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Split Second
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by Jack Sommersby

"Another Waste of Rutger Hauer"
2 stars

Despite a surprisingly strong opening weekend in the U.S., bad word-of-mouth obviously spread and rendered this a box-office bomb.

Rutger Hauer is such an immensely talented actor that it’s a real shame to find him headlining a piece of disposable trash like Split Second, a futuristic action movie that has very little in the way of thrills to sate even the most undemanding of audiences. Before coming to this country, the Dutch Hauer made indelible impressions in two starring roles in fellow Dutchman Paul Verhoeven’s Soldier of Orange and Spetters; and though he impressed in his American debut as the international terrorist in the Sylvester Stallone crime tale Nighthawks, he was luridly over-the-top as the main replicant in Blade Runner and atypically remote as a television investigative reporter in The Osterman Weekend. Getting back on track, he was charismatically dashing as the medieval hero in Ladyhawke and unnervingly menacing as the villain in the horror tale The Hitcher -- tall and handsome with swept-back blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, Hauer had all the makings of a bona-fide movie star; there was a concentrated intensity to him that was mesmerizing to behold. Yet a smug somnolence started seeping into his work, rendering him a vacant bore in Wanted: Dead or Alive and Past Midnight -- it was clear he wasn’t putting too much effort into his characterizations and relying solely on screen presence to carry the day. With Split Second, set in London, in 2008, the city has suffered forty days of torrential rains due to global warming, thus making the it a gloomy gray-skied hellhole, Hauer plays Harley Stone, a renegade cop obsessed with finding the serial killer responsible for the death of his partner three years prior. It’s been quiet ever since, but Stone, psychically linked to the culprit (the soundtrack gives us the sound of heavy heartbeats signifying this), starts getting premonitions of the locations of the murders, but when he turns up he’s still too late. The victims have their hearts viciously ripped out, with no witnesses to speak of. (In the movie’s most embarrassing bit, Stone kneels to a dog at a murder scene and asks, “You saw who did it, didn’t you?”) Uncouth and unmanageable, “living on anxiety, coffee and chocolate,” according to his stereotypically always-shouting police commander, Stone is assigned one Dick Durkin, a bespectacled Oxford University graduate who takes pride in differentiating between a psychotic and psychopath, so, of course, they don’t initially get along, with Stone missing no opportunity to put a vocal emphasis on the man’s phallic first name. Original, thy title is not Split Second!

Granted, for about thirty minutes the movie is reasonably enjoyable. The British director, Tony Maylam, who was responsible for the underappreciated low-key spy drama The Riddle of the Sands and the superb Friday the 13th-like slasher outing The Burning, has a fertile visual imagination that holds our attention; working with the able cinematographer Clive Tickner, he gives both the interiors and exteriors a luxurious suppleness that gives the proceedings a lot more class that it even remotely deserves. (The fancy but controlled dark-primary-color lighting punctuates rather than punctures.) And Hauer, decked out in a long black leather coat and cool-looking sunglasses, cuts quite the commanding figure even if not much in the way of acting ability is called for. But the movie is maddeningly indifferent. Whether it was due to incompetence on Maylam’s part or some last-minute tinkering in the editing room, many of the action sequences are choppily rendered -- there always seems to be a good two to three shots missing that would provide the necessary spatial cohesion; it’s as if whoever was responsible for the cutting constantly turned their head and coughed at crucial moments. Whatever the case, the movie lacks the compression and tautness abundant in Maylam’s previous efforts, and it hasn’t so much as a speck of narrative immediacy (it sputters and stalls at the midway mark and never really recovers). Yet all of this pales in comparison to the screenplay and its chief weakness: revealing that it’s actually a ludicrous ten-foot Alien-like creature responsible for all the havoc-wreaking mayhem, when in no way whatsoever is this backed up by the preceding happenstances. How in the world did such a monster manage to get inside a nightclub unnoticed and kill a woman in the bathroom? That was able to drop off at the police station for Stone an ice-filled box containing the heart of one of its victims? That would handcuff rather than kill Stone’s partner and place him inside the back seat of a police vehicle? What, did the studio somewhere during production decide that the villain need be otherworldly to give the movie some pizzazz? Even science fiction needs to adhere to some semblances of internal logic, to play by a set of rules, but in Split Second’s case it seems to be making things up as it goes along. Luckily, there’s the dandy Alastair Duncan, who plays the second-banana Durkin and gives the movie some much-needed charge. Initially meek and meager, when realizing the kind of culprit he’s up against he turns full-tilt-boogie rabid; wild-eyed and jazzed-up, his “We need bigger guns!” line (obviously a riff on a similar line in Jaws) can’t help but make the audience immediately yield to him. He’s the true standout of the disappointing Split Second.

The full-frame DVD is nothing to write home about, with only a theatrical trailer for a special feature.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23884&reviewer=327
originally posted: 01/15/15 12:03:51
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USA
  01-May-1992 (R)

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