Anchor Bay // 1986 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 25th, 2001
Nick Randall is a loner. A legend. A bounty hunter.
He's the best there is at a job he hates.
The '80s most fascinating holdover is Mr. Rutger Hauer. You know, the blow-dried blonde guy who was in Blade Runner, The Hitcher, and Ladyhawke. Like Treat Williams, Hauer has never been able to attract the kind of success that makes one a real movie star. Instead, he's mostly featured in straight-to-video fare these days, popping up with the likes of Shannon Tweed and Corey Haim. In 1987, Hauer was cast as a bounty hunter out to track down an international terrorist in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Also starring Mel Harris (thirtysomething), Robert Guillaume (Benson) and KISS band member Gene Simmons, Anchor Bay sets loose Wanted: Dead or Alive on DVD.
Nick Randall (Hauer) is the type of guy who does things his way. He's a loner...a rebel...the type of guy that will get things done when no one else can. Yes, you guessed correctly, Nick Randall is an insurance salesman.
Oops, wait, I mean a bounty hunter! And a damn fine one at that.
Nick seems to have a relatively good life. He's got a best friend in Danny (William Russ), a "hubba-hubba" girlfriend Terry (Harris), and a house-boat love shack that's perfect for rockin' and rollin' when Barry White's cranked to eleven. What more could a guy want? Well, a better job, that's what. Nick is a bounty hunter who's the best, the tops, Mr. Number One. The thing is, he hates his job. He's sick of society's garbage. But when terror via Malak Ah Rahim (Simmons) hits his personal life, Randall takes up arms.
Malak Ah Rahim is a nutball bent on blowing things, and people, to bits. He's not a nice guy. With his gang of thugs and marauders, Malak starts terrorizing Los Angeles with car bombs, Uzis, and blowing up a local movie theater with women and children in it. Surprisingly, Malak doesn't get invited to as many singles mixers as he'd like. With the semi-help of the CIA, the FBI, and Benson...err, I mean Robert Guillaume, Randall is on the hunt for Malak and some front row KISS concert tickets.
Wanted: Dead or Alive is by the books, bland, and pretty uninspiring. It's a rip-off of every action movie ever made, from Lethal Weapon to...well, anything else you can think of that has large explosions. [Editor's Note: Though technically, Wanted: Dead Or Alive was released two months prior to Lethal Weapon, so any resemblance is probably a coincidence.]
The script is by the numbers, including crooked cops, heartless terrorists, and a hunter who wants to do it his way, and his way only. Hauer is fine in the role of Randall, though it's a carbon copy of every other embittered ex-cop we've ever seen. Just once I'd like to see a character who actually likes the police force. Someone who, after riding up on a Harley, says, "You know, I really think the LAPD is really doing a fine job keeping this city safe." Wouldn't THAT make for interesting characterization? Hauer (who looks like he spends two hours on his hair each morning) sneers every opportunity he can get, which is about the whole film. He speaks all his lines with a low growl, just to let you know that he...is...PISSED!
Gene Simmons is passable, though his character is given little motivation and a small amount of lines. Simmons has lost his trademark long locks and devil make-up for a coiffed, I-haven't-shaved-in-two-days look. He is scary looking as a terrorist, though I suspect that anyone who has toured with KISS for more than two months would freak the hell out of anyone. As for the rest of the cast, they all look like they had an idea what kind of low-grade flick they would be starring in. Robert Guillaume brings some respect to the proceedings, though after seeing him in this, the question begging an answer is: was this the best he could do during the Benson years?
The action is below par, with a few explosions here and there. Compared with today's sophisticated pyrotechnics and CGI effects, Wanted: Dead or Alive pales in comparison. The ending does have a certain charm to it, and Malak's just dessert is vengeance of explosive proportions. Now, if we could only see his fate bestowed upon the rest of the group KISS...
Wanted: Dead or Alive is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is very good, especially since this is a film from 1986 and a smaller distributor. Anchor Bay has done a nice job cleaning up the print. Edge enhancement was kept at a minimum, and only a small amount of grain was spotted. Colors were generally sharp and bright with blacks being solid.
Audio includes Dolby Digital Ultra Stereo, which is basically the equivalent of Dolby 2.0. The mix was fine, with most dialogue being well presented and music/effects mixed generously. A passable, if ho-hum, mix.
Extra features include two anamorphic theatrical trailers, one being a teaser. They are great, as you can never have enough Gene Simmons in your life.
Well, aside of all the predictability, can you say "small budget"? I have this feeling that the producers of this film went through a pretty long list before they got to Hauer. Bruce, Arnold, Sly...I think that "Rutger" was on the very bottom of that list. Maybe on the other side of the paper even. Poor Hauer...let's hope that he may have a Travolta-like resurgence, and maybe Wanted: Dead or Alive can someday be looked upon has his Look Who's Talking.
Wanted: Dead or Alive may be a bit too pricey to have in your collection, unless of course you are a fan of the great blonde one (Hauer) or the great tongued one (Simmons). The transfer is nice, the audio is decent, the film borders on mediocre. Anchor Bay is once again given kudos for delivering a film that no one else would have wanted to release.
Bonus info for your tele-holics: Wanted: Dead or Alive is based on the '50s TV show starring Steve McQueen. He must be rolling in his grave by now.
Guilty, but given a short sentence, as this film includes Benson angrily spouting the words "The next time you decide to fuck me, kiss me first" to a crooked cop. Bravo!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Ultra Stereo (English)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Two Theatrical Trailers