Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Toxic Avenger

directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman

Feeble and dim-witted Melvin (Mark Torgl) is the janitor at the Tromaville health club. The fit and attractive people who go there bully him mercilessly, until one day a prank goes wrong and Melvin plunges out of a window into a bubbling green vat of toxic waste. But Melvin doesn't die. Instead the chemicals turn him into a big, muscle-bound Toxic Avenger (Mitch Cohen) with a compulsion to hunt down and destroy evil. He's like a cross between the Elephant Man and the Incredible Hulk.

With the benefit of his new-found strength and his trusty mop, the Toxic Avenger goes on the rampage, cleaning up Tromaville's nastier inhabitants. It's a town that's not short of gangsters and psychopaths. But will the inhabitants of the town welcome such a mutated freak living amongst them and dispensing vigilante justice? The mayor (Pat Ryan) certainly wants him gone, and he's prepared to call in armed reinforcements to restore normality to his corruption-riddled town.

The Toxic Avenger doesn't take itself too seriously. However that's about the limit of the praise I can give this utter mess of a film. The characters are all either particularly slow or obvious, and they go about setting up situations that are equally blatant. The acting seems to be done with the assumption that the audience are all idiots who won't pick up on any kind of subtlety, so every emotion is laid on with a trowel. The movie is also full of gratuitous nudity and sex, most of which doesn't add to the story and is only there for titillation.

Melvin's transformation into the Toxic Avenger is cheap and silly. The Avenger is laughably naff with his trusty mop and excessive violence, and he staggers around as though he has to learn to walk again. It's so bad it's good. He storms through Tromaville putting evil to rights by punching it repeatedly and throwing people around, as if fists and fury are all you need to solve your problems. Melvin grunts a lot, like some kind of wild beast. And then he speaks with this very civilised voice that's an absurd contrast with the way he spoke as Melvin the janitor and with the grunting of the man-monster he's become.

Most of the acting is dire, although Andree Maranda stands out for her acceptable performance as the cheerful blind woman, Sara. But on the whole this movie looks shoddy. It doesn't take long to become tedious. It's too brain dead, repetitive and predictable to be entertaining, and it's the sort of movie you laugh at rather than with, and even that pleasure soon fades.

21st June 2011

Film Details

Decade: 1980s

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 18

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1 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson