Run Time: 87 minutes
What to Expect: The closest thing to an actual MechWarrior movie.
Director Ryan Staples Scott’s Robot Riot (2020) is an entertaining, but average independent science-fiction thriller involving giant robots. While the film features well-conceptualized robot designs, its visual effects are ordinary, and the acting unpolished.
Robot Riot begins with a man waking up after being parachuted into a Midwestern ghost town. Dressed in white overalls and tactical body armor, he has an electronic marker on the back of his neck and a name tag that reads Shane (Ryan Merriman). A loud horn blares from an outdoor speaker. A thirty-foot mechanical colossus (think MechWarrior) looms in the foreground with its guns pointed directly at him. Realizing the danger, he hides in an empty building, closing his eyes and bracing for an onslaught of firepower. When Shane looks up again, the Mech is down and in flames. A young woman, Piper (Sarah Bartholomew), wearing the same outfit as him, has destroyed the hulking monstrosity. She used a directed-energy weapon to deliver a blast of pure plasma.
Exploring their surroundings, Shane and Piper come across others caught in this predicament. The group soon discover they are part of a top-secret military training exercise, overseen by the maniacal General Dix (Jason Leyva). His goal is to test the artificial intelligence of Mechs against soldiers in real-life combat. Preventing the unwitting recruits from fleeing town is an energy force field encircling the city. To escape this kill zone, Shane and his comrades must elude murderous automatons and find a way to disable an invisible barrier.
Robot Riot has excellent mecha designs that call to mind the popular 90’s vehicle simulation game, MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat (1995), and the ED-209 from Robocop (1987). In addition to the behemoth called Mech-4, there is a smaller one known as Spyder Mech-5. This Mech crawls on the ground like an insect. The Spyder Mech-5 design is inventive with its mecanum wheels, allowing it to move in any direction.
The film’s visual effects while watchable are disappointing. They are only a bit better than the usual Syfy original production. The Mech’s animation needed further rendering in high definition for a big-budget look. Also underwhelming was the drama student-level acting on display by the rest of the supporting cast. Veteran actor Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3) fares the best, playing a soldier trying to remain calm in a chaotic situation.
Suppose you played any of the MechWarrior computer games or are familiar with mecha inspired robots from either anime or manga. In that case, Robot Riot may be worth a digital rental or purchase.