"Sci-Fighters" is a dark little morsel of post-apocalyptic Canadian sci-fi cheese. The movie begins in a prison on the moon where Adrian Dunn (career evildoer Billy Drago) gets the bad end of the deal in a circular saw fight (how long are those cords, anyway?) In the process he gets infected with an alien virus that his corpse brings back to Earth. The virus enables Dunn to come back to life, which results in no end of difficulty in Boston. Not that there aren't enough problems; after all in the "future" of 2009 (!) the Earth is enveloped in darkness 24 hours a day, a phenomena called "Econight." After an homage to "Alien" with a gratuitous "squids-from-the-torso" scene, it is revealed that Drago, an insane killer even before the death defying viral assault on his senses, is killing and infecting people. Worse, the virus is unknown and makes people start producing methane to "terraform" Earth, thereby ruining its atmosphere for current terrestrial life, but enabling a methane-breathing race of aliens to take over the planet.
The good guys are Detective Cameron Grayson (former wrestling champion "Rowdy" Roddy Piper) and Doctor Kirbie Younger (Jayne Heitmeyer,) a virologist assigned to the case. Piper, known for his wild antics and Scottish trappings in the ring is actually quite good in the film. Drago has fallen a few notches down the career ladder since his ultimately convincing performance as Frank Nitti in "The Untouchables," but he is still ultra-creepy here. The rest of the cast, and particularly Heitmeyer, are not up to the standards of Piper and Drago. The other problem is that the film is very plodding in places, and suffers from a worse than normal batch of plot contrivances that take forever to unfold and are wholly unbelievable. The worst example of this is in Grayson's past. We know that Grayson wears a wedding ring, but seems single; we also know that he is obsessed with Dunn. It's obvious that something is lurking there. At about 75 minutes into the picture we finally get the backstory we need: Grayson and Dunn were police academy graduates and best friends. Grayson then went off and married Dunn's ex-girlfriend, Katie, with whom Dunn was still obsessed. Two days after their wedding Dunn killed Katie while Grayson was at work. Oh, and did I mention that Dr. Younger looks like Katie, complicating the manhunt when the movie gets around to it.
After chasing Drago around the darkened streets of Boston, the film comes to a close in a warehouse with Grayson, Dunn, and Younger all doing their predictable parts. Dunn keeps calling Younger "Katie" and over-emoting in general as he attempts to have his way with her. Of course Grayson intervenes, and a three-way brawl erupts in, on, and around the warehouse, using heavy munitions and a forklift in exciting ways. Grayson wants to shoot Dunn, but Younger says that he'll explode due to all the methane he's holding inside him, so Younger ends up solving the problem in a more enlightened way. I was personally hoping that Grayson would simply pin Dunn with his signature figure four leglock after an inverted atomic drop! There is obvious chemistry between Grayson and Younger, but I have to give the filmmakers kudos for making the romance angle work out differently than expected. What I don't give them kudos for was Younger's outfit at the end of the movie: she's going to accept a prestigious job as the head of virology at the biggest institute in the country and she's wearing a ridiculous outfit consisting of a bulky pink turtleneck and a miniskirt. What? What temperature is it supposed to be? How old is she supposed to be?
I debated on the rating for this film, finally settling on two stars. Some of the acting is better than expected from Canadian films of this budget and genre (especially from Piper,) but some other the performances were pretty off key as well. The script was generally predictable, and I never need to hear Billy Drago say "Katie" ever again. Sets and locations were generally good, but the action scenes were tepid (although Piper on the scaffolding was tense.) The entire vision of the future was not dissimilar from many other (better) post-apocalyptic movies, but I have to wonder for a film made in 1996, why did the filmmakers only pick a future thirteen years ahead, knowing full well that it would be quickly obsolete? In the end I considered how entertaining was the film for its genre. Despite the relatively strong lead actors, the film was slow, burdened with unnecessary and distracting plot elements (the Econight, for instance,) middling effects and action sequences, and ultimately was not that absorbing of a story. Two stars for Piper and Drago. The rest smells like methane.