Rating: 2 out of 4 /Buy the DVD Here
Tagline: A Chicago cop is about to face his worst nightmare... only this time, it's real!
Directed by: Aaron Norris
Starring: Chuck Norris, Christopher Neame, Calvin Levels and Sheree J. Wilson.
THE PLAN: Two Chicago cops travel to Israel to seek out a devilish villain who plans on opening the gates of hell. Not on Chuck's watch, buddy!
THE KILL: Sometimes we've got to take a chance with these Reel Action columns - peep a flick we've never seen before in the hope that one or more of its participants will guarantee at least a partial bit of awesomeness. For example: HELLBOUND, a mostly-forgotten Chuck Norris vehicle from 1994; I can personally recall the commercials for the flick running on television when it first came out, but I can say with perfect honesty that I had never seen a minute of it since. Hell, I can't recall it being on late-night cable a single time, and believe me, I was watching everything... So it was with a helpful amount of curiosity - and a strong dash of hope - that I took a chance on HELLBOUND for my latest installment of Reel Action... And uh, jeez... What did I just watch?
"You actually don't have to hold my hand while I shoot someone, I'm fine..."
After a prologue in which we meet a hulking emissary of Satan get shoved in a crypt and bound there with little more than four easily-removable knives (you'd think the holy protectors who fight the devil would come up with something a bit more secure), we meet present-day Chicago cop Frank Shatter (Norris), a mulleted badass who accidentally gets mixed up in the war between good and evil when our satanic friend from the prologue (played by a bug-eyed, unnerving fellow named Christopher Neame) goes bloodily hunting for a religious scepter that will open the gates of hell... or something. I swear that this is one of those movies that is constantly explaining its own plot and yet I can never quite follow the details. In any event, Shatter and his sassy black partner Jackson (Calvin Levels) wind up going to Israel on a search for the murderous lug; the usual fish-out-of-water shenanigans ensue (mostly for Jackson, since Shatter is such a cool mofo that it doesn't matter where he is - everyone understands the language of Chuck Norris) and the cops team up with a pretty young archaeologist (Sheree J. Wilson) and the most adorable little pickpocket (Erez Atar) while attempting to stop the end of the world.
Though it was made in the 90s, HELLBOUND has its heart set quite firmly in the 80s, when karate was the preferred method of combat, a bouncy synthesizer inappropriately scored every sequence, and the idea of what was "hip" has never been so baffling. Plus, there's always something comforting when you're in the confines of a Norris vehicle. You just feel secure knowing that Chuck is at the helm and will shepherd you through the sometimes bumpy mounds of cheese that come with the territory. The man's projects may not always be "good" in the strictest sense, but they're usually damned enjoyable. HELLBOUND certainly contains moments of what we've come to love about Norris flicks, like when a gaggle of bad guys are all but powerless to defend themselves again Chuck's spin-kicks or every woman Chuck meets melts at the very sight of his man-stache.
One of Chuck's more unusual moves: The power groin!
But all is not well, I'm sad to say. Entertaining cheese aside, HELLBOUND is, unfortunately, devoid of much of the action or goofy thrills you might expect from the ridiculous plot. C'mon now, this is a Chuck Norris movie crossed with a supernatural horror flick, it should be overflowing with entertainment value (of the intentional or unintentional variety). It surprisingly drags in the middle section, where there's a whole lot of investigating but not much in the way of action. The boys get into a few scraps, but mostly the film is content to have them wandering around Israel. Your enjoyment of these proceedings will definitely depend on your impression of Jackson, the partner who never shuts up. The movie's idea of humor is to have Jackson constantly bitching about being hungry or wanting to watch the Bulls game, and there's a lot of it. He's supposed to be the lovable sidekick, but he's really just an unwelcome nuisance.
HELLBOUND's finale is when things at long last heat up, as Shatter and Jackson track down their target just as he's putting the final touches on unleashing holy hell on the world. But even this showdown is somewhat on the lame side. If anything, HELLBOUND lacks the nerve to go fully crazy with its concept. Even though Chuck's movies follow a formula (one that I absolutely appreciate, as stated above), HELLBOUND would have done well to just let loose. We've got a movie about a heart-ripping demon in Israel here, let's take advantage of the wacky factor! That's not Chuck's way though, and you don't say no to Chuck.
TOP ACTION: The last fight sequence: How is Lucifer's right-hand man taken down? With karate, of course.
TOP DEATH: Our bad guy has a heck of a night in a seedy hotel room: He rips the heart out of a rabbi and tosses a hooker out a window. Basically, your average Saturday night in Chicago.
TOP DIALOGUE: Jackson: What kind of man kills like this? Shatter: "No ordinary one."
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: The aforementioned hooker is lookin' real good, but she's not able to do much before her untimely demise. Shatter's gal pal in Israel seems like a nice girl and all, but she doesn't really bring it where we want it.
HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Chuck doesn't do homoerotic.
DRINKING GAME: Drink every time the annoying partner says something that irritates you. You'll be buying a ticket to Israel to wage a holy war on the bastard by the conclusion.
TRIVIA: As far as collaborations with his director brother Aaron go, this movie is bookended by SIDEKICKS and TOP DOG in the Chuck Norris filmography. *shudder*