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

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Hey, my friend smells amazing!

Luca (2021) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s first gay movie ? Not according to director Enrico Cassarosa (“ This was really never in our plans. This was really about their friendship in that kind of pre-puberty world ”). Perhaps it should have been, as that might have been an excuse – any excuse is worth a shot at this point – for Luca being so insipid and bereft of spark. You know, the way Soul could at least claim it was about something deep and meaningful as a defence for being entirely lacking as a distinctive and creatively engaging story in its own right.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.