Rutger Hauer stars as Nick Randall a bounty hunter and former CIA man, who’d much rather be on his boat with his gal (Mel Harris). Instead, he’s mostly tracking down Arab terrorist Malak Ah Rahim (Gene Simmons, AKA The God of Thunder). He becomes particularly obsessed with nabbing the international terrorist when his violent deeds hit close to home for Randall. Robert Guillaume is cast as one of the few CIA guys who isn’t an a-hole, Jerry Hardin most certainly does play an a-hole, and William Russ is Randall’s cop buddy.
I guess the reason Rutger Hauer’s ascension to the top of the action hero throne was cut short had a lot to do with his choice in film projects. This 1987 Gary Sherman (“Raw Meat”, “Vice Squad”, “Poltergeist III”) directed adaptation (well, kinda) of the Steve McQueen TV series is usually one of the film’s mentioned when discussing Hauer’s plummet from almost-star to direct-to-DVD mainstay. It’s not all that bad, and far from Hauer’s worst, but it’s definitely a prime example of how Hauer (who plays the great-grandson of McQueen’s character) became a fine actor wasted in a film beneath his talents.
I guess New World Pictures were trying to muscle in on The Cannon Group’s stronghold of the C-grade action movie genre here, but the film has some pretty big problems. There’s just not enough...of anything going on here and it ends up sorta just...there, without having achieved much of anything. Certainly it lacks a pulse at the very least. Direction and editing are two key elements in any good action film, and this film appears to have neither...at least no one who was conscious during the filmmaking process. It desperately lacks muscle, energy, and particularly a strong villain. Gene Simmons is no actor (watch “KISS Meet the Phantom of the Park” or “Runaway” for evidence of this), but he seems perfectly cast as an Arab terrorist (He’s Israeli-born, for starters). He’s rendered a complete non-entity here through no fault of his own. The film overall ought to have been around 85-90 minutes long, and the pacing and energy would be greatly enhanced. But at 104 minutes it already has a serious lack of Gene Simmons, so I shudder to think how much of a bit player his character would be in a shortened version. And he’s the lead villain!
Hauer’s good, and has a sensitive, romantic side that comes out here at times. After a certain point he brings a depth and tragedy to his character, but he can’t do the job all on his own here. Still, he’s always interesting to watch, even when the film isn’t. In fact, this is the kind of lesser material fit for a Wings Hauser, Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones, or Robert Ginty, not someone as clearly talented as Hauer. He also does a much better job of hiding his natural European accent than many other European action stars out there who have had bigger and better careers (and who aren’t nearly as versatile an actor as Hauer). I have no idea why “Benson” (AKA Robert Guillaume) is here as Hauer’s buddy, but he’s solid as a rock. He also gets the one good line towards Jerry Hardin in a film with otherwise rather insubstantial dialogue: ‘Next time you fuck me, Lipton, kiss me first!’. Meanwhile, William Russ enjoys himself as Hauer’s other good buddy, and a good cameo by Dennis Burkley (looking fatter than I’ve ever seen him) as a foul-mouthed arms dealer.
The most impressive elements of the film are the cool rock soundtrack (especially in the rowdy “Road House”-style opener) and the cool, slick cinematography and lighting by Alex Nepomniaschy (“Last Resort”, “Mrs. Winterbourne”). The latter occasionally adopts a steel blue look you’d swear was the handiwork of Adam Greenberg (“The Terminator”, “Near Dark”, “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”).
Overall this isn’t a terrible film, but it’s not much of a film at all, really. Certainly Hauer is above the material, anyone can see that. Even the least demanding of action lovers might find this one a bit lacking. I don’t know much about the Steve McQueen series, but surely it’s more exciting than this. The screenplay is by Sherman, Michael Patrick Goodman (who has only a couple of indistinct credits), and Brian Taggert (“Visiting Hours”, “Poltergeist III”, “Omen IV: The Awakening”). How can three screenwriters come up with something so lacking in any colour or depth?