Every pair of cool sunglasses in the 1992 direct-to-video masterpiece "Nemesis" (dir. Albert Pyun)
It's Read Max Fashion Corner
What makes a film great? Is it the images it conjures? The stories it tells? The editing, the photography, the mise-en-scene? In the case of the 1992 direct-to-video cyberpunk action thriller Nemesis, currently streaming for free on Tubi and Peacock, the answer is: the sunglasses.
Since watching Nemesis last week (and recommending it to paying subscribers in the weekly Read Max roundup), I have been unable to get it out of my head. Not so much the story (a bounty hunter named Alex Rain pressed into service to hunt down his former handler, apparently working with a militant terrorist cell), or the acting (Rain is played by French kickboxer Olivier Gruner, who’s serving something like “Cajun Daniel Craig, but with no emotional depth”), or the scene where two guys with huge rail guns strapped to their chests shoot doors in a wall so they can walk through. (Okay, a little bit that scene.) No, what I keep thinking about is the sunglasses.
Read Max is only able to spend an evening taking screenshots of sunglasses in a 1992 direct-to-video action movie I t*rrented (sorry) thanks to the generosity of paying subscribers.
The costume design for the movie is, in general, top-notch, but it’s in the sunglasses where it stands out: Everyone in this movie wears sunglasses, selected perfectly to make them look maximally cool, and, frankly, it rules. I thought about it so much that I decided I had to go back and catalog every pair of sunglasses I could see. I count at least 14 distinct frames, worn by 20+ actors.
The Nemesis Sunglasses Look Book
Rain, the movie’s hero, gets the movie’s coolest sunglasses, a pair of wire-frame clip-ons, which symbolize how he is a cool French cyborg-kickboxer-assassin:
Red Army Hammerheads leader “Rosaria”
Sick wireframes perfectly accessorized with a huge gun:
Later Rosaria trades in the huge gun for a peasant dress but keeps the same shades, which is either an important character note or a function of Nemesis only having the budget for one pair of sunglasses for her.
If clip-ons like Alex Rain’s are too fussy for you, the Hammerheads he shoots up in the movie’s first action sequence look great in sporty wraparounds, and the weird guy at the bar he shoots later on has some eternally cool aviators.
Farnsworth, Moritz, and Germaine
For a more fashion-forward look, we turn to Germaine. I don’t actually really understand who this guy is, and Alex Rain calls him a racist (#ally), but he has some of the best shades in the whole movie besides Rain--these tortoiseshell numbers with lenses elevated out of the frame:
His compatriots have similarly smart looks: LAPD Commissioner Farnsworth (…or is he?) favors clear acrylic Wayfarer-style glasses, while his right-hand man (? or friend ?), Moritz (played by the great Brion James, who was Leon in Blade Runner) has these great reflective round shades:
Really into the way the Java-based Red Army Hammerheads wear what look sort of like skiing sunglasses to me, with the side blinders:
LAPD Strike Team
And, finally, the LAPD strike team all wear huge I-Was-Just-at-the-optometrist glasses to go with their patterned tie/mustard shirt/huge fucking rail gun combos, which gives off a simultaneously threatening/elderly vibe:
Did I miss any sunglasses? Nemesis is currently streaming for free on Tubi and Peacock.
To be clear, are many things to recommend about Nemesis beyond the sunglasses: Its excellent production design, its elaborately staged action sequences, its clever effects, and, especially, its director’s infectious sense of adolescent glee. Director Albert Pyun, who died last November, is a cheapo-action-movie legend whose oeuvre includes the great Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle Cyborg and a great, cheesy post-apocalyptic noir called Radioactive Dreams. Like any great b-movie auteur, Pyun takes more interest in propulsive action and cool images than in coherent editing or lived-in performances. (He essentially, and I think correctly given the actor-kickboxer’s range, treats Gruner as a prop on the order of the big guns the bad guys tote around.) But the joy Pyun finds in, e.g., building the sequence were Rain shoots a circle around himself in a hotel floor, cartoon-style, in order to escape from the bad buys by falling down through a physically-improbable three or four stories, stands out, especially because he films the whole scene in am incredibly funny tight closeup of his stoic macho hero just absolutely hollering as he plummets.
I think one of the members of Rosaria’s gang is wearing Gargoyles, a deeply 80s brand that were like a more industrial precursor to Oakleys made popular by the first Terminator movie and failed NFL player turned failed action star Brian Bosworth. I desperately wanted a pair of Gargoyles as a child and briefly had a saved ebay search for a pair. Thankfully that search never turned up anything for a price I was willing to spend because I’m pretty sure I would’ve looked extremely stupid wearing them.
You had me at “Cajun Daniel Craig with no emotional depth”