The Sender (1997)


USA. 1997.


Director – Richard Pepin, Screenplay – Nathan Long & Richard Preston Jr, Producers – Richard Pepin & Joseph Merhi, Photography – Mike Weaver, Music – John Sponsler, Visual Effects Supervisor – Stephen Lebed, Visual Effects – Encore Visual Effects, Production Design – John Larena. Production Company – PM Entertainment Group/Choctaw Inc


Michael Madsen (Commander Dallas Grayson), Shelli Lether (Angel), R. Lee Ermey (Colonel Rosewater), Erica Everage (Lisa Grayson), Steve Williams (Lockwood), Robert Vaughn (Admiral Ron Fairfax), Dyan Cannon (Gina Fairfax), Brian Bloom (Captain Jack Grayson)


In 1965, Air Force Captain Jack Grayson vanishes during a UFO encounter over The Bermuda Triangle. In the present day, the wreckage of his plane is found. However, when Grayson’s son Dallas tries to see it he encounters a wall of coverups by the military. At the same time, Dallas’s daughter Lisa is being contacted by a mysterious alien woman who starts teaching her how to use her psychic abilities. The military then snatch Lisa, wanting her because of her ‘sender’ gene, which holds the psychic secrets of teleportation that will one day allow humanity to travel in space. Dallas and the alien woman are forced to go on the run, hunted by the military, as they try to get Lisa back.

The Sender – which is no relation to the great little-seen psychic powers film also called The Sender (1982) – is an action film from Richard Pepin. Richard Pepin, in conjunction with producing partner Joseph Mehri, was a prolific director of B-budget, video-released, sf/action hyrbids during the 1990s/early 2000s, having made the likes of Cyber Tracker (1994), Dark Breed (1995), Hologram Man (1995) and The Silencers (1996). (See below for a full list of Richard Pepin’s other genre films).

The Sender is business as usual for Richard Pepin. Most Pepin films start by leaping into the midst of action sequences without any concern or explanation of what is going on. This opens, in typically Pepin-esque manner, with an extended action sequence – a chase scene with a truck slamming vehicles in front of it, exploding through other vehicles, a fight on the flatbed and an improbable sequence with Michael Madsen having to shoot out the truck’s brake cable in order to stop it. It seems that Pepin works to a formula that mandates an explosion every five minutes – and every second one of these involves a truck or an RV crashing through another vehicle in slow motion. This time Pepin has a modest budget at his disposal, which allows him to create some elaborate action set-ups – highway chases and explosions, copters and UFOs shooting out, and such like.

While Richard Pepin certainly delivers on the action angle, The Sender fails abysmally as science-fiction. As with several Pepin films, there is the recurrent theme of the government covering up the truth regarding UFOs. However, in terms of its ideas, The Sender is even more frustrating and vaguely thought out than previous Pepin films. The talk about sender genes, the abduction of Michael Madsen’s father by a UFO and government coverup is sketched in vague terms without much connection or explanation. These ideas come with a laughable banality – the ethereal woman from the stars with great powers soon turns out to be no more than an ordinary action movie heroine running around amidst the action like everybody else, while the wondrous UFO from the stars is easily damaged and shot down by the Air Force.

The Sender stars Michael Madsen. With his ruggedly macho handsomeness and languid ease, Madsen seemed on the verge of becoming a major star after Reservoir Dogs (1992) but never did. Instead, Madsen ended up headlining B video action films such as this. For unfathomable reasons, he also took an Associate Producer role on The Sender. R. Lee Ermey has yet another role in which he plays a bawling military officer. Dyan Cannon has an unconvincing cameo as an admiral’s wife involved in the coverup.

Richard Pepin’s other films of genre note are:– Cyber Tracker (1994), Firepower (1994), Cybertracker 2 (1995), Dark Breed (1995), Hologram Man (1995), T-Force (1995), The Silencers (1996), Y2K/Terminal Countdown (1999), Mindstorm (2001) and Caved In (2006). PM Entertainment has produced some 80 plus films, almost all being action films. Their other genre productions include Death By Dialogue (1988), Hollow Gate (1988), The Art of Dying (1991), Alien Intruder (1993), CIA: Code Name Alexa (1993), CIA II: Target Alexa (1994), The Power Within (1995), Steel Frontier (1995), Rage (1996), Sutures (2009), as well as the children’s films Storybook (1995), Two Bits and Pepper (1995) and Little Bigfoot (1997).

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