Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hell Found: "Hellbound" (1994)

Chuck Norris decided to put one final nail in the coffin containing his film career before going to the safe world of CBS Saturday night carnage with this hysterically bad supernatural actioner.

For such a dumb movie this thing sure is plotty. Norris is Chicago cop Frank Shatter. First off, what kind of last name is "Shatter"? Have you ever met any Shatters? Genforum.com has no listing for the last name Shatter, which opens up any half clever viewer to replace the "a" in Shatter with an "i." He and his partner, Calvin Jackson, do the same old buddy cop routine you have seen before: make funny with the pimps, and make their captain mad.

Jackson, looking like the theoretical love child of Whoopi Goldberg and Rick James, quickly wears on the nerves with his constant complaining and Eddie Murphy-patented facial expressions. Shatter and Calvin become involved with an emissary of Satan, whom we are introduced to in the too long opening scenes.

Prosatano is a demon who is locked in a crypt by King Richard the Lionhearted. The demon's scepter, from which he gets his power, is busted into nine pieces and hid in nine different parts of the world by holy men. In 1951, some grave robbers accidentally let Prosatano out and he begins collecting the nine pieces. He disguises himself as an antiquities professor named Lockley and always happens to be giving a lecture where a holy man is killed and a piece of the scepter is taken.

Norris brings in his "Walker: Texas Blunder" cohort Sheree Wilson, who plays Lockley's assistant. She helps Norris with his investigation, they make goo goo eyes at each other, and our intrepid investigators travel to Israel after a rabbi is killed in Chicago. While in Israel, Calvin is given even more to complain about: the heat, the lack of restaurant accommodations, the lousy drivers, and the fact that he is missing the Chicago Bulls playoff games. Norris even manages to work a cute Israeli kid into this nightmare. Bezi steals Calvin's wallet, and hangs around the men, leading them around Israel and not arousing any sort of appropriate suspicion.

Eventually, Lockley (Prosatano) assembles all of the scepter pieces, but needs the blood of royalty to complete the ceremony and call up the devil. Where to find royal blood? Well, Sheree's father is a duke! She has an American accent but she is the screenwriters' convenient method of forcing this monstrosity toward its inevitable conclusion. Sure, this minion of Satan may have killed countless hundreds over the years, but how is he gonna do against a good old fashioned American butt kickin'?

After Prosatano has been vanquished, killed by his own scepter (I envied him, he did not have to watch Bezi steal Calvin's wallet again), we are treated to an awful coda involving a bearded man who has been watching Shutter, I mean Shatter, and Calvin on their quest. You see, it was foretold...somewhere...that two warriors from the west would defeat Prosatano. The silent bearded man who watched over the couple was none other than Jesus...I kid you not. He is listed as "Prophet" in the end credits, but you and even your pets will recognize the subtle Christian reference the film makers are trying to exhibit here.

Like in "I Use a Walker: Texas Ranger," Norris is aging and cannot get into his fight scenes too much anymore. He kicks a lot, and people fly over furniture in slow motion, and then Norris gives all of his line readings in that monotone voice of his. Oh, what a real director might be able to fashion out of him! His brother, Aaron, who has directed him in other films as well, has no sense of story or momentum. Scenes are thrown in for ego's sake, not to entertain. The scenes when the dynamic duo first meet Bezi drag on and on, and then Bezi is not all that important to the rest of the film.

The film was shot on location in Israel, which means the Americans could insult the Israelis in person. There is not one likable Israeli character here. The Israeli police captain is a jerk. The cops' driver does not know English, and Calvin convinces him that the word "shitty" is a compliment. Nothing funnier than mocking those stupid foreigners on their home turf, especially when all this racist humor is coming from an American minority who would have been more than offended if the tables were turned and the Israeli cop was mocking the African-American cop in Chicago.

This film is badly written, badly acted, and badly directed. It does not work as action, cop drama, or even horror. It just shows that the now defunct Cannon Studios was willing to throw their money into anything, no matter how badly it was planned.

"Hellbound" is surely a most adequate title. I disliked this movie intensely. (*) out of five stars.