MAY 27, 2010
Every now and then I let my Twitter followers vote on my movie for the day, but after today I think I’ll have to abandon the idea, because they chose Hellbound over a Stuart Gordon film. Not that Gordon is infallible, but even his worst movie has to be more interesting than Hellbound, which doesn’t even work as a generic action movie, despite the fact that it’s seemingly all it aspired to be. Every cliché is rolled out - the chewing out from the captain, the helpful expert who becomes a love interest, the wisecracking partner... but it’s all completely perfunctory, and even when you consider the fact that our villains are actually demons and cultists (and perhaps even Satan himself?), it never becomes the slightest bit entertaining.
I must admit I was never on the Chuck Norris bandwagon. His glory years were a bit before I had the option of renting/going to see movies on my own, and by the time that arrived (early 90s), I was more drawn to Van Damme, Seagal, and Lundgren (not to mention the still relevant Schwarzenegger and Stallone), and by then Norris was appearing in kiddie fare like Sidekicks, and DTV crap like this. You snooze, you lose I guess. But I shouldn’t have to be a big fan of the guy to enjoy one of his more unique movies, right? By all accounts in my (brief) research, this is the only one of his films that dealt with supernatural themes, instead of the usual drug dealers and terrorists, so maybe it was a refreshing change of pace for his die-hard fans. But it comes almost directly in between two similar, infinitely more entertaining movies - 1990’s The First Power and 1999’s End of Days, and I would recommend those over this any day of the week.
Part of the problem is the baffling lack of action. Chuck fights a guy early on, and then there’s almost zero action until the climax. And even that is brief - I was amazed to discover that there were only 15 minutes left and nothing had really been kicked into higher gear - no partner to avenge, no bad guy promising a deadline before he killed a whole bunch of folks, nothing. Worse, the bad guy doesn’t even DO anything when it comes time for the big showdown - he just stands there and lets Norris kick him over and over, until he kicks him even HARDER which causes him to get knocked out for a bit, until they figure out that they need to stab him with a magic scepter. And this sucks too, Norris’ big one-liner before killing the dude is “Eat this!” COME ON! Even Arnold’s ice-related puns in Batman & Robin were better than that! If you’re going to try so hard to force supernatural nonsense into a standard action movie, you gotta at least live up to the traditions of one. Even "GO TO HELL!” would have been wittier (incidentally, Arnold DID say that in End of Days).
There’s also a painfully dumb subplot about a little street kid who steals Chuck’s partner’s wallet (chasing him around the city market is pretty much the only action in the middle of the movie - should I complain?). I guess it’s supposed to be funny, but all it did was remind me of Chuck’s later PG years. Remember when Chuck slammed a car door on a dude’s arm and then blew him up with a rocket launcher from like 30 feet away before driving off on his motorcycle? What happened to that guy? He doesn’t do anything awesome in this entire movie, unless you count the opening fight when he punches out a pimp. The people who make Chuck Norris jokes must consider this film to be their Achilles heel.
The editor did his best to make the movie entertaining, however, by simply doing nothing. When the bad guy tosses a hooker out the window and she lands on Chuck’s hood, there’s like a 3 second pause before Chuck finally reacts, which is simply “Shit”, as if his side mirror needed to be readjusted. There are other awkward edits throughout the film, dead pauses, things being cut short, or ending a scene on someone saying “Look at this!” without ever showing what the guy was referring to. He also tosses in a horizontal wipe at one point that is actually going the opposite direction of the characters, which is about as awkward a transition as one could possibly create.
One of the bad guy’s accents provides the movie’s best part, sadly enough, when he becomes concerned with the “Spoon of Satan” (should be “Spawn”). This is during the prologue, which is Norris-less and features a little demon thing that never appears in the regular part of the movie. Scenes like this make me less surprised to discover that Cannon went bankrupt during production (filmed in 1992, it wasn’t released until 1995) and was pretty much the end of their output. So I’m guessing that they had to cut stuff and tone others down, but still - you obviously have the little monster thing, why not use it? It’s almost like no one told Chuck that he was in a supernatural movie, since all he does is kick cult henchman, and none of the Devil type stuff seems to occur in his presence until the final killing blow, but even that isn’t so much a supernatural option as it is a “maybe I should use this long pointy thing to kill the bad guy” one.
It’s a shame that Cannon went out like this, though. Globus and Golan’s films are usually top notch entertainment (good or bad), with unparalleled midnight or “bad movie night” appeal (see: Over the Top); it’s almost a certainty that anyone who grew up in the 80s counts at least one of their films among their all time guilty pleasures. I can’t see Hellbound making anyone’s list though - the story is too dull and the action wouldn’t even top what you’d find in the average episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. And those were half the length.
What say you?