With its hokey special effects, swipe screens and over-the-top villains, Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time is a silly, science-fiction/spy parody infused with so much camp that it more closely resembles a cartoon than a film. Yet, the farce is anchored by a stone-faced, delightfully emotionless hero and rooted in such deadpan humour that the film proves to be an amusing way to fill an hour and a half.
Set in a universe that is an odd amalgamation of the future (space ships) and the not-so-distant past (VCR’s), Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time sees its titular protagonist face off against his arch nemesis and former mentor, The Mad Scientist. Our hero, Neil Stryker, is about as badass as they come ““ a suspended secret agent for the Elite Forces with a robotic approach to emotion and a killer name to boot. His one humanising trait is that he is a father, and even then he is still grossly apathetic. The Mad Scientist is his polar opposite, a cackling, excitable villain with a penchant for big spectacles. With The Mad Scientist at large, the world is, as the Elite Forces so aptly put it, “Fucked.”
Plot is fairly secondary in Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time, with backstory and character motivation going largely unexplained. However, the film can hardly be faulted for this when it so clearly doesn’t care about pesky details like narrative. Tasked with directing, producing, writing and starring as the lead hero and villain, Neil Stryker is Rob Taylor’s pet project, an opportunity to pay homage to the worst aspects of bad sci-fi and spy films; cartoonish sound bites, clunky catch phrases, confusing time-travel logic and women as set-pieces.
Some of these components are perfectly executed, like the intentionally cheap visual effects and fake-sounding gun shots, while others fall woefully flat. Neil Stryker‘s treatment of female characters is the number one offender, with two out of the three featured female characters finding a way out of the narrative before the film’s conclusion and seemingly all non-speaking female roles performed in full nudity. It’s easy to see the joke, but not so easy to see the humour in it.
The antics of The Mad Scientist also become rather tired, with his whacky, over-the-top shtick wearing thin after a few scenes. Yet, Neil Stryker himself is the perfect antidote to the farcical nature of the film, grounding this parody with his unflappability, gravelly voice and straight-faced quips.
“Cause you were fuckin’ up on the roof doing nothing important.”
“I’m stapling in the holiday lights, Barbara. That’s about as important as it gets.”
It can be difficult to judge a film for its merits when it is designed to be intentionally poor, but Neil Stryker is elevated by genuinely funny jokes – “Let go of him, he’s getting married next week” – and a strangely captivating protagonist. As a result, Neil Stryker is ultimately a very decent, bad movie.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10