Typical brainless martial arts flick.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 10/10/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Nightmaster (Mark Joffe, 1987)
Wow. Poor Nicole Kidman. Just two years away from the role (in Dead Calm) that would make her a star, she was still taking stuff like this. It's really, truly awful, in the sense that most unplotted, cardboard-charactered, martial arts-laden action flicks are. But when you think about guilty-pleasure films like Kill and Kill Again or Gymkata, there's a quality to these things that transcends any empirical measure of goodness. Nightmaster has a bit of that; not enough to put it on the rewatchability level of the aforementioned films, but enough to make it not the worst way to pass ninety minutes.
Steve Beck (Cast Away's Vince Martin) is an ex-soldier (completing the phrase with "of fortune" is understood) and school gymnastics teacher who works on martial arts training with a group of students in the mornings before school begins, making them overtired for their classes-- or so thinks Sonia Spane (Mad Max's Joanne Samuel), the kids' science teacher. Unbeknownst to either Spane or Beck, however, the gang are getting together late at night in an abandoned warehouse to practice in gauntlets designed by one of their pals. All of which seems to have some bearing on the plot, but you can't really tell until almost an hour into the movie, when the plot is actually revealed. Previous to that it's all martial arts and bad music. (I'm sure Paul Kelly would have disowned the soundtrack, had he not actually been in the film singing it.) Oh, and trying to figure out whether hunky lead Robby (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome's Tom Jennings) is going to get together with Spane or classmate Amy Gabriel (Kidman). Once we do get a plot, however, you'll almost wish you hadn't. (Ignore the All-Movie Guide summary, by the way, which is about as wrong as it's possible to be and still be discussing the same movie.)
This was Joffe's first feature film, and it shows. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that he did go on to become a creditable director (Spotswood, known in America as The Efficiency Expert, was his third flick), but you'd never know it from here. Nor that Kidman would go on to become an A-list actress. This is probably best considered an amusing speed bump on each's road to success. **