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Plot: retired assassin is targeted for extermination

For the last twenty or so years Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (Death Angel in some regions) was the lowest that anybody thunk that Albert Pyun's once-glorious Nemesis franchise could fall. Gone were days of Hong Kong bullet ballet action, of robust desert action, and hell, even the science fiction aspect was becoming negligible or strenuous at best. The law of diminishing returns struck hard and swift on Albert Pyun's once stylish but surprisingly watchable Nemesis series. That Olivier Gruner didn't reprise the role that made him famous for the first sequel should have been plenty indication. Sue Price made the best of what little she was given. The blame for Nemesis taking a turn for the worse lies squarely with director-writer Albert Pyun.

Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels (Nemesis 4 hereafter) abandons all pretense of even bothering with established continuity and has Pyun indulging some of the worst inclinations typical to trash directors under the double strain of non-existent budgets and compressed production schedules. Nemesis 4 was afforded a grand total of 5 production days while Pyun was engaged in re-shoots for Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996). Pyun was never a good writer to begin with, and even his best writing was marred by sketchy, paper-thin plotting and nearly non-existent characterization. Pyun, no cinematic wünderkind by any stretch of the imagination, usually is able to conjure up at least an interesting action set piece or two more than this unsightly monstrosity that supposedly is meant to give closure to the two or three, depending how you count them, Nemesis episodes. Fear not, however, as greater atrocities were yet to be visited upon the unsuspecting franchise.

Six years after the events of Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (1996) a truce has been reached between the warring factions of the humans and cyborgs. With the war ending operatives from each side now work as mercenaries for private contractors. In some unnamed East-European city Alex Sinclair (Sue Price), who has shed her Raine surname and enhanced herself with cybernetic components, works as an assassin and is haunted by visions of a mysterious Woman In Black (Blanka Copikova). Hired to kill Carlos Jr. (Juro Rasla) Sinclair dons the disguise of an escort and completes her contract. When it is revealed that the hit was a setup to have her eliminated by her handler Bernardo (Andrew Divoff) Alex pieces together that her intended target is Earl Typhoon (Nicholas Guest). To get to him, and find those behind the conspiracy to disgrace and sully her name, she sets her sight on Tokuda (Norbert Weisser) and finally Bernardo. Amidst this chaos she also has a run in with Johnny Impact (Simon Poland), a descendant of Merle Kennedy’s Max Impact in the original, and vastly superior, Nemesis (1992).

That it would come to this should as the prior two sequels offered some spectacular devolution in their own right. Nemesis 4 at long last returns the franchise to the bleak urban cityscapes of the original but without an ounce of coherence and style. The pyrotechnics and stuntwork are conspicuous only by their absence and what once passed for low-rent action has been reduced to a softcore skinflick with occasional bouts of action. Nemesis 4 is neither here nor there. Had it starred Melissa Moore, Samantha Phillips, Tina Cote, or Julie K. Smith than it least could have been passed off as a marginally tantalizing affair. Sue Price was an award-winning bodybuilder, and not some sex-crazed femme fatale. Nearly unrecognizable without her cornrows and military garb this is not the Alex Sinclair you remember. Hell, this is not even the Nemesis you might remember with some fondness. Nemesis 4 is reductionist to the point of writing itself out of existence.

It's telling enough that the only big names in much of the promo material are Sue Price and... Blanka Copikova. Copikova was a featured extra in Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996) where she played the demanding role of "additional cop". Sue Price, of course, had been the series figurehead in Gruner's sorely felt absence and for her to have to sink this low is beyond forgiving. To have the burnt-out urban hellscapes of Vukovar, Croatia and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina serve as the locales for something as drab as this begs the question why this was even deemed a good, or feasible, idea. Nemesis (1992) was a modest hit on home video and sequels were both expected and probably demanded, but not even a low-key action series as this deserved to be dragged through the mud quite the way it did. Pyun and his cohorts clearly dropped the ball on this one, and it shows. Does it ever show. For a primarily style-driven director as Albert Pyun this one distinctly lacks in showmanship and, well, basic style and decent cinematography even.

To have Nemesis, once a mildly promising franchise that went off to a surprisingly solid initial outing, reduced to this waste of celluloid is in itself not surprising. The two prior sequels at least hinted at such a devolution, but nothing quite pointed at a regression this dire. That Pyun went from a stylish John Woo heroic bloodshed imitation, through two sequels worth of cheap post-apocalyptic Mad Max (1979) knockoffs, to this unconscionably horrid waste of celluloid is frankly unforgivable. Pyun made better movies, often on the same limited budgets and timetables, than this. Were it not for the technical polish and reasonable cinematography Nemesis 4 could easily be mistaken for any late night skinflick. If it wasn’t for the dystopian science-fiction background, and the insistence of being a sequel to an established franchise, Nemesis 4: has little to differentiate itself from anything you could find on Skinemax or late-night softcore erotic trash.

Plot: woman is targeted for termination by cybernetic adversaries from the future

As if Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995) wasn't enough of an insult Nemesis 3: Time Lapse (Prey Harder in certain territories) was stitched together from excess footage of the first sequel, with an additional 11 production days. Where Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995) stole from obvious sources, Predator (1987) and Rambo (1985) for the most part, it at least attempted, however meagerly, in some way, to continue the franchise in a new setting. Nemesis 3: Time Lapse has no such aspirations, and shows no interest in building on the initial promise of the original Nemesis (1992) with Olivier Gruner.

Battered and bloody Alex Raine (Sue Price) wakes up in the East African desert with no recollection of what happened to her. She retraces her steps and encounters Farnsworth 2 (Tim Thomerson) who offers to help her get medical attention. Farnsworth 2 gives her "a shot of endo" activating a latent memory warning her to not let Farnsworth 2 get her DNA. She quickly turns the situation around, and kills Farnsworth 2 with his own gun. Alex then passes out as past memories start to wash over her...

After the destruction of Nebula (Chad Stahelski) Raine was taken in by local rebel troops. Once cyborg insurgents wipe out the pocket of rebellion Alex' necklace starts glowing and a light appears in the distance. Following the light source, Alex runs into her half-sister Ramie (Ursula Sarcev) who explains that she has 20 half-sisters, but that Raine's the only one able to procreate, and thus start a genetically enhanced breed able to withstand the cyborg oppressor. Farnsworth 2 and a group of cyborgs imprison Ramie and her sisters and Alex teams up with Edson (Norbert Weisser) and Johnny (Xavier Decile), a somewhat damaged descendant of Max Impact from Nemesis (1992). Edson and Johnny are captured in the chaos when bounty hunting twins Lock (Sharon Bruneau) and Ditko (Debbie Muggli) raid the compound where a reprogrammed Nebula is massacring cyborgs. Alex manages to rescue her rebel friends, but then Farnsworth 2 sends a drone that destroys their jeep leaving Alex battered, bloody, and without memory.

Nemesis 2: Nebula wasn't the most graceful of sequels, but it at least attempted to steer the Nemesis franchise into a new direction. Nemesis 3: Time Lapse is the worst kind of sequel as it ignores both the original and the first sequel, and seems in no hurry to actually forward the narrative. As a stand-alone action movie it's functional enough, but it's not as if Nemesis 2: Nebula had raised the bar particularly high to begin with. Instead of setting up a plot device to let Raine get back to her own time, or at least send her on a mission to stop the cyborg uprise before it begins Nemesis 3: Time Lapse does neither. It's so aggravating and creatively regressive that it actually diminishes what little Nemesis 2: Nebula got right. Things wouldn't improve with Nemesis 4: Cry Of Angels later in the year.

The new additions to the cast are hit-or-miss. Sharon Bruneau and Debbie Muggli are fun in their roles as wisecracking bounty hunter twins, but their little subplot is never developed enough to be of any importance. The same goes for Ramie, Johnny, and the 20 half-sisters which really must have been something of an afterthought. Under normal circumstances they could, or should, have been the crux to some sort of plot resolution - but Albert Pyun was apparently in no rush to tie up any loose ends, or develop any character beyond the rough contours of their designated archetype. The Ramie, Johnny, and the 20 half-sisters subplot is interesting enough to build an entire new Nemesis feature around, but that sadly never happened. The action is explosive enough but none of the set pieces are particularly involving. Especially in light of how the greater cast of villains are reduced to nothing more than one-note cannon fodder for heroine Alex Raine.

Not that the Nemesis series was ever known for its special effects work, but Nemesis 3: Time Lapse takes a plunge in that department as well. The pyrotechnics, stunts, and rubber suits are decent enough, but it are the visual effects that make Nemesis 3: Time Lapse the eyesore that it is. Instead of practical - and prosthetic effects there's now an excess of badly super-imposed, Windows 95 post-production effects, of which the neon glow over the antagonists’ eyes, the ripple effect on the dune buggy, and the morph fx used for shapeshifting characters are especially heinous. The lengthy flashback that makes up with bulk of the feature comes with a blue filter that probably only adds to the confusion. There's no shortage of explosive action scenes and the plot, or lack thereof, never gets in the way of the gunfire action. Pyun might not be much of a writer, but he always shoots action scenes well despite a lack of budget. Sue Price always handled herself well during action scenes, and here she does also. Price is the last person to blame for the mess that the Nemesis franchise became.

Somewhere in Nemesis 3: Time Lapse there's a halfway decent action movie. There's no shortage of action, for one thing. Pyun might not be much of a writer, but he always lenses action scenes well no matter how small the budget. Had Nemesis 3: Time Lapse focused on a battle of wits and endurance between the bounty hunter twins and Alex with a few supporting characters acting as allies or cannon fodder, and Ramie and her tribe of half-sisters as the prize it could have been so much more, and so much more effective. As it stands Nemesis 3: Time Lapse is the busiest of the four Nemesis episodes but has nothing to show for it. Just like Nemesis 2: Nebula before it Nemesis 3: Time Lapse doesn't feel much like a sequel, and it would probably have been better as a stand-alone feature. Not that Nemesis sequels would get better with time. In fact the opposite is true.