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Overall Rating
3.55

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look72.73%
Average: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 18.18%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 5 user ratings


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Trial of the Incredible Hulk, The
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by Marc Kandel

"Hulk has erection. That Good sign. Hulk ready for trial. Hulky Crane."
4 stars

I was going to go with, “Hulk say WHOLE COURT OUT OF ORDER! HULK SMASH!” But honestly, a "And Justice for All” joke in 2006? Not from this man. My SNL inspired “Hulk Lawyer” sketch (you know, instead of “Caveman”) was too low percentage and would have been too long for the quote space. But let's try it now:

“I’m just a gamma irradiated monster. The vagaries and complexities of your legal system frighten and confuse me. I’m used to smashing things- perusing documents confounds my primitive, reptilian intellect. But even a brute such as myself I can see my client deserves better than a judgment of Guilty.”

Okay, okay, I’ll get on with the review now, I promise.

You liked “Hulk Lawyer” though, didn’t you? ; )

Ahem…

Despite “Incredible Hulk Returns” failing to launch a Thor series, the 88’ Hulk TV movie did renew plenty of interest in ol’ greenskin to bring him back for a second outing in ’89, this time pairing him with another Marvel superhero, Daredevil. This entry keeps it darker, allowing Bixby to turn in a marvelously layered performance and Ferrigno to viciously beat the living shit out of more goons to the delight of viewers everywhere, though Hulk fans may be disappointed with the focus on Daredevil in the climax of the story.

David Banner, returned to wandering the earth (or simply Northern California and Canada), becomes an unwilling witness to an attempted rape by two mob henchmen which the Hulk averts. Held for trial, David fears being put on the stand to the point that his stress aggravates a change and he escapes into the city. With David in hiding, and the victim of the attack kidnapped by Wilson “The Kingpin” Fisk to protect his organization, lawyer Matt Murdock must put the law aside and utilize his skills as Daredevil to hunt down David, rescue the victim, and stop the Kingpin’s plan to consolidate his power base.

The movie is an undeniable treat, every bit as engaging and fun as its predecessor, with better pacing and some genuinely captivating action sequences. Taking a cue from Batman, we get darker sets, a darker Hulk/Banner performance, and a darker team-up superhero than the previous movie’s lighthearted, brash Thor. Maybe even too dark, as our Daredevil (played with wit, intelligence and honesty by Rex Smith) pretty much tosses out the traditional red uniform and opts for a simple black bodysuit, though if you squint, I swear you can make out red sequins on his gauntlets and belt. Not that I’d necessarily want to see that either, but hey, at this point in time I’d take what I could get.

This entry was during a period where Marvel was deathly afraid of having its heroes appear in bright colors decorated with symbols (I guess one giant green guy was enough of a stretch). Never ones to dawdle on their own misguided, counterintuitive logic however, Daredevil, who is trying not to let the world know he’s blind, sports a blindfold on his cowl which isn’t exactly what I’d call a solid game plan in the secret identity department. But it ends up working despite the pissed-off comic fan factor, something Marvel was extremely adept at living with during the late 80’s and entire 90’s as straight to video turkeys like Punisher, Captain America, Fantastic Four and to some degree, the TV Hulk movies were unloaded on frustrated, frothing Marvel Zombies while DC shamed their competitor company with its big-budget releases and closer adherence to source material.

Bill Bixby is remarkable given how easily this material can slip into absurdity. He has never played this character with anything less than the deepest commitment, emotional depth and logical choices. By “Trial”, David Banner is a beaten, hopeless man. After the events of “Returns” he has lost a romance, a career, and a cure. He is now a wandering vagrant terrified of making roots anywhere, of losing his tenuous control, of being exposed. His fear cripples him to the point of uncharacteristically shunning the opportunity to help others- a very great divergence from the TV series, which allows an excellent setup of the Murdock/Banner meeting as Murdock is on hand to force Banner to acknowledge Marvel’s ever-present Power = Responsibility moral.

There is an excellent dynamic between Bixby and Rex Smith (Matt Murdock) as their characters bond over their handicaps and how they must both constantly work to overcome and live with and beyond their limitations. The camaraderie between the two men makes sense and the circumstances of their meeting are less strained than the clumsy introduction to Thor in the prior movie. The choice of a denying viewers a Hulk/Daredevil team-up at the end in favor of allowing Banner the opportunity to play the hero without Hulking out might disappoint some, but in service of the story, I’ll explain exactly why this works, and why it was a brave, correct route to follow:

The finale of the movie has Banner storming the castle gates alongside Daredevil to rescue the girl, with the more physical obstacles overcome by Daredevil enabling Banner to maintain his composure so that he can contribute through brains and ingenuity rather than submerging himself in dangerous brute force. This divergence from formula allows David to renew his hope and capacity to help others in his quest to help himself, and I must give credit to the writer, Gerald Di Pego, for choosing story rather than spectacle (though I’m sure the opportunity to push a Daredevil pilot had some influence). I chose to give credit to the filmmakers who are brave enough to allow David Banner an opportunity for heroism, while simultaneously giving us some good street justice dispensation by Daredevil.
Thug #1 “We’re gonna handle this real quiet, (Grabbing axe) you see?”
Daredevil: (Smiling) “No. I don’t see at all.”
That’s some good shit right there. And the ass-beating Daredevil metes out is both fun and amazingly brutal. That one moment is better than the entire film version of Daredevil. In fact, between the two, I’d choose Trial over the miserable, senseless, emotionally numb Daredevil any time.

As Hulk, Ferrigno is in rare form- this is the angriest, most frightening manifestation of Hulk yet- echoing Banner’s despair and sadness. A dream sequence where Banner’s greatest fear comes to light, that of losing control amid a crowd of innocents, has the Hulk choking a lawyer to death, throwing a security guard out of a window, and even taking a swipe at his creator Stan Lee in a cameo appearance as a juror.

John Rhys Davies makes for a delightful Kingpin of Crime, refusing to shave his head and beard, but turning in a very interesting performance as a voyeuristic Wilson Fisk, less physically intimidating than Michael Clarke Duncan’s bull in a china shop, but far more clinically wicked, a spider at the center of an intricate web, refusing to dirty his hands in physical encounters, directing his intellect at his attackers (his multimedia ambush on Daredevil is so effective that nothing short of a Hulk rescue can suffice). Even at the conclusion of the tale, he maintains his poise, his defeat far less embarrassing than his choice of getaway vehicle, a spray-painted cardboard monstrosity resembling a hydrofoil that wobbles out of the top of Fisk Tower in what must be the single worst matte shot ever done in any film. Waugh.

I'm going a solid 4 stars for this one- its still a TV Movie 4 stars though, so no confusing this for "The Godfather" or something.

Shitty final effect aside, this is my favorite of the three TV Hulk films with a nice story-driven plot, good fights, and just enough Hulk-outs for this fan. Bixby’s pained, shattered performance ties it all together, and we chalk up another winner for the Hulkster.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15515&reviewer=358
originally posted: 12/20/06 03:50:48
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User Comments

10/09/12 Chris I feel the third film slightly edges out Trial, but I still really enjoyed this one very mu 4 stars
1/09/09 Shaun Wallner Intense Action! 4 stars
3/03/07 David Pollastrini Daredevil is blind. why does he have a blindfold? 2 stars
12/22/06 John Z Avoid green eggs and ham, err... Hulk 2 stars
12/20/06 David Pollastrini Thor was kind of funny 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  07-May-1989 (NR)
  DVD: 06-May-2003

UK
  N/A (PG)

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Bill Bixby

Written by
  Gerald Di Pego

Cast
  Bill Bixby
  Lou Ferrigno
  Rex Smith
  John Rhys-Davies
  Nancy Everhard
  Joseph Mascolo



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