Class of 1999 (1990)

In the distant future of 1999, street gangs have carved out free fire zones that cops will not enter around schools in major cities. These gangs, armed with automatic weapons and explosives, act as their own form of law in these lawless territories, where they murder, rape, pillage, abuse drugs, and do whatever else they want. The government does not like this, so the local school board of Seattle joins forces with the Department of Education and Defense (yes, that’s one department now) as well as a private company to unveil the latest in education technology: military robots converted into teachers to handle both education and punishment. When the robots inevitably buck their typical programming and revert to war settings to kill off the gangs, it’s up to a small group of street kids to take them out. Because it makes sense that street kids could take on killer military robots.

First of all, that is an awesome idea for a movie. Second of all, the killer robots here are played by the likes of John P. Ryan, Patrick Kilpatrick, and the always wonderful Pam Grier. While the movie gets 1999 incredibly wrong (it was released in 1990, so no Internet), it’s a gritty cyberpunk future that has a tinge of the post-apocalyptic that I love. Escape from New York, 2019: After the Fall of New York, 1990: Bronx Warriors, Split Second…it’s this kind of movie, and it fits right in with a lot of other popcorn flicks I have adored over the years.

Class of 1999 is considered a sequel to Class of 1984, though in name and central themes only. As far as I can tell, there are no direct connections between the two films outside of punk gangs and inner city schools, and while in 1984 it was a hero teacher against killer students, now it’s hero punk gangs against killer teachers and Stacy Keach’s mullet. Yes, Stacy Keach has a dyed mullet in this movie. No, I don’t know why. It is most definitely the most terrifying part of all of this.

Anyway, this is occasionally a very violent movie. The robot teachers cut up or blow up students from time to time. One guy even gets pulled through a wall and ripped in half in one particularly awesome moment. At other moments, we find out the teachers are pretty much made of weapons, and they get even nastier looking when blown apart but remain every bit as dangerous. Except Pam Grier. Pam Grier always looks amazing, yo.

Look, if you want gang violence, gunfire, trash, wanton destruction, killing machines, exploding school buses, and seeing those rotten teenagers who won’t get off your lawn killed, well, Class of 1999 definitely delivers. It’s got exactly what you want, even if the teenage gang members are the so-called good guys. Hell, the big finale even involves a fire fight in a school and a decapitation via forklift. Yeah, this is not the kind of movie you would expect to see made today. That’s what makes it all the more precious, because it’s a ridiculous what-if that is spectacular to behold.

Man, the future of education is awesome.

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