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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Retro Review: Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)

Wanted: Dead Or Alive
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Gene Simmons, Robert Guillaume, Mel Harris, William Russ
Genre: Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $7.5 million

Plot: Nick Randall is a former CIA operative turned bounty hunter, who is asked by his former employer to help them track down a terrorist, Malak Al Rahim, who is in the country and has already made his move in search of Randall

'Pleasing 80s Action B-Movie Held Together By Hauer'

A revamp on the classic Steve McQueen TV show, Rutger Hauer plays the son/descendant of McQueen's character, Josh named Randall (which is something that isn't acknowledged in the opening credits), who here asks questions first and shoots bad guys later. Or is that the other way round? I don't know. But what I do know is for me, this was an enjoyable action romp with some pleasing performances throughout.

Nick Randall is a former CIA operative, who previously butted heads with terrorist, Malak: what we have here is a Dutchman in Rutger Hauer playing as an American versus American-born Gene Simmons in the role of a Middle Eastern villain. After landing in America, Malak declares war on the US. Randall, meanwhile, is now a bounty hunter, who lives with his girlfriend, Terry. Randall's opening scene is when he enters a convenience store that is being thwarted by a robber, of whom Randall captures & arrests. When Nick gets a call from a friend who is in need of help in capturing Malak, Nick accepts the offer in return for a big reward. Unfortunately, what they don't know is that Randall's former boss is the one in on the act & who is only using Randall as a pawn, in order to capture Malak. As a bounty hunter, he is also an outlaw who chooses not to play by the rule-books & he also has an arsenal of weapons hidden in his garage. 

Wanted: Dead or Alive came and went, without much attention and fanfare paid to it in the midst of 1987 and it is a bit of shame that has happened, because whilst it may not be one of the absolute best action movies, ever, it is something different to so many other big budget action flicks released during that particular year that is also nice to see. Critics lambasted this film and didn't give it a fair chance and whilst in some parts, it does become a little dry, it manages to be watchable and entertaining enough.

Rutger Hauer as Nick Randall is as cool as a cucumber and he is in great form as the bad-ass bounty hunter, whereas Kiss bassist and co-founder, Gene Simmons makes his entrance in an antagonist role, and a strange one to behold as a Middle Eastern terrorist that is rather limited and where he doesn't have much screen-time. Fortunately, he doesn't put on an accent & approaches the role as a White guy playing an Arab/Middle Easterner. But it is Hauer who is the star of this movie and the ending was satisfactory and a rather awesome way to go out on a high, as well. He also rocks the blond mullet too! The remaining performances from the likes of Mel Harris as Nick's girlfriend were not bad also. 

The film did run a little too long in the tooth, though, I have to admit & could have been trimmed off a bit. & I also wished for a few more action sequences to liven things up; as few as they were, they were entertaining. & the last half hour was when the film peaked and it was one I didn't see coming; it was out of the blue, and the ending made my jaw drop in awe.

The mystery and intrigue with one or two twists that are included add an extra incentive to Wanted: Dead or Alive and they were well done. This is almost everything an action movie, especially an action B-movie should be. 

Final Verdict: 

An action movie that doesn't pretend to be something it is not & whilst it is not everyone's cup of tea, this is a respectable attempt of an action film, B-movie style. As cult '80s movies go, Wanted: Dead or Alive qualifies as an action B-movie, but it operates more in the vein of a thriller and it's not as action-orientated as it was and is touted. Still, Rutger Hauer and his character is what makes this movie, for me, and that's despite Gene Simmons appearance that is more of a cameo and plus, he is barely onscreen for most of the duration of this film. 

But indubitably, that Middle Eastern terrorist theme would obviously not go down as well today as it was in the mid-1980s, given 9/11 and for all of the white-washing accusations in other movies, seeing a White actor play an Ethnic character in Blackface or whatever in a film today, wouldn't fare well with a lot of people, either. 

The only gripe I have is that I wished there had been a lot more action, but other than that, this is an pleasing and sound effort that does the job.


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