Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The 80’s. When action heroes were tough, loved hard, drank harder, killed without discretion and possessed long flowing locks transforming into super mullets. The best action movies ever came out of the 80’s my friends. Your Lethal Weapons, your Die Hards, Van Damme and Seagal were still relevant, Arnold was top dog, Chuck hadn’t started that awful ‘Walker: Texas Ranger Show’ yet, Action Jackson, Samurai Cop, and arguably the greatest 80’s action movie of all time… ‘Road House’. Word. Rutger’s ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ isn’t one of these great action movies. Oh, the ingredients for awesome 80’s action were there. A badass hero who doesn’t play by the rules with a long flowing super mullet, an evil bad guy of Middle Eastern Descent as played by that famous Arab actor Gene Simmons, and an older, beleaguered African American boss played Benson DuBois. Alas, this movie got bogged and defeated by the enemy of all good action movies… dialog. I’m not saying the dialog was bad… it was… but when your action flick runs close to two hours, that means there’s a good chance that I’m going to be listening to dialog as opposed to looking at our super mulleted hero beating people death. Never a good thing.

Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer) is a bounty hunter who is sick of taking out the garbage. It is his choice of occupation and he could stop doing it if he wanted to at anytime, but then we wouldn’t be forced to listen to him whine all the time about how much he hates his job. Nick loves his friend Detective Danny Quintz (William Russ). Seriously, the way these two were hugging on each other early in the movie I was wondering why they just didn’t get a room, but it’s not that kind of movie. This is because the object of Nick’s sexual self is Terry (Mel Harris) the Stewardess / Archeologist that Nick has been dating for three months. One of the more painfully long dialog segments in this overly talky action flick was when Nick and Terry were discussing something that felt like forever, that I quickly lost interest in, with this resulting in no love scene or gratuitous nudity.

Anyway, our bad guy Malak Al Rahim (Simmons) has just blown up a movie theater that was symbolically showing Rambo, resulting in the deaths of hundreds. Of course, Rambo had been out a good five years by now and I’m sure anybody who wanted to see Rambo probably had a VHS copy at home, which has us asking why so many

people were at that theater to see a five year old movie. Anyway, since Malak is in town, the Agency needs the Best in the Biz to bring him in and that means that CIA honk Philmore Walker (Benson) needs Nick to get back on the team. As it turns out Malak hates Nick too. You may be curious as to what is Malak’s evil terrorist organizations ultimate goal. We might hate ‘em, but most terrorist are trying to accomplish something, like prompting the freedom of dissidents, or crippling an economy, or make people fear for their lives, but Malak and his boys apparently just like to watch stuff blow up. And while they don’t mind torturing you for all hours of the night, if you even so much as step on one these terrorist toes, they will sing like songbirds. Worst Terrorist Ever.

Now I hate to spoil it for you, even though you know it’s going to happen already, but it’s time for this films greatest scene. You see, the only reason Nick and his boy Danny were showing each other so much love is so we could get Danny killed, but it is how he died that makes this sequence so awesome. Danny is asleep, minding his own business, when Nick rousts him out of his sleep so that Danny can pretend to be Nick to run a diversion to throw the CIA tail off his ass. Nick knows FULL WELL that Malak Al Rahim wants him dead. Nick knows FULL WELL that Malak likes to blow stuff up. Thus when Danny dragged himself out of bed, put on that wig, got on Nick’s boat, hugged Nick’s girlfriend, took the boat out and the boat subsequently blew up killing both Danny and Nick’s girl… that officially made Nick Randle the Worst Best Friend Ever. Nick mourned their deaths for 8 seconds or less, then proceeded do stuff he probably could’ve done when the movie started, stuff that probably would’ve saved the life of his best friend and girlfriend. Prepare for an awesome shootout between the California blonde from the Netherlands vs. the Great Arab Actor born Chaim Wietz from Israel.

Just to be clear, I didn’t hate ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’. I mean how can you hate a movie that features Benson, Rutger Hauer sporting a mullet, and Gene Simmons sporting an awesome tan designed to trick us into thinking he could be an Arab? Not only that, there were some amazing nuggets of ingenuity in this movie like Malak’s plan to put terrorist in oil barrels and then have them pop out and shoot people. I probably would’ve put explosive stuff in an oil barrel as opposed to non-combustible people, but then I’m not a crazed terrorist assassin. Plus, I didn’t see them punch any holes in those barrels, so those terrorist should’ve been dead by the time they made it to their terror gig anyway. And when there was action, the action scenes, directed by Gary Sherman of ‘Vice Squad’ fame, were actually pretty damn good.

But what keeps ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ from being rock solid awesome is all the dialog and melodrama which brought everything to screeching halt. I dig the girlfriend, I know we gotta have her, but considering they killed her as opposed to just having her get kidnapped and rescued, all that time we spent with these two prattling on about stuff I didn’t care about was a waste of time. Anything that had anything to do with people talking to each other, simply was not good, unless it was Benson spouting off about being pissed off.

Alas it was missteps such as this that kept Rutger from being the American superstar he was almost surely destined to become. Mindless Action… good. Confusing, nonsensical plot devices… appreciated. Excessive Wordage… bad.

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