Rutgerfest Part 1 – Nighthawks / Blind Fury / Crossworlds (Review)

RutgerFest 2011

Rutger Hauer is 66 years old and has been acting in English language films for over three decades, yet his signature role is and will always be the rogue clone Roy Batty from Blade Runner, his second English language film.

That was 1982, so on the strength of that one role Mr Hauer has carved out a lengthy career without ever really reaching any great heights. A career that has included numerous straight to video/DVD releases, minor TV roles and (being honest) some bona fide crap.

Yet for much of the late 80s and early 90s Hauer was ago-to guy for B movies, his pic on the box art became quite bankable and often was reason enough to justify a rental, even if you often knew that the film might not be that crack hot.

Which all brings me here.

Rather than sporadically and randomly plucking a Rutger Hauer film from obscurity and imdb-ing his name as kind of a spell-check, I thought I would celebrate the B career of an unlikely leading man – even if most of the films that he headlined lead straight to the video shop instead of cinema release.

Most B Movie ‘stars’ have at least one main selling point, with JCVD it was martial arts, Wesley Snipes was hip and handsome, ditto Larry Fishburne, Walken had a cadence mimicked the world over.

I wracked my brain for a good 45 minutes seconds to consider what if anything made Hauer unique and watchable and came up with two things, his striking blue eyes and a willingness to allow himself to look foolish onscreen. That’s it. He was never really Cruise-Pitt handsome, never a funny guy or an action hero of note, just a blue eyed Dutch dude who was happy to put himself in situations where he might look foolish or even weak and flawed.

In most cases here the best thing about the film is that Rutger Hauer was in it, and while that is hardly the hugest of selling points for those who prefer their films ‘mainstream’ and ‘safe’, for those of us who consume films as opposed to merely watching them, it is strange that a man with no discernible point of differentiation can still remain compelling for so long.

In truth I have never heard of the bulk of titles listed on Imdb for Mr Hauer in the last 20+ years, but the following films will at least give you a taste of the kinda-great Rutger Hauer… or perhaps will at least let you decide if it’s worth looking into his back catalogue for more B-ness.

RutgerFest 2011

Nighthawks

Nighthawks is a perfectly adequate example of what passed for an action film in the early 80s. That is to say it is slow and built around a couple of key scenes. The act of simplifying the plot down to the most direct and necessary elements I like, the fact that much of the 100 minutes remaining could best be described as filler a less welcome by-product.

Da Silva (pre-roids Sly Stallone) and Fox (Billy Dee Williams) are partners in New York City. The kind that are willing to see past the usual red tape to get the job done. Who knows maybe in 1981 this wasn’t yet a cliché?

Da Silva is a bearded ex Vietnam vet with an ex-wife that he pines for and a hatred of unnecessary violence due to his war service.

Fox has a beard too, but apparently not much other backstory worth relaying during the film.

Gee I wonder if the ex-wife will somehow become involved and if Da Silva might be forced to choose between pacifism or a loved one?

Into their standard beating down bad guys existence comes a German terrorist named Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer), who has recently set off bombs in the UK and has fled to the US to continue wreaking havoc. The powers that be decide they need more men on the street to track down Wolfie and so Da Silva, Fox and some others are dragged off the beat and summarily given training on anti-terrorist tactics; tactics a battle scarred Da Silva finds exceptionally uncool.

The duo are initially reluctant to continue their anti-terrorist participation but soon Da Silva starts to learn how Wulfgar’s mind works, and as he nears the prey things get personal and Wulfgar decides to teach Da Silva a lesson, as well as causing untold horror and mass confusion at the death of many innocent civilians.

Of course this leads to various chase scenes and a standoff at the end of the film where many lives are at stake and there can be only one survivor.

Nighthawks (terrible title) is actually pretty OK seeing as it is now in its 4th decade of existence. There is a very worthwhile footchase through the streets and subway tunnels of NYC that lasts a good 5 or so minutes and never gets boring. As mentioned it is the classic 80s technique of having two or three showcase scenes, with everything else merely building up to the next one, so don’t expect wall to wall action. Perhaps as overcompensation for this when someone gets shot they manage to get knocked back about 40 feet, this is especially obvious in the latter scenes.

Sly hadn’t yet honed his ‘yeah I’m dumb but I don’t take myself too seriously’ shtick – he even tries acting for a while – Billy Dee is surprisingly low key and basically window dressing here, aside from one scene where he is allowed to vent in full mother-fucking glory. But it is Rutger Hauer as Wulfgar who practically demands you remember him. In the early scenes he plays things relatively straight but as the film progresses he becomes more and more hammy and over the top in his portrayal of what is admittedly a reasonably cartoony character.

Nighthawks has precious little that will remain with you after you’ve seen it, but it remains a solid film with a couple of decent scenes and is a worthy early introduction to one Mr R. Hauer.

Final Rating – 7 / 10. Sure the plot is basic and pretty clichéd, but the film works and manages to at least handle the subject matter well.

Blind Fury

This film and the following are the reasons behind RutgerFest 2011. I remember vividly not the film itself, but my reaction to it. For some reason when I first rented this in 1990-something two lines cracked me up to the point that a week later I rented the film again just to re-experience them.

I can now say that Split Second shows it age and most notably budgetary constraints quite clearly, but the two lines are still pretty funny and I actually realised they were coming up and became overwhelmed by momentary expectation.

What better way to end RutgerFest than what I see as one of the best B Movies of all time?

Blind Fury is at once implausible, illogical and often ridiculous, but it is also frequently hilarious and totally far fetched and cheesy – but in the right way somehow.

Hauer plays Nick, and ex-Vietnam vet who lost his sight in combat and now 20 years later he is back in the US *Ahem* looking up an old war buddy named Frank Deveraux.

Now being – as he puts it – blind as a bat, Nick relies on his other senses which have become finely tuned over the years to compensate. He gets about unaided by anything other than a wooden stick and his instincts, though in the early scenes we are already aware that after his initial accident he was taken in and recovered in the care of Vietnamese villages, some of whom gave him special skills.

The movie is not above dragging out all the lazy blind jokes, he pats a crocodile and says ‘nice doggie’ and is fed a hard pebble in lieu of candy as prime examples, but Nick can also ‘see’ using his other senses, enabling him to be aware of his personal space and things and people moving about him.

Back to the war buddy, Nick discovers that Frank has become embroiled against his will in a corrupt crime syndicate in Las Vegas and is being held captive and forced to make a new superdrug that will soon be unleashed.

After some general unpleasantness Nick is left with his friend’s boy Billy in his care, and the two set off across country to find Frank and reunite him with his boy.

Along the journey Billy is initially quite unruly, not realizing that has happened to his Mum (hint: it wasn’t nice) and not yet knowing who the new blind guy is, Billy is a somewhat reluctant traveling companion. This changes after a cool action setpiece where Nick takes on several armed hillbillies in a cornfield, dispatching all.

The remainder of the film has the unlikely duo progressing ever closer to Las Vegas where scads of heavily armed and trash talking hard men await. Surely more than a match for a 10 year old boy and a sightless guy with a stick?

I mean right?

The film has its share of car chases and Three Stoogery, and the second half of the film has Nick and his stick (which you can tell from the cover isn’t realllly a cane) cutting a swathe through various buff, ornery henchmen and in true video game fashion, various level bosses. Nick’s swordsmanship is more flourish and flair than intricate highly skilled moves, but the action scenes move quickly enough to ignore the lack of quick hands, and before you can dissect the previous scene someone is cracking the next joke to bring you back to the film.

Blind Fury runs a neat 80 minutes, most of which is spent padding time until the next action sequence, so the bad guys are straight up redneck caricatures. In fact the meanest bad guy of all – cigar chomping MacReady – is essentially Yosemite Sam without the hat.

Yet with all the obvious short cuts taken and the insane elements Blind Fury is more comedy than action film, but it works well on both levels. The strength of the film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, leading the charge here is Hauer himself. Being the ‘blind guy’ means all the visually impaired jokes are at his expense, and even when he has the upper hand and gets to spit a put-down or one liner it is done totally straight faced and without relish or theatrics, often the funniest lines are delivered deadpan. And where the action is concerned like many of the best B flicks it is reminiscent of a classic A Team episode, only with more violence and swearing.

It is cheesy, far fetched and the one scene where they unleash the special effects has aged about as well as Sharon Stone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Final Rating – 8 / 10. Blind Fury was the coolest little film going around when I was 15, and 20-some years later it remains a thoroughly enjoyable guilty pleasure.

Crossworlds

I’m not sure if this was a straight to VHS effort or even a TV movie. But I can say that regardless of intent Crossworlds misses the target and I won’t be spending much time talking about it.

Basically a misguided attempt at a sci-fi niche market, Crossworlds suggests that there are many dimensions running simultaneously, some are more dangerous than our own, and in these nefarious dimensions persons exist that would do the world harm.

Joe (Josh Charles) is unwittingly the key to preventing said guys from achieving their dastardly goal, though as a gormless college student he has no idea that this is the case.

Rutger plays AT, a kind of ‘other dimensional’ swami who is called upon to help Joe and his kinda cute but in a D movie way female helper (put another way: you still want her to get naked but don’t care too much when she doesn’t), who is there to guide him through like Morpheus would Neo – only in a 657% better movie.

Crossworlds is an hour and a half of poorly choreographed fights, shitty cut price effects and clumsy and confusing plot developments. They really never explained the dimension jumping thing right, but in fairness I got so bored I let the movie run while I walked around the house cleaning up.

Let’s just say that it involves some sort of sceptre and Joe’s necklace?

The only notable other things worth mentioning is the presence of Jack Black (who it seems was playing Jack Black even from the really early days) and a dimension hopping bad guy who could not have been more than five foot two.

Rutger Hauer looks like he is sleepwalking even in his good films so it is hard to bag his lacklustre efforts too much when this sad joke is concerned, I just hope he got paid upfront.

Final Rating – 3.5 / 10. Crossworlds could only be justified as a lamentable attempt to make Josh Charles famous, or to help kill off the career of Rutger Hauer. Thankfully while it is an atrocious piece of trash it obviously wasn’t seen by enough people to do either.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2…

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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One Response to Rutgerfest Part 1 – Nighthawks / Blind Fury / Crossworlds (Review)

  1. JDS says:

    Great points about Rutger. It’s wonderful to see you share your personal celebration of his films with the world. If you’re interested, come chat them up a bit more at the Rutger Hauer Forum (rutgerhauerforum.net).

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