Thursday 21 September 2017

Split Second

‘til Death Do Us Heart

Split Second
UK 1992 Directed by  Tony Maylam
101 Films Blu Ray Zone B

I well remember the time of the shooting of the film Split Second in London in the early 1990s because the eight week shoot that Rutger Hauer was in London for meant that he made at least one public appearance. So, I and my friends went to see a double bill of Zabriskie Point (which Hauer had chosen himself) and Blade Runner (reviewed here) at the Everyman in Hampstead, both introduced by the man himself and with a Q&A session after. I remember waiting outside once the show had finished... I asked him to sign my copy of the illustrated Blade Runner screenplay, which he did, and them, because at this point he was surrounded by fans, I gave him my pen so it would be easier for him to get through them quicker, before I went on my way. I suspect the pen didn't last that long.

I waited for a number of years after that, for my local cinema in Enfield (which was an ABC or possibly taken over by Canon at that point) to screen Split Second, which he’d mentioned at the event, only to find it never got a local release. I’m guessing it was only playing in the centre of London because, looking at it now, I assume it must have had some kind of release in its own country.

So I never got to see it and it’s been one of that long list of films that ‘got away’... up until now, that is, when I found it quite by accident on Blu Ray in Fopp records, displaying all the signs of quality that I look for when I go shopping for movies... that is to say, it was knocked down to a fiver. Cheap and cheerful is always a good thing in my book.

So here we have a movie which is set in the far future of... 2008 (Why do they do this so often? It’s like they want these things to date quickly)... and set in London after a terrible rain of forty days and forty nights (yeah, really) has submerged most of the city underwater. Not that you’d know it because a lot of the long shots in this piece show London pretty much dry and above water but a number of the actual locations do have the main protagonists wading through water, to be fair.

The film starts off strong with suspended detective Harley Stone, played by Hauer, going after the serial killer who killed his former partner. The partner whose wife he was having an affair with... played by an immediately post Star Trek IV - The Undiscovered Country (reviewed here) incarnation of Kim Cattrall. He follows the killer into a strip club where the girls are, it has to be said, dressed up in so much leather fetish wear that you wonder if they are ever going to be able to successfully strip at all... after five or more minutes one finally goes topless but, you have to wonder, cool leather stuff aside, if this is the most boring strip club in the world. Here we see our first victim, who has her heart torn out before Stone realises said killer is there. After this scene, Stone is given a new partner called Dick Durkin - no, seriously - who is played by Alistair Duncan (but credited here as Neil Duncan) and the two go on a hunt for the serial killer together.

As the story unfolds, we find that the serial killer, whose MO is to tear the hearts out of it’s victims, has a psychic link to all the people it’s killed or wounded and is pretty much a giant supernatural beast creature... or possibly an alien... and is slaughtering people because of some ritualistic nonsense about the Chinese Year of the Rat and the Scorpio star sign. And... barring the fact that you wonder how a tall creature vaguely reminiscent of Giger’s Alien but ‘done on the cheap and looks it’ can blend in with its victims' environments long enough to get the jump on them... well, it’s a heck of a lot of fun actually.

The film has a surprising disregard for anything like appropriate or credible behaviour from pretty much most of the characters and the chaotic lack of common sense in the pursuit of justice give this film a trashy but entertaining vibe, as we watch Rutger Hauer playing a mentally unbalanced cop, obsessed with destroying the monster and restarting his old relationship with Kim Cattrall while breaking in his new Oxford trained partner to the point that Durkin slowly gets almost more insane than the lead protagonist by the end of the picture.

It’s pretty wild and crazy and the camera work shows this. Some of the shot design is not as spectacular as some of the sets themselves are but it doesn’t hurt the movie and there’s a lot on offer here. It’s got a nice load of character actors in for the ride too, such as Alun Armstrong as Stone’s boss, Pete Postlethwaite as a rival cop, Ian Dury as a nightclub owner, Tony Steedman as a police armourer (for when the hero’s decide they need some ‘big f***king guns’) and the always watchable Michael J. Pollard in a small role as a Rat Catcher.

There’s also a conscious effort, it seemed to me, to capture the baggage that Hauer brings to the role whenever possible. His most famous film in the UK at the time was Blade Runner and he was also popular over here at the time of the making of this movie for his Guiness adverts, for which he wore the same Blade Runner style trench coat... which he is also kitted out with here. The ‘futuristic’ debris of London isn’t, unfortunately, any match for the designer grime of Blade Runner but the music by Francis Haines and Stephen W. Parsons, does try and hit some of those moods in the rare, subtler moments of the score as Ridley Scott’s former classic, with the first few seconds of the opening music to the film definitely trying to evoke the opening of Vangelis’ score to the former movie quite blatantly, it would seem.

There are a few technical errors in the picture, to be fair, like a scene where Rutger Hauer squats down to dip his fingers in some blood and the long shot not matching up the blood on his finger tips (or the finger tips of whatever second unit actor was used for this pick up shot, at a guess, at any rate) and stuff like this is quite noticeable. Also, the idea of the origins and motives of the big monster creating havoc in an artistically pleasing and gory way are somewhat confused and not making complete sense, it has to be said. Nor, for the record, could it be hiding in the couch at one point when the couch was being sat on and it was down the street a few minutes before hand... and especially without damaging or disturbing the couch (or its occupant) as it did this.

That being said, there are some nice ideas in this movie, including something which possibly gets lost in translation but strongly hints that there are modified, intelligent dogs in this future (either that or it’s not quite made clear why Stone shows a dog his police ID) which could have been made a little more of but, ultimately, gets lost in the furthering of the plot, such as it is, and the action.

I have to say though that, for a b-movie, Split Second really pleased me and I had a good time with it. I wish Rutger could have done more of these kinds of pictures because I now, already, have a lot of love for this one. If you are into horror and science fiction and want to do an all-nighter with some drinking buddies then this gory, British thriller with a topless shower scene from Kim Cattrall and a big, clunky alien ripping people’s hearts out and decorating the walls and ceilings with their blood is not a bad place to start... jumps in story logic or not. I’d probably recommend this to a fair few of my friends and, for the price that Fopp is charging for the Blu Ray of this right now, you can’t go seriously wrong with this one. Really enjoyed this one.

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