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Split Second: A Review

Rutger Hauer's Lost Comedy

By C. Rommial ButlerPublished 2 years ago 4 min read

Movies were a huge part of my childhood. I grew up in the 1980s, when cable television and video first surfaced in popular culture, so I rented, bought, and watched a lot of movies at home. I was a horror enthusiast but being an only child and a latchkey kid with a predisposition toward solitude, I would watch anything just to pass the time. Yet there were many movies that I wanted to see but never got around to checking out.

Split Second was one of those movies. I can’t say I missed much. It was a box office flop for good reason. Yet I love Rutger Hauer, from Blade Runner to Blind Fury to the video game Observer. So it was for my love of Rutger that this movie managed to percolate interest in the back of my mind from 1992 until 2021. I saw it on Amazon Prime and added it to my watchlist.

On Thanksgiving 2021, I found myself with no familial obligations, and an unopened bottle of whiskey. The whiskey started to disappear as I meandered around the house recording parts for songs and touching up essays on various topics, until I was pleasantly buzzed enough to relax into some Thanksgiving football. By the time the night game came on, I was warm and fuzzy. By the fourth quarter, the Bills were heartily embarrassing the Saints, so I migrated to the Xbox to see what was streaming.

There was Split Second. I said to myself, what the hell, took a shot in honor of Rutger Hauer, and hit play.

What followed was one of the most confusing debacles I have ever had the pleasure of beholding. I enjoyed it, raucously laughing throughout… but for all the wrong reasons. Many times did I point to the screen like Captain Picard in the famous meme and say: What the fuck?

Or he could be singing opera. You decide.

A movie like this could only have surfaced in the interim between the macho insecurity of 80s melodrama and the cultural uncertainty created by the more modern evisceration of the very norms from which it was conceived.

The movie is set in a dystopian 2008 London. The streets are flooded and infested with rats. Some parts of it are only navigable by boat. Hauer is the quintessential 80s macho cop. His name is Harley Stone. (If Harley had time travelled from 1992 to 2008, the movie could have been a cheap Demolition Man.) His partner, Foster McLaine, was murdered by a serial killer who is still at large, and Stone is still passionately perturbed by this. Not so much so that he could stop himself from sleeping with his partner’s widow, Michelle, played by the eternally gorgeous Kim Cattrall; and, hey, who can blame him?

(My adolescent self often dreamed about such an encounter, and I can’t have been the only one. I wouldn’t have cared if she was a Vulcan. Whether you are male or female, if you are into women, and you grew up watching Kim Cattrall at the cinema, you thought about it. No shame in that. She was an excellent actress in every respect. Thanks, Kim!)

Harley Stone also has a new partner, the stereotypical rookie fresh out of college, with the hilarious porno name Dick Durbin. Seeing as there is not a single reference throughout the whole movie as to why it is called Split Second, I wish they had named it Harley Hates Dick. The old gruff macho guy hates the young nerd from their first encounter. In fact, Harley seems to hate everyone (but Michelle, of course), as he is slamming someone against a wall in almost every other scene, screaming at them about some perceived slight or nuisance.

You may think I am exaggerating for comic effect here when I say every other scene. I am not. This is just how Harley talks to people.

Oblivious Extra: Hey, Harley, you want some coffee?

Harley: (grabs oblivious extra by the face and slams him into the wall) I can pour my own fucking coffee! I work alone!

I said: I. Work. Alone.

Of course, eventually the old, grizzled veteran grows to love Dick.

Finally, we cannot examine this cluttered ruin of 80s action cliches without talking about the serial killer, who also happens to be a monster. Maybe it’s an alien, or an interdimensional being of some sort? Scattered throughout the movie are vague suggestions of occult origins, which Dick tries and fails repeatedly to elucidate.

If you took the head of the alien from Alien, put it onto the body of the predator from Predator, yet somehow made this giant capable of swimming undetected in ankle-deep water, you’d have this monster, which gets very sparing screen time, but was otherwise done well.

This is the basic rundown of the movie, and some of the absurdities it offers. The reader (that’s you) might think I am trying to dissuade you from watching. No. You should watch it… as a comedy. Though it was obviously intended as serious sci-fi horror fare, it doesn’t work at all, and this is what makes it so endlessly amusing. How can a movie with so many excellent actors and such a potentially awesome plot have turned out so bad?

This gives rise to other questions like: were the actors on set asking each other what they had gotten themselves into? Did the writer and director see the treasure trove of puns one could make on "Dick Durbin"? Was the shower scene with Cattrall originally written into the movie, or was it added for the sake of giving it one undeniably redeeming moment?

In any event, may the legendary Rutger Hauer be eternally remembered for better roles, and perhaps thankful, wherever he is, that this one is “lost to time, like tears in rain…”

...or in the shower. Whatever.


About the Creator

C. Rommial Butler

C. Rommial Butler is a writer, musician and philosopher from Indianapolis, IN. His works can be found online through multiple streaming services and booksellers.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran2 years ago

    I enjoyed reading this

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