Sin City and Batman Begins in 2005 saw the mighty Rutger Hauer return to roles in high profile genre films. He has been working solidly of course, but these day's one might forget just what a genre film powerhouse the Dutchman was, during a period spanning about 15 years, from the early 80's to the mid nineties. Of course Hauer’s quintessential role is that of Roy Batty, the replicant on the run who races against time to find his creator. While avoiding the Blade Runner Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford. Probably his second most recognizable role is the powerhouse performance as the uber menacing Hitch Hiker John Ryder in the 1986 movie The Hitcher. "John Ryder" as played by Hauer is probably my favorite on screen psycho, as Hauer relies almost entirely on performance to menace both the viewer and his onscreen victim Jim Halsey (C. Thomas Howell) in a movie where you really don't see much in the way of blood and gore at all. For this five though I am going to leave these two off the list and look at some of the other great fun films Rutger Hauer did in his genre heyday.
1. Salute of the Jugger AKA The Blood of Heroes
First thing first the UK title Salute of the Jugger is a way better title, The Blood of Heroes makes it sound like one of those ensemble mercenaries / desperate men on a mission movies. Nothing wrong with desperate men on a mission movies, but Salute of the Jugger is a post apocalyptic future sports film. The sport in question is "Jugging" and in the baron landscape of this future it's the only game in town. A brutal hybrid of gladiatorial games from ancient Rome and Rugby/US football. The objective is to get past the opposing team and ram a dog’s skull on a wooden stake. While the aim is not necessarily to kill your opponents it's certainly not that much of a problem if you do. Players do their best to take opponents out of play anyway they can, and that tends to mean painfully. Rutger Hauer plays "Sallow" a man who makes a meager living with a band of Juggers who travel between the "dog towns", challenging the resident players to a game in return for hospitality and food. How ever he did not always live this way traveling the baron landscape and playing second rate teams for subsistence. Once "Sallow" played the game in The Nine Cities as the premiere star of "Red City". This was before he transgressed with the woman of the cities overlord and was cast from the underground city out into the wasteland never again to sleep on silk sheets with women whose skin was just as soft. When Salow's team mate "Dogboy" is injured too badly to continue the team are joined by a young girl named "Kidda" played by Joan Chen. Her ambition to play in the league drives the band of aging Juggers to try a challenge in the nine cities. This is where a team from the out-land's takes on players from "The League". Now "One eye from Blind" the aging "Sallow" will have to prove one last time that he was the greatest jugger that ever lived. I expect I am in a minority when it comes to people that would put this on a list of Rutger Hauer's greatest films or in fact any list of films of any kind, but the fact is I love this movie it's the greatest "future sport" movie ever made (Not a huge sub-genre I know) and I love post apocalyptic films. Quality brutal sci-fi with a great cast which includes alongside Hauer and Chen, Delroy Lindo, Vincent D'Onofrio (Pvt. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket) and Richard Norton.
2. Split Second
Set in London in 2008 (LOL) the tagline was "2008. The future has never looked more dangerous.". Its funny that we are now living in "The future" and there are still no hover cars and women refuse to be clothed in silver bathing suits 24/7 ... oh well we do have "communicators" i.e. mobile phones I guess. Anyway back to Split Second which is set in London of the "future", a London where global warming has caused the ice caps to melt and London is now permanently semi flooded. After a spate of horrific murders around the city, tough American cop Harley Stone, played by Rutger Hauer is called in. Stone is partnered with mild mannered UK detective Dick Durkin and the "chalk and cheese" pair set about investigating the killings. UK born Sex in the City star Kim Cattrall plays the love interest. UK acting heavyweight Pete Postlethwaite and singer Ian Dury also star. As Stone and Durkin get closer to the mystery killer they soon realise something is not right. It seems the killer is not just inhuman in its behavior; it's not human at all. This prompts the mild mannered Durkin to undergo a change and deliver the line "We need to get bigger guns. BIG FUCKING GUNS! ". Enjoyable UK set action sci-fi / creature features where not exactly thick on the ground in the early 90's and personally I found this movie great fun. Some people hated it and said this film indicated that that golden age of genre films with Hauer was coming to an end, but he still had a couple of fun features to come in the mid nineties including modern B movie ensemble classic "Surviving the Game".
For this violent "medieval romp" star Rutger Hauer joins fellow Dutchman Paul Verhoeven who directs this lost genre classic. Verhoeven's English language career hit a huge "bump in the road" with 1995's Showgirls. Gina Gershon was sex on a stick, but that was not going to save the movie from being a huge disaster. How ever before that he brought genre fans three true genre classics Basic Instinct, Total Recall and RoboCop and redeemed himself with the very fun Sci-fi novel adaptation Starship Troopers two years after Showgirls. How ever there is one film that get's left off the list, 2 years before Robocop became one of the greatest Sci-fi films of the 80's Verhoeven made Flesh+Blood. Rutger Hauer plays Martin the leader of a band of medieval mercenaries. After the lord who they are currently in service to reneges on their payment Martin decides its time to teach him a lesson. To this end he kidnaps the daughter in law to be of the lord played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. However thoughts of revenge soon turn to thoughts of lust as the beautiful Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) becomes a fixation for Martin. My old "Big Box" VHS video carried the tagline "Their thirst for her body spilt the blood of many men", though it's not listed amongst those used on the IMDB. Flesh+Blood is a very brutal, dirty, violent movie with feels intentionally filthy. Set In a time when the Plague was sweeping through Europe and the lords in their castles ran amok with very little intervention from kings many miles away and life. To this end the whole thing is mud and blood soaked, women are raped, people dismembered and the sword settles any disagreements. Blood and filth rain supreme in this lost 80's swordplay classic. Flesh+Blood represents a filmic vision of a time when "men where men" and women where in a shit load of trouble if they where attractive.
4. Surviving the Game
Surviving the Game is Ernest R. Dickerson director of stand out violent Urban movie Juice second feature. The film is one of those classic "modern B movie" ensemble pieces with a cast that includes John C. McGinley, Ice-T, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey,F. Murray Abraham and of course the man himself Rutger Hauer. Surviving the Game is a pretty simple concept which see's Rutger Hauer as Thomas Burns a man who hunts the most dangerous game in the world. Lions and tigers are dangerous sure, but they act on instinct alone, only one prey is able to think like a man ... another man. Ice-T play's homeless man Jack Mason who has to survive the game as the title implies. While in no shape or form a match for Juice, Surviving the Game makes for one of those really fun switch your brain off "rental" movies that they don't seem to make any more. If you enjoy films like Gun Men, Fortress, No Escape your more than likely going to get a kick out of it, if you just can't tolerate B grade stuff intended purely as genre entertainment maybe you should avoid it.
5. Blind Fury
Hmm tough choice for the last one, you have, Blind Fury, Nostradamus, Wedlock, Ladyhawke, Crossworld, Wanted: Dead or Alive and The Osterman Weekend falling roughly in Rutger Hauer's "Golden" period. I figured though it might be best to end the list with a serious dose of cheese. Rutger Hauer plays Nick Parker a blind Vietnam vet (oh for the times when action hero's where all Vietnam vet's) who is a master swordsman. Blind Fury is essentially an American take on the Zatoichi character played by Shintarô Katsu for a couple of decades (mainly in the 60's and seventies) a character which was later revived for Takeshi Kitano's excellent 2003 movie Zatoichi. Terry O'Quinn (Pin, The Stepfather) joins Hauer in the cast as the father of a boy Billy (Brandon Call) and a man who is in serious trouble with some criminals. When those criminals come calling Nick uses the skills he picked up in Asia to easily defeat his opponents. Blind he may be, but just like Zatoichi he has honed his other senses to super hero like levels. Using his senses and mastery with a sword he is able to overcome the bumbling bad guys and save the day, leaving little Billy in tears as he moves on to new adventures. Hmm maybe I should have chosen Wedlock or Ladyhawke to go here, oh well too late now. Blind Fury is Classic late 80's cheese, not a highlight in Rutger Hauer's career, but a film many people will have fond memories of watching back in the day.
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