Apparently someone at Troma Entertainment saw Superman III and thought, “Hey, that was fun; let’s do that with the Toxic Avenger.” I am kidding, somewhat, especially because that’s not at all what Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV is like. But it does have two different versions of its title character — one good, one evil — and they do have to fight with only one coming out alive. But for the most part they exist independent of one another. So not like Superman III at all. I just used that example because it’s a good comparison when it comes to this film’s quality, or lack thereof.
Set and released more than a decade after the last Toxic Avenger — I’m guessing the filmmakers are hoping we all forgot about that one — Citizen Toxie opens with a group called the Diaper Mafia taking hostage of a school for people with special needs. The Toxic Avenger (David Mattey) and his sidekick (Joe Fleishaker) try to save it, but they can’t prevent an explosion from going off that levels the whole school. It also opens an inter-dimensional tear, which results in Toxie going to a parallel dimension known as Amortville, while his evil doppelgänger, the Noxious Offender, winds up in Tromaville.
Despite having slightly different appearances and vastly different personalities, nobody in either place can tell the characters apart. We’re treated to mirror images of almost all characters in the series. Toxie’s wife, Claire (Heidi Sjursen), is seen in Amortville as a tortured prisoner held by Noxie, for example. Toxie has to fight to get back to his own dimension, while Noxie just has fun wreaking havoc in a place that worships him, thinking he’s Toxie.
Okay. Now there is a premise. What’s done with it? Basically what you expect. Noxie does bad things to good people, Toxie tries to avoid bad people while helping the few good people, and that’s that. Noxie winds up getting a Neo-Nazi army — I won’t get into how or why — while Toxie locates the mirror version of his sidekick. Noxie swears a bunch and Toxie beats up drug addicts, all while being accompanied by a couple of the students he saved from the school.
We’re back to the vulgar, gory, and sexploitation romp that made the first film noteworthy in the first place. The film is narrated by Stan Lee — yes, really — who explains to us that this is the real sequel to the original and that the other two sucked. I think they get declared non-canon, actually. Claire is back to being blind, even though her sight was fixed in the last film. Whatever. Paying someone to keep track of continuity isn’t something that Troma is going to do.
The violence is over-the-top and filled with blood, gore, guts, and all sorts of nasty things that will make gorehounds jump for joy. There’s enough of the prerequisite nudity, too, for those who were missing that from the last film. And Noxie drops F-bomb after F-bomb whenever he’s on-screen. It’s funny, I’ll admit. There is some humor in Citizen Toxie — not enough to top the second film, but more than the original and enough to keep you laughing for a good portion of the running time. The funniest parts go to Paul Kyrmse as another “superhero,” the alcoholic Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD.
Actually, there are a lot of other “superheroes,” and I felt like we were supposed to know why they exist, but they mostly just felt randomly added. I know Sgt. Kabukiman had his own film and became something of a mascot for Troma, but what of these other characters? What does Dolphin Man have to do with anything? These character felt more like one-off jokes than anything else, although even as I’m writing this sentence I realize I’m talking about a Toxic Avenger movie and I should stop.
For the first time since the original, it felt like a Toxic Avenger was about something. This one takes not-at-all-subtle jabs at many different aspects of life. Plastic surgery, school shootings, drugs, abortion –all of those are covered, and more. It’s not as singularly focused as the first film, but at least there’s something more on its mind than “Gore. Boobs. Swears.”
There are a few noteworthy cameos in the film, the most prominent of which comes from Mark Torgl, who played Melvin in the original film. Obviously I’m not going to tell you when he shows up, but I think you’ll be able to figure it out pretty easily once it happens. That might be as good a reason as any to watch this movie. Seeing Torgl back in the only role he had that lead to any sort of success is fitting. Stan Lee’s narration is also great, if only because it’s Stan Lee.
Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV is worth watching if you happen to be a fan of this series. It’s more of what you expect, and what made the first film worth talking about in the first place. It’s gory, it’s profane, it’s got lots of unnecessary nudity, and it’s ultimately about something, even if that something covers several topics and covers them about as deep as peanut butter spread on burnt toast. It’s what Toxic Avenger fans wanted. It’s not good, but it’s good for what it is.