1997, NR, 96 min. Directed by Marcus Van Bavel. Starring Robert Logan, Devo, David Boone, Charlie Schmidt, Tito Villalobos Moreno, Wendy Blech, Harper Washburn, Cheri Gelber, Diane Perella, Van Bavel.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 6, 1998
Unlike anything you've seen and yet eerily familiar, Austinite van Bavel's paean to childhood dreamtime and Ian Flemming-style Cold War theatrics is a minor masterpiece of the surreal, taking viewers to places they may not have visited since the last time they lodged an M-80 in Eagle-Eye G.I. Joe's rucksack while mucking about in their parents' backyard. Roy-Brown (looking and acting like a very young Gary Cooper) plays Redboy 13, an adolescent covert-ops agent for the CYA. Despite being retired from the field, Redboy is called back into the fray against his better judgment when rugged Colonel Calcan (Logan, late of 77 Sunset Strip and assorted Wilderness Family adventures) arrives at his school one day bearing the grim news that evil is up to its old tricks. Saying good-bye to his mother (“And pick up those guns off your floor!” she reminds him, to which he sheepishly replies, “Oh, the toy ones”), this diminutive savior of life, liberty, and all that sort of thing is airlifted off to the jungles of South America where he goes head to head with the diabolical Dr. Heimlich Manure (van Bavel), a twisted neo-Nazi reduced to living as a wheelchair-bound brain attached to a jerky video monitor. Also on board for the adventure are Blech's Jungle Girl, a Jane-esque sidekick with a penchant for romance and the foul Commander Paisano, a Latin dictator wannabe with a coffee fetish. Explosions, dirty tricks, and bad puns abound, but van Bavel's film is nothing if not a loving tribute to all those Hollywood Cold War relics such as James Coburn's Flint series and others. Playing it straight all the way through, Roy-Brown and Logan craft a Nineties pop sensibility from the wreckage of past adventure films; Redboy 13 is so determinedly semi-serious that it's consistently bizarre, even when the occasional line-reading goes flat or the sporadic outburst of overly broad humor threatens to sack the action. Shot in CinemaScope, van Bavel piles on the epic shots, getting more use out of one crane than John Milius could out of a hundred, and setting the whole film against the testosterone overload of Gustav Holst's Planets Suite. From the opening James Bondian credit sequence (itself a triumph of the absurd), Redboy 13 is a low-budget gem, craftily using computer graphics in lieu of real devastation and managing to keep a straight face in the line of some of the most sublimely silly outbursts to grace the screen in some time. It may not be a cult movie yet, but that's just a matter of time.