So it's totally time for another installment of the Final Girl Film Club over at that wonderful Final Girl place on the internet. I missed the last go round, and when I saw that the next option was the soft-R-rated quasi-episode of Walker: Texas Ranger that pits Chuck Norris vs. Satan; I was kinda afraid I was being punished. Alas, I rode forth, undeterred, crashing headlong into the following review.
1994, Dir. by Aaron Norris.
As you can tell by the poster to the left, Chicago cop Frank Shatter is a tough-as-nails fellow who's a lot like Chuck Norris. He's also got a dreadlocked partner named Jackson who loves to make jokes about playing "good cop, bad cop" (which basically makes him that one friend that every one of us has who picks one joke that they think is hilarious and rides it for the rest of eternity). Speaking of eternity, an evil force - Prosatanus, who is kinda a spawn of Satan and kinda Satan himself (Yeah, like anyone'd ever believe that argument) - who's survived some random events of 1168 and 1951 and randomly shows up in present day Chicago. I think this is only because he wants to disrupt Jackson's ability to see the Bulls' playoff games.
Anyway, the evil dude (who's extraordinarily creepy looking and portrayed by Christopher Neame) partakes in a bit of ripping out hearts and throwing them at Chuck Norris..errr, Detective Shatter. Then, he disappears, and the cops head to Israel to track him down, with the help of that big haired blonde lady from Walker: Texas Ranger.
For a tough-nosed cop versus demonic-apocalypse-bringer film, Hellbound struggles to succeed at any of the things you'd expect to see. In fact, there aren't even enough roundhouse kicks for my tastes, and the film stars FREAKING CHUCK NORRIS. It seems that the Norris clan, with little brother Aaron in the director's chair, didn't quite want to sell out and make a dark satanic film, as this plays like a cross between that Walker show and what I'd imagine an Asylum produced version of The Mummy would have looked like. In the action star vs. devil subgenre, Hellbound makes End of Days look like a masterpiece. (Although, you don't have to sell me on End of Days, I kinda have a guilty love for it. There, I said it.)
That's not to say there's not fun to be had at the expense of Hellbound. Norris' beard is as fantastic as ever, and when the roundhouse kicks do hit, they hit hard. Jackson, the sidekick played by Calvin Levels of Adventures in Babysitting fame, is truly a horribly written character (with Whoopi Goldberg's hair, to boot) that provides some laughable dialogue. I already mentioned his "good cop bad jokes", but there are also plenty of awful "stereotypical yelling and being sarcastic" moments where the timid sidekick gets to say things like "Why don't you just cut my nuts off with a dull-ass butter knife?" Oh, there's also the obligatory "it's a dark castle, so let's make a Dracula reference" moment, too.
Hellbound succeeds most - in a bad way - when making Norris and friends question the ludicrous plot. When they finally meet a priest, the tough detective gets to deadpan a question about "this Prostanus, or whatever you want to call him", and when he's told that the return of said Prosatanus could bring about judgment day, Norris then chimes in "Judgment Day?", which allows the priest to ramble more about Armageddon and "hell on earth" - which then allows Jackson to make another snide comment. The fact that this police sergeant has to put on a puzzled face and question what Judgment Day might mean plays right into one of my favorite things about B movies - "smart", heroic characters expressing no knowledge of concepts that most humans learn about at age three.
The problem is, when the person making those silly remarks is Chuck Norris - who spends less than five of the film's ninety minutes roundhouse kicking demons or demonic heralds - it adds up to missed potential in my mind. Such a shame.
(But don't take my word for it! Head on over to Final Girl on Monday the 30th, and check out some other takes on the film from some of the best bloggers/writers in the history of ever!)