Future Cop IV: Jack of Swords (1993)
By: Paul Ryan on May 29, 2010  | 
Big Sky Video | All Regions, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 74 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: David Nutter
Starring: Tim Thomerson, Stacie Randall, Ty Miller, Clabe Hartley, Terri Ivens
Screenplay: Peter David
Country: USA
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Now permanently situated in his own time zone, Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) spends his days traversing time and space, hunting down all manner of threats on behalf of the ruling council of Angel City. However, he's pretty lonesome, now living the life of a bachelor (both Helen Hunt and Megan Ward had moved on to better-paying things by now), and getting rebuffed by gorgeous but chilly scientist Lyra Sorrell (Stacie Randall). Whilst heading out on another time mission, a malfunction strands Jack in a parallel universe, a medieval world dominated by his old enemies, the Trancers. Ruled by the tyrannical Caliban (Clabe Hartley), these Trancers (or "Nobles") act like vampires, harvesting humans for their life force. Out of his element in this ancient world, Jack falls in with a ramshackle human resistance movement, not to mention a demure slave girl who is a dead ringer for the Dr Sorrell of his world. Oh, and there's a mystical gem thingy called a Timeond (read: plot device), which just may be the key to getting Jack home…

Disappointingly dumping the promising setup at the end of the last film, Future Cop IV: Jack of Swords signals the downhill slide of the series. With a very obvious nod to Army of Darkness, this fourth entry takes things in a new direction (again), but the results are patchy to say the least. Filmed between the US and Romania (with the same castle that appears in many other Charles Band productions of the time utilised again here), the production values are wobbly at times but the enthusiastic cast gives it their best. Written by veteran Star Trek novelist Peter David, the script has its moments (the scene where Jack's time-distorting "long-second" watch malfunctions is a highlight), but the hard-bitten Jack feels badly out of place in this fantasy milieu. There are some nods to Shakespeare (all the Trancers have names such as Prospero, Oberon, Lucius, etc), but David's script is never as tight as his highly regarded comic and novel work, possibly due to whole portions of it being dumped during filming due to budgetary constraints. Prolific TV director David Nutter (whose work includes episodes of The X-Files, Millennium and The Sopranos) does what he can under the circumstances, with some fair action scenes, though the cheapo visual effects are especially glaring here. Shot back-to-back with the fifth installment, the two-part storyline (complete with cliffhanger ending here) is unnecessary given that's there's barely enough plot for one film.

There are some familiar faces in the cast (Teen Wolf villain Mark Arnold, for one, veteran TV character actor Alan Oppenheimer for another) alongside many dubbed Romanians, and the Eastern European scenery is nice, but this is a flat, weak installment in the series, though still better than what would follow…
Like the transfer of Future Cop III, the video here is excessively dark at times and with some minor compression artefacts. Colours aren't too bad, but shadow detail is quite lacking, especially in scenes of low light.
There are odd spots of distortion here and there (particularly in the closing credits), but dialogue is clear enough and a few stereo flourishes liven the up the track.
Extra Features
Along with trailers for both this film and Future Cop 5: Sudden Deth (both of which are brighter and sharper than the feature itself), there's an eight-and-half-minute behind-the-scenes featurette on offer. It's pretty cursory, but Thomerson gets off a few barbs ("Helen Hunt is on a series somewhere making a million dollars an hour, and I'm in Romania doing THIS MOVIE!!!"), and the piece points out a cameo by Peter David, whose script is shown due respect by repeating a shot of his character getting killed over and over.
The Verdict
With Future Cop IV: Jack of Swords, things are on the decline for the series. If you're a fan of Jack Deth's adventures, you'll probably still want to check it out, though the muddy video here makes it that bit more of a chore.
Movie Score
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