Skip to main content

Well, Satan is in deep shit!

Split Second
(1992)

(SPOILERS) Greta Thunberg’s favourite movie. Probably. Well, her “people’s” anyway. Somehow, I managed to miss this one when it came out, although its lousy reviews probably had something to do with it. I was nudged into taking advantage of its current, Bezos-sanctioned availability by an Empyre take that called it “glorious” and suggested “As a showcase for a mischievous Hauer behaving badly… it’s almost matchless”. The recently departed Rutger Hauer is on magnificently over-emphatic form, it’s true, and there’s frequent amusement to be had from the dialogue and chemistry between the star and sidekick cop Neil Duncan, but Split Second lacks a crucial sense of gusto as it crunches through its B-, straight-to-video, supernatural sci-fi serial-killer buddy movie clichés.

The unwieldy mashup quality is such that the heart-extracting serial killer – “A psychotic with a psychopathic personality” no less – of a drowned 2008 London turns out to be a mutant, DNA-absorbing (of its victims) xenomorph-looking mofo obsessed with astrology and some kind of Satanic quest. This can apparently be traced back to the picture’s “straighter” origins, whereby the ritualistic murder plot skewed a bit too close to The First Power (1990). Such demands can’t have helped in delivering the budget production – Wiki lists it as $7m, but I’d be surprised if it was that high – which duly put veteran Riddle of the Sands (1979) director Tony Maylam through the mill; Ian Sharp had to finish the picture off and gets a nod in the end credits.

Stone: The only thing we know for sure is that he’s not a vegetarian.

The setting ultimately appears to be pretty much irrelevant, but scrupulously endorses Greta’s favourite subject, under its then catchphrase. London of thirteen years ago is suffering “the devastating effects of global warming” and “The warnings ignored for decades have now resulted in undreamed of levels of pollution where day has become almost endless night”. Cue much use of establishing night-time shots of London. There are also a few early scenes with ankle-deep water and the odd mini hovercraft to drive home the illusion (the Thames is currently at its highest level since Black Monday 1999). Posters warn that “Smog kills” (and also reference to “Plague Pits” – it's like they could see ahead to 2020! Oh, wait...)

One could imagine an art director let loose having a lot of fun with this scenario, but what we mostly get are a lot of damp-looking tower blocks and the occasional fetish club (told he must order two drinks minimum, Hauer’s Harley Stone responds “Get me two coffees, extra sugar”). The club owner is none other than Ian Dury. 

Thrasher: He’s worked in every hellhole in the world. And been fired from all of them.

Stone has a psychic link with the murderer, anticipating his moves, on account of his having been injured by the killer years back (that would be the DNA thing). During which Stone’s partner was killed. For which he’s feeling guilty, on account of having an affair with his partner’s wife (Kim Cattrall, obligingly on hand to show her breasts in lieu of having any degree of characterisation). Hauer is up to 111 throughout, living off chocolate, coffee and cigars (before racing up the stairs of a tower block, he makes sure to light up – with a blowtorch).

Durkin: There was a rat, so I shot it.
Stone: You shot my kitchen, that’s what.

He also seems to have inherited Withnail’s kitchen – “Sorry about the pigeons. I can’t kill 'em” – and the accompanying dump of a flat to boot. Naturally, Stone doesn’t get on with his haranguing boss (Alan Armstrong) or an antagonist fellow officer (Pete Postlethwaite). He’s also less than pleased when Duncan’s Dick Durkin is made his partner. At first. In tried-and-tested buddy-movie fashion. 

Durkin: We’re getting big guns, right? That’s where we’re going, to get big guns.

Durkin is bookish and reserved, despite the alleged fact that he “gets laid every night”. As the picture progresses, though, Duncan manages to achieve the unimaginable, stealing the spotlight from Hauer. Particularly so when Durkin is shot in the chest by the killer (“Oh dear”) before returning from the grave, thanks to a bulletproof vest, with new resolve. He’s positively wired (“We’ve got to get bigger guns!”) and Stone duly pumps him full of caffeine, sugar and nicotine.

None of this is enough to offset the sluggish pace (even at a slender ninety minutes). Nevertheless, that seems part and parcel of the picture’s determined B-ish ness and in keeping with much of Hauer’s output from that period (see also 1991’s Wedlock). The reveal of the monster – knocked together by future instigator of Sean Connery’s retirement Stephen Norrington in three weeks – is wisely kept until the end, and takes place in a flooded subway (this was mostly Sharp’s contribution). As we now know, the events of 2008 were nothing like those in Split Second. They were much, much worse.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

It's Dark Age, by Jupiter!

The Dig (2021) (SPOILERS) An account of the greatest archaeological find Britain would know until Professor Horner opened the barrow at Devil’s End. And should you scoff at such “ fiction ”, that’s nothing on this adaptation of John Preston’s 2007 novel concerning the Sutton Hoo excavations of the late 1930s. The Dig , as is the onus of any compelling fictional account, takes liberties with the source material, but the erring from the straight and narrow in this case is less an issue than the shift in focus from characters and elements successfully established during the first hour.

He’s probably paranoid, high-strung, doesn’t like daylight. You know, has a lot of crumbs in his beard, if he has a beard.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) (SPOILERS) I’d like to report I had a blast with Godzilla vs. Kong . It’s lighter on its oversized, city-stomping feet than its slog of a MonsterVerse predecessor, Godzilla: King of the Monsters , and there are flashes of visual inspiration along with several engaging core ideas (which, to be fair, the series had already laid the seeds for). But this sequel still stumbles in its chief task: assembling an engaging, lively story that successfully integrates both tiny humans and towering titans.

Roswell was a smokescreen, we've had a half a dozen better salvage operations.

The X-Files 1.24: The Erlenmeyer Flask The Erlenmeyer Flask makes for a fast-paced, tense and eventful ride, but does it make any sense? That less than mattered at the time, but revisiting the mythology arc (for probably the fourth or fifth time) reveals increasingly tenuous internal coherence as the various conspiracy elements begin to pile up and the situations become ever-more convoluted. This will become the Chris Carter’s signature: don’t examine the details too closely, go with the flow. Trust Chris implicitly.

UFO IN MOSSINGHAM?

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2020) (SPOILERS) One might reasonably suggest the recourse of the ailing or desperate franchise is to resort, seemingly out of nowhere, to space aliens. Even Police Academy didn’t go that far (to Moscow, yes, but not to space). Perhaps animators think kids have no skills of discernment and will swallow any old sugar-coated crap. Perhaps they don’t, and they will. Ice Age had been enjoying absurd success until Collision Course sent Scrat spinning into the cosmos and grosses tumbled. Shaun the Sheep has been around for a quarter of a century, but this is only his second movie outing and already he’s pulling an E.T. on us. Of course, this may all be part of the grand scheme, and Nick Park is simply doing his bit to familiarise the tots in time for Project Blue Beam.

Suspicions of destiny. We all have them. A deep, wordless knowledge that our time has come.

Damien: Omen II (1978) (SPOILERS) There’s an undercurrent of unfulfilled potential with the Omen series, an opportunity to explore the machinations of the Antichrist and his minions largely ignored in favour of Final Destination deaths every twenty minutes or so. Of the exploration there is, however, the better part is found in Damien: Omen II , where we’re privy to the parallel efforts of a twelve or thirteen-year-old Damien at military school and those of Thorn Industries. The natural home of the diabolical is, after all, big business. Consequently, while this sequel is much less slick than the original, it is also more engaging dramatically.

You stink, my friend.

Mulan (2020) (SPOILERS) Let that be a lesson to Disney. It’s a fool’s errand to try and beat the Chinese at their own game, no matter how painstakingly respectful – or rather, pandering – you are. Indeed, Mulan ’s abysmal $40m box office take in the country – where it did get a proper release, so no plandemic excuses can be cited – feels like a direct rebuke; don’t try and tell us how to suck eggs. There’s an additional explanation too, of course. That Mulan sucks.

By heaven, I’d thrash the life out of you… if I didn’t have to read the Nine O’Clock News.

The Green Man (1956) (SPOILERS) The Green movie from Launder and Gilliat starring Alastair Sim that isn’t Green for Danger. Which is to say, The Green Man can’t quite scale the heady heights of that decade-earlier murder mystery triumph, but neither is it any slouch. Sim is the antagonist this time – albeit a very affable, Sim-ish one – and his sometime protégée, a young George Cole, the hero. If the plot is entirely absurd, Robert Day’s movie wastes no time probing such insufficiencies, ensuring it is very funny, lively and beautifully performed.

A subterranean Loch Ness Monster?

Doctor Who The Silurians No, I’m not going to refer to The Silurians as Doctor Who and the Silurians . I’m going to refer to it as Doctor Who and the Eocenes . The Silurians plays a blinder. Because both this and Inferno know the secret of an extended – some might say overlong – story is to keep the plot moving, they barely drag at all and are consequently much fleeter of foot than many a four parter. Unlike Malcolm Hulke’s sequel The Sea Devils , The Silurians has more than enough plot and deals it out judiciously (the plague, when it comes, kicks the story up a gear at the precarious burn-out stage of a typical four-plus parter). What’s most notable, though, is how engaging those first four episodes are, building the story slowly but absorbingly and with persuasive confidence.

Well, I’ll be damned. It’s the gentleman guppy.

Waterworld (1995) (SPOILERS) The production and budgetary woes of “ Kevin’s Gate ” will forever overshadow the movie’s content (and while it may have been the most expensive movie ever to that point – adjusted for inflation, it seems only Cleopatra came close – it has since turned a profit). However, should you somehow manage to avoid the distraction of those legendary problems, the real qualitative concerns are sure to come sailing over the cognitive horizon eventually; Waterworld is just so damned derivative. It’s a seafaring Mad Max. Peter Rader, who first came up with the idea in 1986, admitted as much. David Twohy, who later came aboard, also cited Mad Max 2 ; that kind of rip-off aspect – Jaws birthing Piranha – makes it unsurprising Waterworld was once under consideration by Roger Corman (he couldn’t cost it cheaply enough). Ultimately, there’s never a sufficient sense the movie has managed to become its own thing. Which is a bummer, because it’s frequently quite good fun.

Farewell, dear shithead, farewell.

Highlander II: The Quickening (1991) (SPOILERS) I saw Highlander II: The Quickening at the cinema. Yes, I actually paid money to see one of the worst mainstream sequels ever on the big screen. I didn’t bother investigating the Director’s Cut until now, since the movie struck me as entirely unsalvageable. I was sufficiently disenchanted with all things Highlander that I skipped the TV series and slipshod sequels, eventually catching Christopher Lambert’s last appearance as Connor MacLeod in Highlander: End Game by accident rather than design. But Highlander II ’s on YouTube , and the quality is decent, so maybe the Director’s Cut improve matters and is worth a reappraisal? Not really. It’s still a fundamentally, mystifyingly botched retcon enabling the further adventures of MacLeod, just not quite as transparently shredded in the editing room.