Manborg is, basically, every cheap action/sci-fi movie that ever went straight to videotape in the 1980s. It was made for a ridiculously small amount of money, and relies on a lot of goodwill from viewers, but if you share the affection for those halcyon days of big box VHS gems then you should enjoy Manborg as much as I did. In fact, my rating here is a baseline. I already want to rewatch the movie, and I'm sure that it's a film that just gets better on repeat viewings.
Matthew Kennedy IS Manborg. He's part man, part machine, all hero. Sort of. It's not long until he finds himself in trouble, and in a prison that's overseen by The Baron (Jeremy Gillespie). Prisoners are taken from their cells when required to compete in battles that almost always end in death, but Manborg has an edge that other prisoners never had. His very manborg-ness. Battling alongside a few other incarcerated folks (#1 Man, played by Ludwig Lee, Justice, played by Conor Sweeney, and Mina, played by Meredith Sweeney), it's not long until a plan is hatched that may lead to freedom and the downfall of a great evil.
Directed by Steve Kostanski, who also wrote the script with Gillespie (which may explain why The Baron gets so many great lines), Manborg is chock full of so many references and homages to past cinematic "gems" that to list them all would be almost impossible, by my reckoning. It may have been made on a budget that doesn't look much bigger than my monthly pay, but that doesn't stop it from packing in more cinematic reference points, heart and sheer entertainment than most movies that have millions of dollars to play around with. Necessity is the mother of invention, and despite often looking cheap it has to be said that these guys can make their budget stretch a hell of a long way.
Kennedy is good in the lead role, but the most fun is had by Lee and both Sweeneys, with Gillespie also creating a lot of laughs every time he appears as the Baron. If someone stumbles across Manborg, somehow, with no prior knowledge of it then I am sure that they will rate it as a worthless piece of trash, and also dismiss the main performances. But knowing what movies are being homaged, and knowing that the cast are all serving the material in the way that they rattle off numerous hilarious cliches, allows greater appreciation of the effort being made by everyone.
If you dig the humour running throughout Manborg then you'll be won over within the first few minutes. If you don't understand how anyone could enjoy the movie then nothing will convince you of its merits.