By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
Neil Stryker (Rob Taylor) is a no-nonsense cop in the future (?), enduring a suspension after murdering someone he was supposed to arrest intact. However, his suspension is cut short by the jailbreak of Stryker’s former mentor, The Mad Scientist (also Rob Taylor), who has in his possession a device that will let him travel through time. His nefarious designs began with stealing all of the Christmas toys and “breeding” with Mrs. Claus, but he is now focused solely on causing chaos through time and killing Stryker as revenge for imprisoning him. To prevent the world being, as Stryker’s captain phrases it, “fucked,” Stryker must track The Mad Scientist across time, save some women, and stop The Mad Scientist.
Neil Stryker is spectacularly dumb, often to its great benefit. This is one subgenre that I can almost instantly click with—one where the jokes, the line readings, and the CGI are intentionally awful, with the occasional treading into meta jokes that the actual characters may or may not be aware of. These are woven through legitimately clever lines and references–random humor isn’t all there is to see here. What ties it all together is the movie’s own gleeful self-awareness of the subgenre and era it so relentlessly apes, going hand-in-hand with a genuine love for it.
Taylor is great as both Stryker and The Mad Scientist. It’s made exceedingly obvious that the characters are both played by the same actor, but Taylor nicely forces them on opposite ends of the spectrum, with Stryker as the hardened space cop and Mad Scientest as the goofy lunatic. Stryker’s commando entourage are all good fun, particularly Nic Costa as the eccentric & flamboyant Clark Longbow. Costa is also great as The Mad Scientist’s minion Darrel, and his scenes with the Scientist are some of the silliest in the movie. David Ogden Stiers and Walter Koenig also make surprise cameo appearances.
It does have a tendency to gorge itself on bizarre non-sequiturs, and they are by and large terrific (excluding a very small handful of misfires). They do, however, cause problems with both flow and structure and occasionally feel like they operate on a scorched-earth philosophy of throwing every single idea against the wall to see what sticks. Oftentimes it does, but some of them damage the already-rickety framework of the movie. At best, these scenes feed directly into the vein of insanity that fuels the adventure; at worst, they grind the movie to a halt. Oddly, the movie’s funniest sequence, involving puppet goblins in a forest, makes the least sense in the context of the movie. There are a handful of scenes like this: they’re almost all very funny, but segments feel like vignettes rather than a cohesive whole, and occasionally feeling like ideas for scenes that had to be retroactively tied together to make a complete plot.
Neil Stryker caters to a very niche audience, and sticks to its brand religiously. For those that eat up this sort of madly silly farce, this is one of the funniest indie films of 2017. Some structure and pacing issues break the flow of the film, but don’t mitigate the fact that this is a sharply written, extremely goofy action comedy throwback with some seriously clever setpieces and jokes. This was a labor of love over the course of a decade, and the final project shows that passion. If Taylor and co-writer Nic Costa team up again, we have much to look forward to.
Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone says “time.”
Do a Shot: for every time jump.
Take a Drink: every time someone dies.
Take a Drink: for every goofy special effect.
Do a Shot: for each new gadget.
Take a Drink: for each homoerotic line or visual motif.