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Class of 1999 (1990) December 10th, 2020

Class of 1999 rules. The poster says it all. A government experiment finally makes school safe for everyone… except the students. The premise: It’s 1999 (obviously) and teenagers are out of control. Police refuse to enter designated “free fire zones” where drug addled gangs of teenagers run the streets with armored cars and military grade firearms. Cody Culp is a teen gang-member who’s just gotten out of prison and he’s trying get his life on the right track. A tall order when your only path out of the ghetto is an education, but your high school is a gangland.

Meanwhile the government’s initiated a program to get the free fire zones under control. Stacy Keach and Malcolm McDowell initiate a plan to reprogram combat cyborgs as teachers at the worst schools in an effort to regain control. It’s like that scene in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones when C-3PO gets his head stuck on a battledroid’s body, it’s a gimmick that couldn’t possibly become the new status quo.

And it doesn’t! The cyborgs attack the students and the ensuing battle destroys much of the school but the cyborg threat ironically forces the gangs to cooperate. I guess that’s progress? Class of 1999 is a romp through a grove of Reagan-era conservative-dogwhistles. “Gangs!” “Gasp!” “Drugs!” “Shriek!” “Teens!” “We’ve got to get our country back!” But Class of 1999‘s writers brilliantly twist the satiric knife by showing the uncreative conservative solutions to anarchic gangs of teenage junkies like “Just say no!” or draconian incarceration policies don’t succeed even in a fantasy world.

Class of 1999 does fall victim to the most predictable pitfall of all The Terminator ripoffs when the actors playing the killer-robots settle into a Schwarzenegger impression. This is the syndrome where emotionless stares and smooth head turns become the extent of an android’s expressiveness and it can happen to the nicest people. In the case of Class of 1999 it happens to Pam Grier. What a waste, Coffy herself reduced to vacant gazes and hardly a handful of dialogue lines.

Class of 1999 is another movie predicting a turn of the century dystopia complete with aesthetic choices that could only be born from the mind of someone living in the 80’s and swimming in coke. How else could you explain Stacy Keach’s weird white contact lens’ or his shock white hightop-mullet? If you’re still interested, and I think you should be, expect the same level of realism as you might from Prayer of the Rollerboys but with twice the action.

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