed up robot end up being accidental heroes. I actually cared about what happens to these morons.

See you in the sequel! What’s that? Oh. Never mind.

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