Among the best of Rutger Hauer’s genre-laced back catalogue, Tony Maylam’s back-end-of-the-schedules type treat makes a welcome return to the UK market on a typically lax Blu-ray from 101 Films.
About a year or so ago, I was introduced to the word “Hauersploitation”: a fabulous, catch-all term I wish I could take credit for used to describe the remarkable selection of B-movies legendary Dutch powerhouse Rutger Hauer has featured in. While utterly magnetic in classier fare such as fellow countryman Paul Verhoeven’s erotic drama Turkish Delight (1973), and stealing the show as soulful replicant Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982), it’s for ol’ Rutger’s more, erm, “Hauersploitative” work that this critic will forever hold him dear. His dense filmography boasts more fruity, VHS-era delights than you could wave a Wine Lodge Video Club membership card at. And although Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987), Wedlock (1991), Hemoglobin (1997), and Bone Daddy (1999) all come mighty close, it’s 1992’s SPLIT SECOND that’s the best of the perpetually awesome Hitcher (1986) icon’s bonkers schlock back catalogue.
The effortlessly cool Hauer is the wonderfully named Harley Stone: a burnt out, maverick cop so tough that he chomps cigars and wears chunky New Rock boots, a leather trench coat, and a single, fingerless black glove. Stone – as volatile chief of police Thrasher (Alun Armstrong, one of many beloved Brit stars that populate this bizarre Anglo-American co-production) explains while ferrying up the Thames on a patrol boat – survives on a diet of “anxiety, coffee and chocolate”, the guilt of being unable to prevent his partner’s murder fuelling an obsessive hunt to seek out the monster – literally – who’s gorily ripping the hearts out of the denizens of a futureshock London.
Brilliantly brought to life by the sterling, skid row production design of Chris Edwards (who’d perform similar wizardry two year later on robo-thriller Death Machine (1994), helmed by Split Second‘s creature FX man Stephen Norrington), director Tony Maylam’s claustrophobic vision of a waterlogged Big Smog is the film’s non-Hauer boon. Flooded by a rainstorm of biblical proportions, Split Second‘s London of 2008 (!) is a partially submerged concrete nightmare; a permanently gloomy dystopia poised on the edge of oblivion. Visually exciting, Maylam – as he did with the nonetheless essential slasher flick The Burning (1981) – again disguises a banal script with tremendous aesthetic flair; his wildly spinning camera and boisterous desire to keep Split Second moving glossing over Gary Scott Thompson’s frothy screenplay.
Despite sporting a fantastic line in quirky character flourishes and unrestrained profanity – the Fast and the Furious (2001) scribe seemingly paid by the swear word, with Hauer, Armstrong and the late Pete Postlethwaite gleefully screaming F-bombs at each other – Thompson refuses to develop his cool Predator (1987), Hellraiser (1987), and Escape From New York (1981) mash-up beyond the rudimentaries (but it should be noted Split Second was plagued by behind-the-scenes troubles, with a lot of rewriting and Maylam eventually being replaced by Ian Sharp for additional shooting). A politically charged, ecological bent is established but never expanded upon, while Split Second‘s theological leanings don’t go any further than a few bloody, ritualistic symbols and Norrington’s stunning, Giger-y beastie being ruled a demon.
Regardless, Split Second is essential fluff: a post-pub, back-end-of-the-schedules type treat whose return to the UK market (its long out of print tape from Entertainment in Video is an old car boot sale staple) is very welcome indeed, even if 101 Films’ Blu-ray is of their usual shoddy standard. It’s actually getting boring continuing to pick 101 apart; the short of it being that if I personally didn’t dig the titles they’ve licensed so much I wouldn’t even buy them anymore, let alone bother to review them. Of course, to say that their Cult Movie Collection – Split Second the latest instalment – is for fans only would be both insulting and inaccurate. It really does feel as if the boutique bandits are now taking the proverbial, batting out below par versions of niche genre fare knowing that, outside of a miracle, we ain’t going to get anything better.
Presented at a correct-looking 1.78:1 (Split Second was, however, also presented at a higher 1.66:1 during its brief UK theatrical run), the rest of 101’s ‘yeah, that’ll do’ transfer is typically lax. Presumably sourced from the Oliver Krekel-ised German mediabook (if someone could verify this, please let us know), the film’s ugly HD spruce up boasts some truly dismal colour timing; chiefly during an early scene in the police station that renders Hauer’s face geisha-like in one shot and as pink as sausage meat the next. A smokin’ hot Kim Cattrall’s introduction, and Maylam’s wickedly tense morgue sequence – in which the by-the-book Durkin (Alastair Duncan) comes face-to-face with the ticker-hungry menace – suffer badly too. The former is also marred by a misty, detail-draining softness (another issue that abounds throughout), and the latter has its whites turned up so bright it’s retina-searing.
101’s LPCM 2.0 stereo track is decent and error-less, at least, and props to them for bothering to supply the full four and a half minutes of unique footage from Split Second‘s extended Japanese cut as an extra. Interestingly, it’s the first time anything additional has been included on a 101 Blu since their botched Lord of Illusions (1995) dual format set in March of last year. It’s nothing worth shouting about – a quick close up of a mangled face aside, it’s all expository stodge – but it’s a tiny ray of sunshine on an otherwise unsurprisingly dreary offering.
SPLIT SECOND is out on UK Blu-Ray now via 101 Films
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