Cult Movie Essentials

Robot Jox (1990)

Fifty years after a nuclear holocaust, open war is forbidden by the surviving nations, which have merged into two opposing factions: the western-influenced Market and the Russian-themed Confederation. To resolve territorial disputes, the two sides hold gladiator-style matches between giant robots piloted by “robot jox”. Following a contest in which Confederation fighter Alexander (Paul Koslo) defeats and kills the Market’s Hercules, it becomes clear that the Confederation is receiving information about new weaponry and designs from spies within the Market, resulting in the loss of critical matches and the deaths of several of the Market’s best pilots.

Market jock Achilles (Gary Graham) is supported by robot designer “Doc” Matsumoto (Danny Kamekona) and strategist Tex Conway (Michael Alldredge), the only jock to win all ten of his contract matches. He prepares for his tenth and final contracted match against Alexander, who has killed the last nine Market jocks he has faced. During the battle, Achilles attempts to intercept a wayward projectile launched by Alexander when it careens towards a civilian spectator section. His robot takes the full impact and collapses on top of the bleachers, killing over 300 spectators. In a post-match conference, both sides reason that their respective fighter was the victor; however, the referees decide that the match is an inconclusive draw, and schedule a rematch. Achilles, shaken by the incident, insists that the draw was his contractual tenth match and retires, much to the disapproval of his management and fans.

After competing for the position with other genetically engineered “gen jox”, Athena (Anne-Marie Johnson) is chosen to replace Achilles. Concerned that she may not win, Achilles agrees to fight Alexander again, which infuriates Athena. Prior to the scheduled rematch, Doc confronts Conway in his office. He analyzes Conway’s final match and deduces that the “lucky” laser hit that won Conway the match against a clearly superior opponent was, in fact, deliberately aimed and the match was rigged for Conway to win. He accuses Conway of being the spy who has leaked Market robot information to the Confederation. Conway confesses and murders Doc, unaware that Doc has recorded the conversation. Conway tells Commissioner Jameson (Robert Sampson) that Doc was the spy and claims he committed suicide upon being outed.

On the morning of the fight, Athena sedates Achilles in his apartment and impersonates him to gain access to the robot’s cockpit, forcefully taking his robot to the field. Achilles decides to help her and plays the instructional video Doc had prepared for the new weapons installed in the robot. When the video cuts to footage of Conway’s confession and Doc’s murder, Conway leaps to his death. On the field, Alexander overpowers Athena, and Achilles rushes to get her out of the robot. The referees order Alexander to stop fighting or be disqualified, but Alexander destroys the referees’ floating platform and continues the attack. Achilles takes control of the Market robot and ignores Commissioner Jameson’s instruction to stop the match due to Alexander’s disqualification. The two jox continue their fight, with both robots eventually becoming crippled and destroyed. Facing each other without their machines and using wreckage as weapons, they fight in hand-to-hand combat. Achilles convinces Alexander that a match does not necessarily have to end with the death of a jock. Alexander throws down his weapon, and they salute each other with the jox’s traditional “crash and burn” fist bump.

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