Runt of the Litter: The Silencers (1996)

Matty takes a look at the weak link in PM Entertainment’s run of “high-tech action pictures”.

Though teeming with producer/director Richard Pepin’s usual stylish camerawork and laced with typically hearty production values, THE SILENCERS is clunkier than the PM Entertainment bigwig’s sci-fi masterworks Hologram Man (1995), CyberTracker 2 (1995), and T-Force (1995) (Pepin’s first Jack Scalia caper). Here, the stunt doubles appear more obvious and the pace — the rhythmic energy so integral to Pepin’s escalatory approach to spectacle — never seems to find a comfortable beat. The film is around ten minutes too long.

Nevertheless, The Silencers is an amusing confection if you’re in an undemanding mood. 

Lensed in June 1995, as demand for movies about robots and cyborgs was starting to dwindle, the film stands as PM’s inaugural dip into X-Files territory. With The X-Files quickly becoming a cultural touchstone, the iconic show was ruled ripe to ape for this and Pepin/PM’s penultimate “high-tech action” romp, Dark Breed (1996) (which, incidentally, was the last in Scalia’s three picture deal with the company), before they turned their attention back to straighter action fare, and then family flicks, light T&A and thrillers. In The Silencers, Scalia toplines as a secret service agent who blunders into a conspiracy involving shady government types and an impending extraterrestrial invasion.

Bolstering its narrative with bits of Timecop (1994) and the Alien Nation franchise, The Silencers delivers the meat and potatoes. Hot on the heels of a ‘60s-set opening — an atmospheric sequence whereupon a dazzled hick farmer and his wife encounter the titular men-in-black — the film segues into a massive shootout and a lively brawl on a speeding train (replete with some cute miniature work). From there, it’s the expected stockpile of gunplay, explosions, fisticuffs, and stunning vehicular carnage — all of which is overseen by PM’s resident stunt guru, Cole S. McKay. The charismatic Scalia makes for a decent if unremarkable hero, but the bulk of The Silencers’ other performances are curiously muted and bereft of personality. Thankfully, Clarence Williams III and Dennis Christopher provide a splash of colour. The latter in particular is great fun. The Mandy Patinkin to Scalia’s James Caan, Christopher — decked in Julian Sands-esque locks, no less — lights up the screen as the unwaveringly chipper intergalactic visitor that Scalia forms a snappy buddy-cop alliance with (a la a similar development in T-Force).

Conceived as ‘Men in Black’ but renamed for obvious reasons, PM Entertainment issued The Silencers on U.S. video on 23rd April 1996. It hit PPV two-and-a-half months later and fell into steady rotation on HBO by the end of the year, per PM’s longstanding pact with the network. Nearly a year passed before the film landed on British tape. It was released by Marquee Pictures on 2nd April 1997.

USA ● 1996 ● SciFi, Action ● 101mins

Jack Scalia, Dennis Christopher, Carlos Lauchu ● Dir. Richard Pepin ● Wri. Joseph John Barmettler, story by Joseph John Barmettler, Richard Preston Jr., William Applegate Jr.

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