Love and Marriage Go Together Like a Horse and PLASTIC EXPLOSIVES STRAPPED TO YOUR NECK
I’ve never been married. I came really close once, several years ago now, and managed to dodge one heck of a bullet. For years afterward I let the bad experience paint my perceptions of marriage as an institution. I remember driving a girl or two away with my insistence that marriage was antiquated, unnecessary, and counter to the way we as humans seemed to be developing. Granted, I had a pile of divorces that I could point to that also proved my point for me (none of those divorces were my own, but my parents’ is at the top of the list), so that didn’t help my outlook. There was also the bitterness I still feel about equal marriage rights in this country (if two men who love each other dearly can’t get married, then nobody should be allowed to).
Since then I have softened significantly on the topic (I still want equal rights for everyone, though; let’s not forget that), even if I don’t think you need to get married to someone just to prove you love them. I know plenty of awesome couples that have been faithful and loving to each other for years, even decades, without tying the knot. But now I think we might end up straying off topic here a little too much, and I’ve got a damned movie to review, so let’s move on.
Wedlock. Now, this ain’t some newfangled discovery for me, but rather a rediscovery of an old flick I vaguely remembered from my childhood. Of course, back then it was called Deadlock, and my aunt (who I ain’t on speaking terms with anymore for reasons neither here nor there) had rented it from her local Blockbuster one day. She hadn’t returned it yet, and I was stuck at her house for the afternoon for some reason or another, so I watched it. I remember Rutger Hauer. I remember Joan Chen, who at that point I knew of from Twin Peaks. But mostly, I remember ‘sploding heads.
If there were a particular genre that this film should be filed under, let it be ‘Sploding Heads. It might be one of my favorite, if not niche, genres of film, albeit one with not that many entries aside from anything related to Scanners or Scannercop or any other movie made in the ‘80s and ‘90s that had “scanner” in the name (and we should not be including movies with beheadings, which are a totally different genre altogether, and yet can provide just as much anti-cranial entertainment for lowly cheesefest fans like you and I).
As far as ‘Sploding Head flicks go, this one is alright. Not one of the best, but not the worst, either. You really only get a couple of good headsplosions, which I find a little underwhelming considering the premise of the flick in question, but perhaps I am too demanding of my films these days.
The premise, of course, is where we find the twin topics of marriage and blowed up noggins coming together in an unholy union. See, Rutger Hauer is an electronics whiz who specializes in diffusing explosives, and he’s engaged to Joan Chen, and his best friend James “Fake Raiden” Remar has concocted a jewel heist for all three of them to pursue. In usual Westlake-ian fashion, once the job is finished, Remar and Chen double-cross Hauer and leave him for dead. But ain’t time for ol’ Roy Batty to die just yet. Nope, the cops save him, take him in, and the next thing he knows he’s on his way to the Power Rangers’ Command Center, which in the future is now a privatized prison run by Ned Ryerson (BING!), who’s traded in selling life insurance to angry weathermen for being a sleazy, money-grubbing, houseplant-pruning warden of a state-of-the-art holding facility.
See, ol’ Needlenose Ned has devised a new kind of technology, something so advanced it will blow your mind (oh shit, I didn’t intend that pun! I swear!): every prisoner is outfitted with a futuristic (by 1990s standards) electronic collar loaded with C-4, called Wedlock (haha, now you know why I was talking about marriage! How clever.). Every prisoner is partnered with another prisoner they don’t know the identity of, whose collar is electronically connected by radio signal to their collar, and if the two of them are too far apart, the collars (and their heads) get blowed up good. If one of them attempts to removed or tamper with their collar, their heads both get blowed up good. If one of them attempts to leave the grounds, both their heads get blowed up good. Which is why I complain about how few heads blow up good in this flick.
See, I’m a busy guy. I have no time to sit around waiting for heads to turn into watermelons at a Gallagher show. I’ve got important things to do, dammit. Heck, if Ned had just used live volunteers to demonstrate for the new prisoners instead of mannequins, we’d at least have two more real skulls popping. Heck, the movie could meet me halfway and have Kim Cattrall from Mannequin get her head blowed up and I would consider that enough. But alas.
One of the key themes of this movie, aside from flying brain matter, is just how painfully stupid Rutger Hauer’s character is. This is a man that consistently makes poor decisions, particularly in regards to the women he chooses to sleep with and/or trust, and what makes it worse is that we as viewers can see every swerve coming from several million parsecs away. The only guy that might be dumber in this movie is James “Dexter’s Ghost Dad” Remar, who doesn’t think for a second that Joan Chen, who was more than willing to shoot the man she was going to marry in order to obtain a shitload of diamonds, wouldn’t do the same thing to him. It’s just like when a woman cheats on her boyfriend with you and then every friend of yours keeps telling you, “if she can cheat on him, then she’ll cheat on you, too,” and you don’t listen, because you think “she’s different; I mean more to her than that; you’re just bitter because somebody cheated on you; etc.”
Yeah, it’s like that. And yet, Remar jumps right into it and never thinks, “Oh, she’ll shoot me for those diamonds.” Idiot!
As for Hauer, he keeps getting approached by another prisoner who thinks they’re secret Wedlock partners. Lucky for him (but not for us since there’s no skin in this flick) it’s the ever chesty Mimi “Let’s Forget I Was Married To Tom Cruise” Rogers. She wants to escape. The future Hobo With A Shotgun declines her advances, partially due to his distrust of women and partially due to the fact that one of the other prisoners has threatened to murder the shit out of him if he even looks at Mimi Rogers. Oh, it’s just like high school!
Let’s see… distrust of women… death threats if he gets together with one… yeah, it pretty much sounds like all the reasons I was trying to avoid wedlock when I was young, too.
But, and stop me if this sounds familiar to you, Mimi doesn’t give a shit and keeps throwing herself at him. Typical, right? And then the alpha male prisoner challenges Rutger to a fight in the courtyard the next morning. During the fight, Hauer shows off that he actually is smart by pulling on Alpha Male’s collar until it detonates, giving us our quota of bursted tomatoes. Also, it gives Mimi and Rutger a chance to escape, and then it’s all downhill from there.
Now I know you’re gonna say, “Well, ‘Stached One, Rutger didn’t choose to get involved with Mimi Rogers. And so far things are turning out better than expected, to boot.” Well, finish watching the goddamn movie, goddammit. Now they’re on the run, and they don’t trust each other, and in bad movie fashion they start to trust each other and get closer and then he bangs her a couple of times (which we don’t get to see), and then, as we were all predicting, and that turns out to be a poor decision as well.
Listen, all you need to know is that this movie will show you:
- Exploding Heads
- Basil Wallace urinating on Rutger Hauer’s face
- Stephen Tobolowsky maniacally trimming the leaves and branches on his collection of houseplants
- The Power Rangers Command Center (or Camp Khitomer from Star Trek VI)
- Mimi Rogers running around in skintight pants
- Grand L. Bush as a beer-brewing surfer dude
- An exploding helicopter
- An exploding Chinese actress
- Rutger Hauer in a bad western coat (looking like a Sedona local)
- The props dept. getting the last name of the female lead character wrong when printing up a newspaper headline
Verdict: See it, but only if you’re a fan of ‘sploding heads and/or James Remar (because let’s be honest, the guy really doesn’t get enough work).