GORE IN THE STORE
SPLIT SECOND **
Directed by Tony Maylam.
Starring Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, Pete Postlethwaite, Alun Armstrong, Ian Dury.
Action/Horror, UK, 90 mins, cert 18.
Released in the UK on Limited Edition Blu-ray by 101 Films on 27th July 2020.
SPLIT SECOND, the latest acquisition to 101 Films’ Black Label imprint, is a dark sci-fi/action/horror romp set in the dystopian future of 2008 and was originally released in that weird period where the ‘80s was long over but the ‘90s hadn’t quite kicked in yet, i.e.1992, that post-ALIENS/TERMINATOR 2 world where filmmakers knew they wanted to set their movies in similar universes to James Cameron’s mega-selling blockbusters but didn’t quite have the money/technology/skills (delete as appropriate) available to make it happen on a similar scale.
And so we have SPLIT SECOND, where dystopian futures and lead actor Rutger Hauer come together again because... well, it worked in BLADE RUNNER. Hauer plays Harley Stone, a maverick cop (on the edge) who doesn’t play well with others but has to pair up with a less violent new partner to catch a serial killer murdering people by ripping out their hearts through their chests and seemingly eating them. As if that wasn’t harrowing enough this is set in a London that has flooded thanks to global warming or something eco related that doesn’t really pay off in any great way, and so everything is always wet and dark, and everyone Stone meets doesn’t seem to like him, including his grumpy police superior who is wonderfully named as Thrasher (and played by familiar British TV actor Alun Armstrong).
Oh yes, SPLIT SECOND is action/sci-fi movie cliché after cliché, given a little bit of a credibility boost by the appearance of Rutger Hauer – who was at the time starring in TV ads for Guinness and clearly looking for cheques to cash – and featuring a cast made up of British actors whose faces you know but you can’t quite place them – they were in that thing... you know... that programme we watched.. the thing with Dennis Waterman in.
The frustrating thing with SPLIT SECOND is that it has the potential to be thoroughly enjoyable because of its simplicity and not despite of it but there is a ramshackle element to the filmmaking that results in clumsy edits, odd set pieces, some very dodgy ADR work, off pacing and little details that creep into the plot with little-to-no explanation, including who the killer turns out to be and why they do what they do.
However, as a checklist for what you want in an action B-movie from this era it does tick the boxes - gore, nudity, unnecessary violence, a gruff chain smoking cop with a past, a grumpy police chief, a green newbie who doesn’t like violence, a fellow cop who doesn’t like the main character, a female love interest who likes to wear skimpy clothes, Ian Dury as a nightclub owner (or is he the doorman? It’s never made clear), lots of guns and bullets, and some nice aerial shots of London. It’s all there for you to enjoy on a base level if you want a bit of post-pub (or given the current situation, late night after the soaps have finished) nonsense that giving too much thought to would probably cause a nosebleed, and despite its many flaws it does pass 90 minutes quite inoffensively.
Obviously Rutger Hauer is the centre of attention and he is magnetic whenever he is on the screen – which is quite a bit – and although he appears to be gritting his teeth whilst delivering the flimsy dialogue he is very convincing as a hard-as-nails cop. The aforementioned Alun Armstrong is a solid enough presence to be a shouty police chief in a British movie, and although his accent does occasionally slip his heavily ADR’d voice is more distracting, and for some reason Kim Cattrall makes an appearance as Hauer’s love interest Michelle. Her character arc is she appears, refers to something in their past we don’t know about, see or hear, has a shower and then screams a lot when the killer appears. As with Hauer, she may be helping out her cash flow by taking a part like this but with not a lot to do her role could have gone to somebody cheaper, thus allowing more money to spend on the design of the killer. It is a sci-fi movie so you can guess that the killer may not be human but given this was made between ALIENS and ALIEN 3 you would have thought a bit more attention would have gone into its look, if only to make the comparisons less derivative.
SPLIT SECOND is certainly a product of its time, and in this era of worldwide pandemics, political upheaval and general unrest it does offer a little bit of escape without forcing a message or social conscience (despite the unimportant climate change blurb at the beginning), and seeing Rutger Hauer channel Stallone’s COBRA and keep a straight face is worth watching once. It is clunky, messy – the final showdown in the underground was shot by a different director for some reason - and so full of holes you could use the script as a net but there is a bit of charm to it, albeit a charm that eventually manifests itself as the knowledge that once you’ve watched it (and likely forgotten about it soon after) you can go back and rewatch TERMINATOR 2 (and all the other movies it reminds you of) for the umpteenth time and get a huge hit of early ‘90s sci-fi/action goodness that still holds up. SPLIT SECOND, for all of its cult status credentials, just doesn’t.