Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)

Ok, like I said, I'm going to focus on a particular genre for the time being. I was going to concentrate on action pictures from the 1980s for the month of November but now I think I'll extend that to however the fuck long I want. If Netflix didn't screw me over by leaving me without any new DVDs for the past week I may have stuck with my original plan. There are plenty of pictures I want to touch on, plenty of names I want to cover; Milius, Hill, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Kosugi, Van Damme, Swayze, Peckinpah (yes, his last film came out in 1983), Norris, Nolte, etc. Will I get to them all? Doubtful.

Anyway, I'm not sure why I went with Wanted: Dead or Alive. I didn't particularly remember that much from my initial viewing (1987). All, I remembered was the bad ass ending. It stars Rutger Hauer but I didn't really start to appreciate him until much later. I've always disliked Kiss, so the presence of Gene Simmons as a middle eastern terrorist does nothing for me. The director, Gary Sherman, wasn't actually known for action films. Hell, he's got a pretty solid background in horror though (Dead and Buried and Raw Meat). The movie also features fine supporting work from Robert Guillome ("Benson"!) and Jerry Hardin (deep throat from "The X-files"). Actually, the most action-y thing this picture has going for it, pre-viewing, is that it's based on an old Steve Mcqueen series of the same name from the late 50s. I guess Hauer is supposed to be Mcqueen's great great nephew or some shit like that.

To be honest with you, I wanted to like this a whole hell of a lot more than I actually did. It's got a solid opening, an ass dragging middle, and a slam bam thank you mam finale. Hauer is great but that's not surprising. I've never really seen the guy give a bad performance. He plays a bounty hunter named Nick Randall. He works closely with police officer seargent Danny Quintz (William Russ of "Boy Meets World" fame) in tracking down scum, getting them off the street, and then collecting a reward. One guy, he beats the shit out of and stuffs in his trunk and then drops him off at the station so Quintz can book him. The scum bag asks if he's ever heard of "miranda", but Randall just looks at him and dead pans, "got news for ya, I'm not a cop". So, this is a guy that was being like Dog while Dog was still a pup or getting his high school girlfriend pregnant but this guy is cooler than Dog and he wears his mullet better. Also, Randall is ex CIA so he's seen some pretty bad shit in his days. And, he has a headquarters that sort of resembles a bat cave for the real world and his car has GPS which is pretty bad ass for the 80s. Also, he's got a sweet girlfriend who lives with him on a boat (as action heroes tend to do) while she is studying for her law degree or her CPA or something like that. Still despite all of this something was missing.

The first thing missing is an actor capable of playing a middle eastern villain. It's clear they hired Gene Simmons for his name since this guy cannot really act. He was also in that picture with Magnum P.I. called Runaway, the one with the robotic spiders, and he was pretty terrible in that thing. I think they told him to tone down his act for the clearly more introverted Malak Al Rahim, so they told him to barely speak (also, since he can't do a competent accent) and, hell, they even told him to stay out of most of the picture all together. His first scene is a good one though, I'll give him that, when he plants a bomb in a movie theatre that happens to be playing Rambo. I'm guessing First Blood Part II, but they didn't specify. One of his bomb technicians is excited about a new detonator he developed, one that will work from a distance of up to 2 miles, but Rahim is not really impressed; "What's the point of that if I can't watch?" Anyway, walking out of the theatre, he stops to caress the face of an innocent child. He is a terrorist with a heart of gold. 144 dead.

So, of course Nick and Malak have a history. When Nick was in the CIA he was commisioned to take out seven terrorists. He took out six. Guess who the seventh guy was? Malak isn't just in
L.A. to visit disneyworld and blow up children. He wants to kill Nick as well (maybe make him suffer a bit). Anyway, the middle part of the movie sorta forgets about Malak as we are treated to some character "development". Unfortunately, the movie sorta grinds to a hault with these scenes. There's also a somewhat tedious side plot about corruption within the police ranks led by the shadowy Jerry Hardin. Guillome is Hardin's underling and just about the only friend Nick's got. Well, Quintz was a pretty good friend too, but then he was blown up on Nick's boat (unfortunately, so was Nick's girlfriend) to give our hero a little bit of extra motivation to not hold back. Once that boat blows up, the movie kicks into a higher gear and becomes something pretty cool.

Here are some thoughts on the portrayal of middle eastern terrorists in this picture. It's kinda insulting. Maybe these guys became terrorists in real life because of these harmful stereotypes in hollywood action films. I mean, isn't it possible we made them this way or maybe this is just one of many reasons they hate us? Not trying to lay any blame for 9/11 here, but maybe if Nick Randall didn't use the term "rag head" so much we would all be friends by now. Still, these particular "rag heads" are evil, even if most of them are probably not of middle eastern descent; they blow themselves up, they blow up babies, they blow up women, etc. One moment, in particular, was a bit shocking when two terrorists were driving a getaway car and I guess the driver, who happened to be a woman, did something wrong so the passenger shot her in the head and then licked the brain splattered window in an apparently sexually aroused state. Well, that is pretty evil and just plain sadistic but that is all besides the point. What I want to know is what the fuck were these guys doing hiring a woman?

Hauer has some pretty good scenes in this one with my favorite being the one where he interrogates a terrorist that he stuffed in a locker with a shotgun. This guy is pissed off. That poor terrorist was blasted with the shotgun on most of his extremities and then, later, when Hardin and his cronies show up still has to undergo extreme interrogation tactics 80s (and 2000s) style. Some things never change. The ending is pretty famous. I think you might remember it. Nick has caught Gene Simmons and brings him out to the waiting cops with a grenade shoved in his mouth. He makes an arrangement with Hardin to have his fee ($250,000) sent to the widow of the friend that was blown up on his boat. He's also promised a bonus ($50,000) for bringing in Simmons alive. Fuck man, I really want to spoil what happens here but I guess I will refrain. It's an 80s action film so I don't really think I spoiled anything by revealing the good guy catches the bad guy did I? This is a solid picture with some classic moments, a few good lines of dialogue and a suprisingly melancholic coda which features Hauer harmonicanizing "You are my sunshine". Sniff sniff.

8 comments:

brian said...

Oh shit, review #100. Let's celebrate. Who is buying?

steve said...

And how, pray tell, would you portray a Middle Eastern terrorist in a way that WASN'T insulting?

You and that Obama fella should stop pallin' around with terrorists!

brian said...

Well, I would start by portraying them as a type of people that wouldn't hire a woman for such an important job as the getaway driver. She didn't even wear a veil!

brian said...

Seriously, I worded that poorly. I meant to go off on how every person in the picture of middle eastern descent is a low life terrorist. Still, I'm fine with it as is. I'm leaving it.

elmo said...

I just came from the shower with my flowing locks wrapped in a towel- I suppose your racist blood is boiling?

brian said...

Actually, the image of you in a towel has caused my homophobic blood to start simmering...

steve said...

homophobic blood? WHAT homophobic blood??? In case you weren't counting, there, buckaroo, this, your 100th post makes EIGHTY in which you've mentioned Rutger Hauer! I smell BROMANCE in the air!

brian said...

I've just moved on to bigger and better things. Like Nick Nolte!