29 June 2004 | Matador07
Hail to the Juggers
I recently rewatched this movie for the first time in ages, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it held up remarkably well to my older eyes. So many gritty post-apocalyptic hero type flicks that I liked when I was younger turn out upon a more sober "adult" viewing to be amateurish and juvenile. But this movie has real depth, and drew me back in from the opening scene. It fully deserves any cult status it may have achieved, and I went ahead and ordered the DVD (which is finally out) for my collection.
The film is set against the backdrop of a fully realized post-apocalyptic society that actually makes sense (and the "game" the movie is built around is well conceived and executed too). Unlike in many futuristic movies, there is no need for grand exposition explaining why everybody in the film is acting so bizarrely -- in this movie, you understand the people, their desperation, and the certain grim courage of those who dare to dream of more. The movie also has the courage to take itself seriously, while still retaining a light enough touch to throw in spots of humor throughout.
The cast here is several cuts above normal for this sort of thing, with a number of recognizable faces (Chen, D'Onofrio, Hauer, Lindo) making believable and sympathetic characters out of what easily could have been cartoonish cutouts in a lesser film. Chen and Hauer play the two main characters. For Chen, I think it can be argued this is her finest performance, deftly combining vulnerability with courage, innocence with savagery. And for Hauer, an actor who has in more recent times has become a parody of himself, I think this may have represented his last truly effective performance. The stories of these two characters are not stories of grandiose save-the-world heroes, but more down to Earth stories of courage, redemption, and most importantly hope in a world with little of it. The characters aren't pure, they're not pompous, they're just normal people trying to make the best of a tough life. And I think that makes rooting for them all the easier. Its not so important they win -- its important that the find the strength to strive rather than give up. Simple tenacity and the courage to never give up is far more inspiring than the vast majority of the superheroes in the modern comic book adaptation fad. It really is remarkable to find such deft handling of themes like these in an offbeat movie from a genre filled with Grade B quickies.
P.S. I have never seen the longer version, and actually don't really have an interest to. The shorter "Blood of Heroes" is appealing precisely because it manages to scrounge out hope and weary courage from the grim backdrop in a believable fashion.