From the Golden Age of the VHS Rental
It seemed as if discovering Rutger Hauer flicks was a right of passage and a monthly ritual when it came time to visit the local video store snagging a few of the new releases for the weekend’s viewing pleasure. I should think that Rutger’s participation in some highly anticipated movies made him instantly recognizable to the cult fans of North America. Blade Runner, and Nighthawks spring to mind while Ladyhawke and The Hitcher maintain a strong fan base. There’s an amazing number of titles to his name. For every Soldier of Orange he starred in, there must be a half dozen forgettable features. Forgettable they may be, yet some of them make for an entertaining couple hours of fun………………. some less so.
Dusting off a few copies I felt it was time to binge on some flicks featuring the cool presence of the Netherlands own Rutger Hauer.
Wanted : Dead or Alive (1987)
Directed by Gary Sherman
Taking up the name from the fifties Steve McQueen hit show which is briefly referenced, Rutger stars here as a modern day bounty hunter tangling with a terrorist who holds a grudge played by KISS member Gene Simmons. Playing to formula, Rutger begins the film breaking up a liquor store robbery, shotgun in hand to collect his latest bounty in fine tough guy fashion. He lives in a warehouse with his own armory, keeps a girl around when needed and is ultimately one majorly cool dude.
Taking a knock at the Rambo franchise, bomber Simmons blows up a movie theater playing the latest installment of the Stallone franchise then calling in his misdeed to the local press. This leads the Feds and C.I.A. to call in the best. Rutger’s past was as a member of the espionage world and he’d like nothing better than to take out the one man that eluded him years ago. What he doesn’t know is that the government agencies are using him as bait. When two of his closest friends are killed in his place, it’s time to go rogue. He doesn’t trust anyone other than old pal Robert Guillaume and begins to dish out his own brand of vigilante justice. Violence and bloodshed are sure to follow.
Simmons makes for a very good villain here commanding a small band of followers and when Ruger discovers that a detonation of chemical warfare is imminent, he’ll step up the pace and have to decide whether he want’s that monetary bonus if he can bring Simmons in alive making for one hell of a final scene.
I’ve seen this one a few times since it’s release and often refer to it as one of the better B flicks that Rutger blessed us with from his prime action hero days.
The Blood of Heroes (1989)
Directed by David Peoples
Rutger starred in a number of post apocalyptic films which we might safely assume were influenced by the Mad Max series. This one is very minimal in plot but I’ll have to admit that the longer I watched, I came around to rooting for Rutger’s ragtag team of Juggers.
Filmed in Australia, this flick focuses on a travelling band known as Juggers. They go from one settlement to another playing a game that appears be equal parts, lacrosse, cricket, football and a whole lot of Roman Gladiators. Seems rather pointless to me. Five players including team leader Rutger, Delroy Lindo, Vincent D’Onofrio and Joan Chen will pretty much kill and maim the opposition to jam the skullbone of a dog onto the opposing teams peg at the other end of the playing field. Cuts and injuries are the norm by the time the game concludes.
Rutger is looking for redemption and the film picks up steam when the team descends to a subterranean world where the now disgraced Rutger was once a member of the elite “league of Juggers.” This is where the film takes on a very Roman Gladiator like aura. There are two levels of society here, the rich and the poor. Arrogant members of high society would like nothing better than to see Rutger and his crew left for dead on the playing field. When the tribunal accepts his challenge to face the all stars of the league, Rutger will find an old friend opposing him who has been given orders to ensure the blonde haired superstar will never play again.
Throw in a bit of a Rocky finale and this one kind of grows on you despite knowing all along it’s far from a classic. If possible, skip the first half and get to the latter when the film goes underground and a bit more inventive in style and plot.
Deadlock aka Wedlock (1991)
Directed by Lewis Teague
This film from Lewis (Alligator, Cujo) Teague always struck me as a script that might have been rejected from the likes of Arnold back when he commanded the box office. The general idea is that prison inmates wear an exploding collar. There are no fences surrounding the prison where they are incarcerated. The problem is if you leave the grounds the collar will detonate thus decapitating you. To make the idea even more ingenious, your collar is connected to another inmates though you don’t know which one. If the two of you are more than 100 yards apart or if either attempts to remove it, dual explosions will soon follow.
In Noir like fashion, Rutger is left for dead during the film’s opening jewel heist by his girlfriend Joan Chen and his partner, James Remar. Chen and Remar like each other’s company better but Rutger gets the upper hand on them by stashing the diamonds before cutting the take. The film then cuts to Rutger arriving in prison where the warden, Stephen Tobolowsky has his own ideas about the hidden jewels. He could make Rutger’s time go easy or put him through hell if he doesn’t cooperate.
Rutger would much prefer the latter and gets it when he’s targeted by the head convict as an easy mark to pick on. Keep your eyes open and you’ll spot Danny Trejo briefly as a tough talking inmate who has a very short stay in prison.
Both men and women populate the prison and Mimi Rogers stars here as Rutger’s leading lady and possible love interest. After a wonderfully staged double explosion, she and Rutger are off and running having found out they’re collars are connected. So long as they stay within each other’s range, they’ll be OK. This fact creates some fun scenes and close calls while they’re on the lamb from prison and prove to be the film’s highlights.
Double crosses and who to trust become the norm for Rutger when Remar and Chen, who wonderfully chews the scenery, turn up to claim the hidden diamonds from our pair of escapees. This one is a great example of the VHS era. It’s easy to see that it could never make a dime in theaters but for the home video rental, it offers up a fun 90 minutes of colorful entertainment. Still if it had a bigger budget and Arnold like star, I think it could have worked on a bigger stage.
Split Second (1992)
Directed by Tony Maylam
“They say he’s the best.”
This low budgeter takes place in London of 2008. The city is largely under water with pollution running high and a giant rat like creature crossed with a poor Alien imitation tearing the hearts out of unsuspecting victims including unstable cop Hauer’s previous partner. Wisely filming mostly in the dark helps the budget restraints for this futuristic effort that is probably the weakest of the films I’ve taken a look at on my own private festival of Rutger Hauer flicks.
Rutger is like a rabid dog as he hunts his killer in the dark alleys with a new partner named Dick Durpin (“Zip it Dick.”) while at the same time trying to prevent love interest Kim Cattrall from becoming the next victim to the latest incarnation of Jack the Ripper. Notable faces turning up include Michael J. Pollard and Pete Postlethwaite. Pollard a sewer urchin and Pete playing a cop always at odds with Rutger which allows the script to inject some tough guy lines for our leading man as he once again plays it rogue whenever he can despite the assignment of Durpin as his new partner.
Plenty of macho B.S. combines with buckets of blood, Rutger looking great wearing a scowl while chomping on cigars, no budget resulting in no imagination for our creature and a soundtrack that sounds a whole lot like the Chariots of Fire theme song during our tender moments add up to a pedestrian effort though Cab Calloway singing That Old Black Magic over the closing credits proves a highlight.
Assuming this one barely turned a profit, if any, it’s no surprise that we didn’t get a sequel though like any other film of the genre, one is hinted at in the end.
Directed by Rodney Gibbons
While this effort came at a later date, binging on Rutger films allowed me to check out this post Jackie Brown flick starring Pam Grier in the title role with Rutger shining as co-star, murder suspect and romantic interest all rolled into one.
Pam stars as a police detective investigating the murder of a former flame of Hauer’s. All indications are that he’s the killer and Pam, who has a personal vendetta against men who beat on women, has Rutger clearly in her sights as suspect number one. When a second acquaintance of Rutger’s turns up dead and he willingly proves his innocence through DNA testing, he begins to take a shine to the attractive lady with a badge.
Let the flirtations begin.
Against police protocol, Pam enlists Rutger’s expertise as a physician to assist in the finding of clues and conducting an autopsy when she finds that she isn’t getting any help from her higher ups on the force. This case is clearly bigger than Pam thinks when big business and payoffs to her superiors are where the clues lead. While Rutger and Pam get deeper into dangerous territory and not knowing who to trust, their on screen chemistry continues to grow thus proving to be the highlight of the film.
Taking on a bigger plot than the typical VHS special, this one is diverting enough to enjoy with a couple of pros leading the way on a tight budget. Easy to recommend and a chance to see Rutger play second fiddle to one of the baddest women in cinema while trying to capture her heart through it all. Still, he is an action star of note so he’ll get a chance at some heroics of his own during the final reel.
I could have featured any number of films starring Rutger for this spotlight including his more well known box office titles or even his go around with Peckinpah. I’ll get to them eventually but there’s something about those VHS days I love to relive. Hopefully I’ve given you a reason to check out some Rutger flicks, to either rediscover some of them or if you’re unfamiliar with him altogether, to go out and see some of his films for the first time.
If you get the chance, give his book, All Those Moments a read where he recalls his career.
How about you? Any recommendations or comments about Rutger and the above titles?