As a lot of other reviewers have pointed out Crash and Burn is something of a bait and switch movie. The poster shows off a huge robot which makes it look like it's going to be a sequel to Robot Jox (in fact, in some countries it was titled Robot Jox 2). However, this is far from the truth. In actual fact, the robot only has about three or four minutes of screen time and it doesn't fight any other robots during that time. I first watched Crash and Burn five years ago and was really let down by the lack of giant robot action. I re-watched it recently to write up this review and decided to give it a fresh chance. Maybe if I knew there wasn't going to be any giant robots fighting I'd be able to enjoy it more for what it actually did have.
The plot of Crash and Burn goes something like this. It's 2030. The world's economy has collapsed and America is in disarray. A group of people are running a little TV station in the middle of the desert broadcasting to the remaining inhabitants. Biker delivery man Tyson Keen (Paul Ganus) arrives one day to drop off a package to the TV station owner Latham Hooks (Ralph Waite). However not long after he arrives a 'Thermal Storm' hits and everyone is forced to hold up down in the station's underground bunker. One by one a mysterious killer begins killing off TV crew starting with Hooks. Young camerawoman Arren (Megan Ward) discovers that a signal is being broadcast into the station that has activated a 'sleeper agent' human robot. It could be anyone of them! Will she and Tyson discover who it is before they all die?
Honestly, I think even taking into account that this film was sold as something it isn't, it's still not a good movie. The main problem is that it tries to borrow bits and pieces from other sci-fi films but doesn't understand what made them good. For instance, the whole idea of people being picked off by one of their own is very close to The Thing. They even do a version of the 'blood test' scene from that film only here they all cut their fingers to show they have human blood. It's a really dull and suspense-free scene. Another major influence is The Terminator but the 'sleeper agent' robot is really weak and nowhere near as intimidating and relentless as Arnie. The final big influence is Alien. There's a lot of back story about an evil corporation called Unicom who are the ones who sent the robot but it's never really clear why they've sent the robot and why it's killing everyone.
You're probably wondering how the giant robot fits into all this. Well, basically you see it at the start where it's all rusted and broken on top of a junk pile outside of the TV station. Arren mentioned she's trying to repair it. Then it's never mentioned or seen again until approximately 50 minutes in. The 'sleeper agent' robot chases Arren out of the building and traps her friend under some metal scaffolding so she remotely pilots the giant robot to free the friend and stamp on the 'sleeper agent' robot. Although the stop motion (again, by David Allen) is great, the sequence just doesn't mesh with the rest of the film. It feels like the director Charles Band maybe had some stock footage left over from Robot Jox and built the rest of the script around it.
The acting is mostly dull across the board. Paul Ganus is handsome but hollow as the lead, 'Pa Walton' Ralph Waite says about five lines before his character gets thrown off a balcony and Bill Moseley chews up a storm as one of the TV station employees. Most of the work is left to Megan Ward but she struggles with the turgid screenplay. This was her feature film debut and she went on to star in a few more Full Moon films (Trancers 2*, Trancers 3 and Arcade) afterwards. I was particularly disappointed by Richard Band's score. He's usually quite good, like a budget John Carpenter, but his score for Crash and Burn is really dull and repetitive.
The thing about Full Moon movies is that you have to accept going in that you're never going to get the film they sell you. They work on miniscule budgets and for what they achieve you have to be impressed. That said, it was a poor decision to try and pass this off as a giant robot movie. They should have just cut that part and concentrated on a making a decent sci-fi slasher.
*By the way, if you watch Trancers 2 there is a scene where Jack Deth watches the full trailer for Crash and Burn on his TV. Talk about cross marketing!