Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlbert Pyun
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyPhilip Alan Waters
Edited by
Music byKevin Bassinson
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • April 7, 1989 (1989-04-07)
Running time
82 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$500,000[citation needed]
Box office$9.5–10.2 million[2][3]

Cyborg (also known as Slinger; released in the Philippines as First Hero), is a 1989 American martial-arts cyberpunk film directed by Albert Pyun. Jean-Claude van Damme stars as Gibson Rickenbacker, a mercenary who battles a group of murderous marauders led by Fender Tremolo (Vincent Klyn) along the East coast of the United States in a post-apocalyptic future. The film is the first in Pyun's Cyborg Trilogy. It was followed by 1993's Knights (originally entitled The Kingdom of Metal: Cyborg Killer) and Omega Doom in 1997.[original research?] Cyborg was followed by the sequels Cyborg 2 (1993) and Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994).


A plague known as the living death cripples civilization. A small group of surviving scientists and doctors — located in Atlanta, home of the CDC — work on a cure to save what remains of humanity. To complete their work they need information stored on a computer system in New York City. Pearl Prophet volunteers for the dangerous courier mission and is made into a cyborg through surgical augmentation.

Pearl, accompanied by bodyguard Marshall Strat, retrieves the data in New York but is pursued by the vicious Fender Tremolo and his gang of pirates. Fender wants the cure so he can have a monopoly on its production. Strat, badly injured while fighting the pirates, tells Pearl to leave him and find a mercenary, known as a "slinger", who can escort her to safety. She gets cornered but is saved by a slinger named Gibson Rickenbacker. After she explains her situation, they are overrun by Fender's gang, and Gibson is knocked out by falling debris. Fender demands that she accompany him to Atlanta or die.

Fender's gang slaughters a family and steals their boat. They head south for Atlanta via the Intracoastal Waterway with the captive Pearl. Gibson, who had been tracking the pirates, arrives at the scene of slaughter later that night. A shadowy figure attacks him, but he disables her. She turns out to be Nady Simmons, a young woman who mistook him as a pirate. Nady, whose family was wiped out by the plague, joins Gibson. Gibson is less concerned with a cure for the plague than with killing Fender. Gibson and Nady trek southward through the wastelands, where bandits ambush them. Concerned for Nady, Gibson unsuccessfully attempts to convince her to stay away. After declining sex with Nady, Gibson reveals that all he cares about is revenge against Fender, who killed his lover and destroyed his chance to have a normal life and family.

Intercepting Fender and his crew near Charleston, South Carolina, Gibson defeats most of his men, but Fender shoots him with an air rifle. Now nursing a gunshot wound, Gibson realizes Haley (his dead lover's younger sister whom Fender kidnapped) is now a loyal member of Fender's crew. He flees the pirates and ends up alone with Pearl and Nady. Pearl refuses to go with him — she calculates that Gibson is not strong enough to defeat Fender and will be unable to get her to Atlanta safely. She says she will go along with Fender and lure him to his death in Atlanta, where she has resources at her disposal.

Tired, wounded and badly outnumbered, Gibson flees with Nady through the sewer into a salt marsh, where they are pursued by the rest of the pirates and eventually separated from each other. Gibson is thoroughly beaten by Fender and crucified high on the mast of a beached, derelict ship. Haley lingers at the scene but still leaves with Fender. Gibson spends the night on the cross. In the morning, near death, he kicks the mast repeatedly with his dangling foot in a last fit of rage. The mast snaps, sending him crashing to the ground, his arms still tied and nailed to the cross. Finally, Nady appears out of the marsh to free him.

Gibson and Nady intercept Fender once again in Atlanta, this time better prepared. Fender's gang is taken down one by one until he and Gibson face off. During their fight, Nady rushes Fender with a knife, but he stabs and kills her. Gibson in turn stabs Fender in the chest. Thinking him dead, Gibson embraces Haley, who, during the battle turned decisively against Fender. However, Fender gets back up, and they continue to battle in a nearby shed, where Gibson finally kills Fender by impaling him on a meat hook. Gibson and Haley escort Pearl to her final destination, before heading back off.



Cannon Films initially intended to make a sequel to the 1987 He-Man film Masters of the Universe and a live-action Spider-Man film. Both projects were planned to be shot simultaneously by Albert Pyun.[4] Cannon, however, was in financial trouble and had to cancel deals with both Mattel and Marvel Entertainment Group, the owners of He-Man and Spider-Man, respectively. Cannon had already spent $2 million on costumes and sets for both films and decided to start a new project in order to recoup that money. Pyun wrote the storyline for Cyborg in one weekend. Pyun had Chuck Norris in mind for the lead, but co-producer Menahem Golan cast Jean-Claude van Damme. The film was shot for less than $500,000 and was filmed in 23 days.[5] The film was shot entirely in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Several of the characters' names are references to well-known manufacturers and models of guitars and other musical instruments.

After the success of Bloodsport, Cannon films offered Jean-Claude van Damme the lead in Delta Force 2, American Ninja 3 or Cyborg. He chose the latter although he later admitted "I didn't like [the film] so much."[3]

Jackson "Rock" Pinckney, who played one of Fender's pirates, lost an eye during filming when Jean-Claude van Damme accidentally struck his eye with a prop knife. Pinckney sued Van Damme in a North Carolina court and was awarded $485,000.[6]

Violent scenes were heavily cut to gain an R rating rather than an X, including a throat-slitting and some blood and gore during the village massacre. Also excised was the death of a man Van Damme was fighting, which caused an inconsistency that made him look like he suddenly disappeared.[7][8]


Cyborg was released in the United States on April 7, 1989. In the Philippines, the film was rereleased as First Hero on August 16, 1995, with "Re Issue" written in small print within the credits of the poster.[9]

Critical response

Cyborg received a generally negative reception from critics despite the box office success.[10][11][12][13] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports a 22% positive score based on 18 reviews and an average rating of 3.5/10.[14] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 24 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[15] The film debuted at number four at the American box office[16] and went on to gross $10,166,459.[17]



Cyborg 2, starring Elias Koteas and Angelina Jolie, was released in 1993. Cyborg 3: The Recycler, a direct-to-video release, followed in 1995. Both films bear little to no relation to the first film and were heavily panned by critics, even more than the original.

Alternate cut

In 2011, director Albert Pyun's Curnan Pictures got hold of the missing tapes of the original cut of Cyborg through Pyun's original choice for score artist, Tony Riparetti. This director's cut of the film features Pyun's editing and previously unreleased scenes. It is commercially available through the director himself.[18] Pyun's director's cut was released in 2014 in Germany with the film's original title "Slinger".

In popular culture

American rapper Method Man sampled most of Fender's opening words as the opening lyrics in the song "Judgement Day" from his 1998 album Tical 2000: Judgement Day. The lyrics are slightly modified. The intro is also in the opening of the song "World Damnation" by the death metal band Mortician. The intro of Fender talking about death and starvation is thought as the official opening of metal band Chimairas' song "Resurrection." It is often played at live shows as an intro. The same intro is also played the beginning of a song by Australian, Christian, gore-grindcore band Vomitorial Corpulence.


  1. ^ "Cyborg (18)". British Board of Film Classification. March 31, 2000. Retrieved September 8, 2011.
  2. ^ "Cyborg". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Thompson, A. (August 27, 1989). "Punch lineage". Chicago Tribune. ProQuest 1015813964.
  4. ^ Cronin, Brian (January 30, 2013). "Movie Legends Revealed: He-Man & Spider-Man Films Became Cyborg?". CBR. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  5. ^ Loreti, Nicanor. Interview with Albert Pyun. La Cosa Fantastico #113 (July 2005). Retrieved on September 6, 2010.
  6. ^ "Bodybuilder Wins $487,500 For Injury By Van Damme". Orlando Sentinel. February 27, 1993. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  7. ^ "THE NEVER BEFORE SEEN DIRECTOR'S CUT OF CYBORG UNEARTHED!". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on March 7, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  8. ^ "A few words with albert pyun on the recent cyborg re-release". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on March 26, 2011. Retrieved March 4, 2011.
  9. ^ "Grand Opening Today". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. August 16, 1995. p. 23. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  10. ^ Roger Ebert (April 7, 1989). "Cyborg". Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  11. ^ "Cyborg". The Washington Post. April 11, 1989. Retrieved June 24, 2006.
  12. ^ Holden, Stephen (April 8, 1989). "Cyborg". The New York Times. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  13. ^ "Cyborg". Deseret News. Retrieved June 24, 2006.
  14. ^ "Masters of the Universe 2: Cyborg (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  15. ^ "Cyborg (1989) reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
  16. ^ "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Major League' Wins Season Opener". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
  17. ^ "Cyborg (1989)". Box Office Mojo. May 2, 1989. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  18. ^ "New Ultra Violent Cut of Albert Pyun's Cyborg Unearthed". November 10, 2019.