Today In Xenophobic Films Starring Rutger Hauer

Wanted Dead or Alive

Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer, again) is a bounty hunter. He is the great-grandson of Josh Randall, the character played by Steve McQueen on the TV show Wanted: Dead or Alive. Rutger Hauer is not as cool as Steve McQueen, duh, especially since he now looks like Roy Batty with a mullet.

In addition to being a bounty hunter Randall is also a former secret agent. I assume he was with the CIA, but it isn't exactly clear. What I do know is that this group uses Gold's Gym as a front for its office in L.A. I'm not sure why they didn't pick a more low-key location, like a probate lawyer's office or something, but strategic planning doesn't seem this outfit's strong suit anyway. Years ago Randall left the agency, having grown tired of "walking around with a bull's-eye on [his] forehead." He's retired, lives on a boat, blah blah blah.

Why does every tough dude on the edge have to live on a boat in movies like this? Is that substitution for characterization? "Oh, he lives on a decrepit trawler, he must be a badass!"

Okay, so, back to the plot: Super-Terrorist™ Malak Al Rahim, played by the always annoying Gene Simmons, sneaks into the U.S. and his first order of business is blowing up a crowded movie theater. A movie theater showing Rambo, to be precise. I think this is supposed to be some sort of joke, but I can't tell how exactly it's funny. I mean, the exploding theater isn't supposed to be funny, that's super serious (there were kids in there!), but why Rambo on the marquee? Whatever.

The Feds beg Randall to come back for one last job, and blah blah blah blah blah...

Do I even need to bother? Stuff explodes, there are gunfights and car chases and lots of people die. Right? Right. You've seen this shit a thousand times before. Sometimes it's been better done. Sometimes not. If mediocrity is what this movie was aiming for, it's hit its target dead on.

Anyway, Al Rahim is planning to next blow up a chemical plant in Los Angeles, and thereby release enough toxic gas to wipe out 50,000 Angelinos. Why is he doing this? Who knows? The film never bothers to explain his motivations. The fact he's Middle-Eastern should be reason enough for the audience to know he's evil.

Every Middle-Easterner in this movie is either a terrorist or a collaborator. And when they're not being portrayed as bloodthirsty sadists, they're being tortured and killed by the film's heroes. Almost invariably these latter moments are played for laughs. And when Gene Simmons finally gets his head blown off at the film's climax, what should be a joyous moment is spoiled by the racist tone that pervades the 100 minutes preceding it.

The only enjoyment I got out of this film was the way the Middle-Easterners were constantly passing around big bundles of dynamite. The sheer absurdity of it was comical. I half expected them to be marked with TNT in big letters, and maybe even have ticking alarm clocks attached to them. The Middle-Easterners in this film are such caricatures that it might not have been too surprising. If everything about their portrayal wasn't so offensive, this film might otherwise be forgettable. Instead it stands as a testament to anti-Arab sentiment that has only grown in this country since this film's release.

Directed by Gary Sherman • R • 1987 • 104 minutes


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