Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Random Movie Report #64: Redline
Let me set this up for you. Rutger Hauer plays a criminal in a dark cyberpunk future who’s betrayed by his partner, killed along with his wife, is brought back to life by the government, breaks out and goes in search of vengeance. Sounds like a good movie, right? Hell, it’s Rutger Hauer, the movie doesn’t even have to be that good for him to kick ass, right?
This is the premise of REDLINE, one of the worst films I’ve seen in a while that wasn’t accompanied by snarky commentary from a man and two makeshift robots. I picked it up for $1 at Half Price Books and I think somehow I was cheated. REDLINE is an ultra-low-budget direct-to-video affair from 1997 that’s also appeared under the name DEATHLINE, and it manages to waste just about any scrap of potential there was in the premise, its star, and an assortment of undressed European girls.
Hauer’s character is named John Anderson Wade, and he’s an American doing business in Russia, and that is more or less the extent of what we learn about him. His cowardly evil partner is named Merrick (Mark Dacascos), and he’s in deep with the Russian mob which goes by some name I’ve already forgotten. Trios or Triage or something. Anyway, Merrick doesn’t have much of a motivation either, he’s just a jerk. Wade is picked up by the government because they have some way of bringing people back to life and turning them into super fighters or something, but he breaks out of the lesbian-nurse-staffed hospital (and no, nothing interesting comes of that plot detail) and hits the streets. After this it’s bog standard revenge movie fare, you know the drill, villain sends assassins after the hero, none of them get anywhere near doing their job, hero uncovers some grander plan, etc. Along the way Wade meets up with Marina K. (Yvonne Scio), a prostitute who happens to look exactly like his late wife. She goes along with him for some reason, and a vague romance blooms. Oh, also, the MacGuffins being smuggled are electrochemical stimulants that can be used to induce voluntary fantasies, but apart from a few scenes that goes nowhere either.
If you’re noticing a certain vagueness to my description, that’s because I was rarely if ever entirely sure of what was going on. The details aren’t so much complex as they are unclear and unimportant- there’s some sort of coup in the making, the police are corrupt, but nothing’s ever allowed to get in the way of what is basically a string of random scenes. Wade and his girlfriend move from one blasted post-industrial set to another, one minute a parking garage, the next a nightclub where nobody wears shirts, the next a great hall where a boxing match is taking place well outside anywhere the ultra-rich patrons would be able to see.
There’s just nothing here. The action sequences are uninspired; not only do the bad guys always miss, they always miss so completely that Wade doesn’t have to duck. There’s no sense of any challenge, there are no crazy death defying stunts, even the explosions are weak. The closest we get to an interesting setpiece is when Wade is ambushed by a couple of naked boxer women in a gym area at the boxing match mentioned above, and even that sequence just sort of fizzles out. The visuals are a constant stream of grey and lifeless images.
Now, Rutger Hauer is a genuine bad ass, the kind that demands that you use both words separately. He’s a pretty good actor with loads of presence. NONE of that is on display here. He has no character to play; there’s some banter between him and the girlfriend about how he’s apparently got a problem with women, but we see no evidence of this and it’s forgotten about two scenes after it’s mentioned. Yvonne Scio is very pretty, and not very fully clad, and there’s the spark of a potentially interesting character somewhere in her portrayal, but again, nothing comes of it. The villain is so bland it hurts, and the only thing remarkable about the entire Russian Mafia angle is that his boss (Michael Mehlmann) is doing a pretty good impression of Christopher Walken. To make a good dumb action movie you at least need some crazy quirk for the bad guy, or to make the hero a wisecracking surfer, or throw in some veiled homoeroticism, or... you need to DO SOMETHING, basically. This is close to being absolutely generic- it’s not an action movie, it’s the template for one.
The film just sort of unspools, all the way through an idiotically drawn out climax. There are exactly two clever sequences, which I will list now. The first is a scene from “Russia’s Most Wanted” wherein Wade, now a hunted criminal, is given the dramatic re-enactment treatment, and the re-enactment is a blatant low-budget riff on BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN’s legendary Odessa Steps sequence. The second is a scene where Wade has been captured and is being interrogated- or, rather, subjected to a hallucination of a violent interrogation via the electro-plasmid-thingies the film is supposedly about. It’s a little twist but I like it.
Otherwise this is a chore. I’m not sure why I didn’t hit fast forward on this thing, except that I knew it would be good blog fodder. Also, it’s the kind of bad movie that’s an object lesson in how not to make a low budget picture; anyone could have made a better film using the same resources, just by having things actually happen and letting a plot take shape. I hope this is the worst movie Rutger Hauer has ever been in, because if not, God help us all.
Written by Brian Irving and Tibor Takács
Directed by Tibor Takács