Saturday, May 29, 2021

Trancers 4: Jack of Swords (1994)

The first three Trancers show a fall from greatness as legendary hero Jack Deth moves into retirement. Trancers 4 and 5 were shot back-to-back and pick up where the trilogy left off. I divide the series like so because of the radical shift the latter films represent, not just in Trancers but in moving pictures on the whole.

The whole outsourcing situation with lower budgets and broken dreams is par for the course with Chuck Band’s later work. This was the start of that. With Trancers 4, the audience got an interesting medieval experience. Whether or not it was good for business, I don’t know.


The timeline of Chuck Band and company embracing the home video market is shrouded in mystery, much like the timeline of the Trancers franchise. I have tremendous respect for Band’s work, Full Moon, and Trancers, but this film is forgettable trash. The only memorable thing was Stacie Randall’s performance as Lyra the interdimensional elf.

That pretty much sums it up. I love Stacie Randall and Tim Thomerson. I’m not loving the rest. I could end the review here, but I would like to mention why this film doesn’t fit with the continuity of previous Trancers movies, not that you care.

Trancers 3 came out in 1992, around the time the Soviet Union went kaput. That means it was made before, with every intention of continuing the franchise as it had been. In those days, Chuck Band ran Empire Pictures, a regal name for a small studio that made mid-budget sci-fi films. This was the cultural context for Trancers 3, a film that had ambitions of being an epic cinematic experience like its predecessors. It had a rather memorable line near the end, spoken by a senator:

I’ll mail you a copy of my recommendations for funding, asshole!

It would have been Jack Deth’s swan song were it not for Romanian tax credits. Because Band and co. ended up in Romania, a medieval setting with castles was chosen for part 4. Why not? These are time travel movies. Crossing dimensional boundaries and introducing fantasy elements are just the icing on the cake. I apologize if this doesn’t explain what happens in any of these movies, but if you’re watching them you probably don’t care about the story anyways.

It’s a Trancers movie with a medieval fantasy twist, like Army of Darkness (1993). As another blogger mentioned, it would have been nice if Thomerson had continued playing Jack Deth while the enterprise continued “churning out sequel after sequel”. Alas, there have only been six films in the franchise so far, and while we crazy movie nerds salivate over the prospect of more, Trancers is dead. For now.