Johnny Rico is back! Not the well-endowed stud who provided the literal climax in Rinse Dream's CAFÉ FLESH, but Casper Van Dien's ludicrous all-American boy with perfect white teeth and a penchant for slaying alien bugs.

Following a familiarly breathless Federal Network Announcement which brings us up to speed (the war rages on; new bugs have evolved which in turn necessitates new artillery to combat them; the situation has intensified so much that anyone refusing to join the fight will be execute on TV as traitors), we meet Rico on the war-torn planet of Roku San.

Rico is now a colonel. After thwarting an early attack on his army base by exploding bugs, Rico orders his men to tidy up the place in preparation of a visit from sky marshal Omar Anoke (Stephen Hogan). Anoke is famed not only for his valour, but also as a heartthrob poster-boy for the Federation (even releasing a cheesy anthem entitled "It's A Good Day To Die", complete with pop video).

Anoke arrives with Dix (Boris Kodjoe) and Lola (Jolene Blalock) among his crew. Both are old friends of Rico, but that friendship becomes strained when Dix discovers that his girlfriend Lola previously dated Rico.

The three of them go to a local bar to catch up over a drink. This is pleasant enough, despite the bar being largely populated by farmers who resent the army's presence on Roku San (hmm, shades of how the US troops are now viewed upon in the Middle East?), until several traitors are hanged live on TV. This starts a brawl between Dix and one farmer, which Rico tries to break up. But Dix views this as undermining and has Rico arrested for insubordination.

Fortunately (?) a bug attack gives Rico the opportunity to flee the scene and help his comrades fight - but not before he gives Dix a good chinning. Oops - Rico earns himself a court-martial.

The worried Anoke hurriedly leaves the threatened planet with Lola and crew in tow, but Dix asks to stay behind and replace Rico as the army's leader.

Aboard their spaceship, life is cosy for Anoke and Lola … but not for long. A fire onboard means the crew have to evacuate in escape pods. They crash-land on the terribly unsafe planet OM1. It may look like a sun-kissed paradise, but there are bugs for Lola to contend with - not to mention the motley crew she's been saddled with: the cowardly Anoke, the bitter Bull (Stelio Savante), the jittery cook Jingo (Cokey Falkow) …

When Dix is handed an SOS from the pod he realises Lola is still alive. So he fakes Rico's hanging and gives our hero an offer he can't refuse: rescue Lola to save himself. But why is Lola so precious to Dix? Because he loves her? Or because she's one of the very few people entrusted with the whereabouts of the Federation's greatest weapon, the Marauder project?

Colourful, fast-paced and frantic, MARAUDER certainly captures the gung-ho histrionics of the original TROOPERS outing. It also matches it in terms of gore (plenty of exploding prosthetic limbs and decapitations) and, while it's lower budget can't help but render a couple of the CGI moments a tad ropey, it does a sterling job of trying to match it's impressive FX work too.

Script-wise, again this is familiar territory mixing bullish action set-pieces with obvious satire. The lightning-edited TV news bulletins feel a little tired now - they're convenient segues from one time zone to another that felt inspired when used in the original TROOPERS and ROBOCOP, but it's time for something new now. But at least they ensure that visually the film retains the identity established in the last two episodes of this franchise.

In these times, the political allegories are blatant and at times cutting. But they're all delivered with such knowing kitsch that it's impossible to take them to heart. Van Dien may as well be winking at the screen while delivering some of his lines. Whereas Paul Verhoeven's original film was wrongly accused by some as being pro-war propaganda, the message in Edward Neumeier's MARAUDER is the same but less subtle and therefore impossible to misinterpret.

Picture-wise, MARAUDER looks superb. Vibrant, vivid colours and sharp details combine to offer an anamorphic 1.78:1 presentation that is just about as good as standard definition gets.

In terms of audio, the English 5.1 mix comes across extremely well. There are also options to listen to the film in Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Turkish. Optional subtitles are available in English, English Hard-of-Hearing and 19 other languages.

A sleek animated main menu offers access to various sub-menus, including a static scene-selection menu providing 28 chapters.

The plentiful special features begin with two audio commentary tracks. The first is from Neumeier and offers a wealth of technical information surrounding the film's visuals. The second has the director accompanied by various cast members and is a lighter affair.

"On The Bounce" is an enjoyable if insubstantial 23-minute Making Of documentary, interspersing clips from the completed film with EPK-style on-camera cast and crew soundbites. There is some interesting behind-the-scenes footage thrown in too, but not enough.

"Evolution: The Bugs" is an 11-minute featurette focussing on the design and creation of the film's monsters. There's more attention to the behind-the-scenes stuff this time, but the EPK soundbites keep coming too - taken from the same interview sessions as the preceding documentary.

Continuing the above theme, the third featurette is "Enlist!" - a 13-minute look into the film's action sequences, the artillery used and military training required.

An extended 3-minute music video for Anoke's "It's A Good Day To Die" follows, for those still hungry for more cheese.

Finally, there are trailers for HANCOCK, ZOMBIE STRIPPERS, AVALON and THE ART OF WAR 2.

All of the extras, including the two commentary tracks, are equipped with optional subtitles in English and Dutch.

More fun than it perhaps deserves to be, MARAUDER is a worthy - if not equal - successor to the Verhoeven original. Knowingly dumb, loud and messy - mind-numbing entertainment.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review