Before his baby boy Cole Hauser was under acting in movies today, Cole’s daddy Wings Hauser back in the 1980’s was overacting his ass off and continues to gloriously do so to this very day. But for the penultimate Wings Hauser? To see Wings do what he does about as good as anybody, which is be an overacting asshole, then you need to watch director Gary Sherman’s little slice of violent early 80’s exploitation ‘Vice Squad’.
Original MTV VJ Nina Blackwood is a strung out prostitute named Ginger who has finally gotten up the gumption to leave her abusive pimp Ramrod (Hauser) but as is typical in the pimp / ho relationship she takes him back only to get up close and personal with Ramrod’s bent up wire clothes hanger. This would be our first indication of Ramrod as a sick bastard because while pimps probably aren’t the most respectable cats out there, no pimp worth his salt would take a jagged clothes hanger to their employees money maker because, obviously, the ho can’t make no money now. That’s just crazy man.
Tragically Ginger would not survive this sudden medical procedure that Ramrod has thrust upon her which has upset badass top vice cop Detective Walsh (Gary Swanson) something fierce who has had enough. Princess (Season Hubley), a single mom hooking to make ends meet was Ginger’s BFF and she also despised her some Ramrod but she didn’t think he’d go this far. Still, that’s the cops problem not hers, at least until Walsh blackmails her with taking her little girl away unless she agrees to sport a wire and help them finally put Ramrod away.
This plan actually kind of works except for the part where a couple of idiot cops allow a cuffed Ramrod to kick them in the face and jump out the ride free as a bird with retribution on his mind. I know this movie was made back in ’82 but I am curious why they didn’t have one of those glass dividers or metal dividers in the car, a device whose sole purpose is to prevent perps from kicking you in the face.
Anyway the race is on for Detective Walsh and his team of vice cops to either safely track down Princess, who is back on the street trying to get her quota, or find the completely psycho Ramrod who is leaving a trail of bodies in his wake, including the testicles of Rerun from ‘What’s Happening’, in his quest to introduce Princess to his jagged clothes hanger technique. Bastard.
With ‘Vice Squad’ Gary Sherman has crafted a film that is lurid while having almost nudity. You do get to see a little skin from Season Hubley but Ms. Hubley is so thin that she makes Laura Gemser look positively obese. It’s also a movie that is almost sickly violent while showing very little blood. An exploitation film in which all of the exploitative elements are right in your face but hidden at the same time. We ride with Princess through her night of prostitution and the freaks that she has to deal with, junkies dying for a hit, johns not wanting to pay up, hookers walking the point and cops at the breaking point fighting a losing battle. It’s all very nihilistic.
But at the heart of this nihilism and at the heart of this movie is Wings Hauser who with Ramrod has created one of the most disturbingly aberrant villains in movie history. Sometimes a storyteller will bless a villain with some kind of redeeming values such as a love of family or God or the villain is doing what he is doing in service to his warped view of the greater good but not my man Ramrod. Ramrod could’ve simply asked Rerun the sugar pimp what he wanted to know, but no… Ramrod had to cut his nuts off. Be it old ladies who run whore motels or prostitutes who don’t know how to get out of the way of a moving car, Ramrod is as bad as bad gets.
Another thing that helps sell us on the gritty atmosphere of ‘Vice Squad’ is that the cops really aren’t all that much better. Gary Swanson’s detective Walsh is somewhat honorable, somewhat, but he and his crew don’t have much problem beating, assaulting, abusing potential witnesses in order to get the information they need. It’s all about balance my friends and ‘Vice Squad’ has it.
My main regret with ‘Vice Squad’ is that we hear that there is an uncut version floating around somewhere in space that none of us have gotten the chance to see because it was too harsh for the gentile parachute pants wearing 80’s crowd. That’s a shame. While ‘Vice Squad’ is no walk in the park it is still somewhat tame, all things considered, in the new millennium. It would be nice to see Gary Sherman’s original vision to see how bad Ramrod can really be.