WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here
Tagline: He's the best there is at a job he hates.
Directed by Gary Sherman
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Gene Simmons, Robert Guillaume, Mel Harris
THE PLAN: An evil terrorist (played by KISS's Gene Simmons) is being a nuisance by blowing up buildings and causing general discontent to our lovely 80s-era U.S.A. Can the cops take him down? The Government? Of course not! Bounty Huntin' badass Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer) is on the case - and guess whose rules he plays by? You've got it!
THE KILL: Nick Randall is a mullet-topped bounty hunter with a bad attitude. He's been retired from "the company" for a while, and is living the sweet life chasing down lowlifes for money, while at night he spends time on a houseboat with his lady (Mel Harris). Randall was one of the best in the biz, but quit when he couldn't take all of the bureaucratic B.S., and tired of, as he says, "walking around with a bulls-eye on his forehead."
What could put an unfortunate halt to the man's glorious chillaxin'? How 'bout a slimy Arab terrorist (it's the 80s after all, it was gonna be Arab or Russian) whose main goal, I think, is to just plain explode everything he can? Combine that with the fact that his old buddies from the C.I.A. come calling because apparently the entire organization can't handle this f*cker, and our man Nick's gonna have to pack a whole lotta Dutch machismo to get the dirty job done!
While watching WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE (this was my first time, it must be said), I couldn't help but think of my very first REEL ACTION contribution: INVASION U.S.A. The two films are so very similar in so many ways, from the aimlessly destructive plans of the baddies, to the pasts of the heroes (and their relationships to the villains), to the gleeful cruelty that marked these decades-old action films.
You've got to love trailers from the 80s...
Rutger Hauer is of course the whole show here, and he's well-suited for the part of grizzled loner with justice on his mind. Oh sure, Nick puts up a front - his motives initially seem to be money-related - but for this product of the U.S. (ahem), it's all about taking down the threat and making movie theaters safe to watch RAMBO in. (That's right, Malak Al Rahim is such a bastard, he bombs a theater showing RAMBO! He MUST hate America!) I've got to say though, as much as I like Hauer in general, there's a reason he didn't become an action hero the way, say, Stallone or Schwarzenegger did. He's a bit too steely, a bit too menacing. He's a better actor than this kind of role requires, and it's usually the villains who need to give better performances. The man just doesn't have "hero" written all over him.
Should I shoot him if he sings "Rock N Roll All Night" one more time?
For his part, Simmons does what he can with Rahim. In all seriousness, within the first hour of the flick, he's got about 10 minutes of screentime, all broken up into 1 or 2 minute segments, where he glowers and sneers in displays of the usual bad-guy pasturing. Hell, the man hardly has any dialogue at all - and that may not be a negative. As is, all that's required of Malak Al Rahim is a permanent look of ominous depression, and Simmons will do (you'd think Simmons would over-act, but he reels it in for the most part).
In the end, this isn't a glowing example of the genre, since it feels all too reminiscent of other, better flicks (it's tough saying INVASION U.S.A. is better since this is more polished, but the former fully gives itself over to the cheese). Yet for lovers of all things 80s action - like us - it's hard to complain too much during these 100 minutes of bad-haircuts, obvious one-liners, and violent immorality. It's why we live, dammit!
The way I want to go...
TOP DEATH: A certain somebody has a grenade stuffed into his mouth, with mind-blowing results! (tee hee!)
TOP ACTION: A pretty good tanker truck race toward a power plant is W:DOA's intense finale. As ridiculous as a rock singer trying to be taken seriously as an actor, but still lots of fun.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Not much. Mel Harris is pretty but she's got like 3 scenes on a boat, fully clothed. And that's it. Boooo!
HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Our main man has a few moments of quiet bonding with buddies Walker (Robert Guillaume) and Quintz (William Russ), but nothing notably filled with the kind of subdued man-love that REEL ACTION desires... I mean, um, likes. I mean, writes about!
TOP DIALOGUE: Randall: What's the bonus if i bring him in alive?
Walker: Another $50,000.
Randall: Okay. Just want to know how much I'm gonna lose when I blow the scumbag away.
DRINKING GAME: Drink every time Rutger looks slightly bored. You'll be breaking out the harmonica and crying about your shitty past in no time!
TRIVIA: The Nick Randall character is supposed to be the great-grandson of "Josh Randall" - who was played by Steve McQueen in a t.v. show of the same name.
Director Gary Sherman's follow-up film was POLTERGEIST III.