Its coming outta the Goddam Couch! : Split Second (1992)

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“Operator? Get my Agent!”

There’s a scene in Split Second in which our hero’s love interest, Michelle (Kim Cattrall) is sitting in her lover’s apartment being stalked by the monster, and she’s frantically sweeping the room with her gun for sign of the menace, when its huge claws rip up from inside/under the couch she’s sitting on… utterly ridiculous and nonsensical (this thing is ten or twelve foot tall but it can sneak up out of the sofa?) this moment sums up the whole sad, silly film.

Its a very cheap, very dumb British sci-fi film trying so very hard to be an American action thriller, heavily indebted to Blade Runner and Predator and Alien, set in an unconvincing flooded future London with a plot and characters that come across as pure unadulterated fan fiction: the kind of thing where being adult is saying the F-word endlessly, so much so that this film may have the most F-bombs of any film I’ve ever seen. The kind of film where sophistication and ‘cool’ is mistaken for chomping cigars and eating junk food. Its the kind of film that can star actors like Rutger Hauer and Kim Cattrall and waste them completely.

I have Rutger Hauer’s book All Those Moments, in which he reminisces about his film career. I just searched through it for any mention of Split Second. I don’t know what I expected. Maybe some self-deprecating comment, some wry humour, some telling anecdote. But no. No mention at all. Maybe Rutger was trying to pretend it never happened. Maybe his book only had so many pages permitted and some topics/films just had to be cut. Maybe he had forgotten it.

I’ll be honest, I was rather disappointed. His memories of making a film like Split Second would be fascinating, I think. We are used to hearing actors talk about their finest moments, their greatest films (for obvious reasons), but I suspect we might learn the most telling things about them if they talked more about their mistakes, their embarrassments. Tom Cruise, for instance, has never, to my knowledge, ever reminisced about starring in Ridley Scott’s Legend– its a film he’d clearly rather forget and strike from his filmography. Indeed, maybe dear Tom has absolutely forgotten that film, had it excised from his memory totally I’m not so sure Rutger would be like that regards Split Second; he seemed the kind of guy that wore all his films like some badge of honour: proud of his finest hours, pragmatic about his more embarrassing efforts. Goodness knows he had plenty of the latter: so many times in the 1980s and 1990s I was horrified in seeing his face on the cover of some straight-to-VHS b-movie fodder, far too many times.

The guy was Roy Batty. I always thought he deserved better, but then again, I was an LA 2019 obsessive. Everyone who was involved in that film was touched by greatness, in my book.

So how to explain Rutger in trash like Split Second, a film so bad even its title doesn’t bear any connection with anything in the film itself, it feels so absolutely random, nonsensical. I suppose Rutger was practical. He needed the money, it was a job, you can’t expect every film to be a Solder of Orange or Blade Runner or LadyHawke or The HItcher (moment of confession: I only ever saw one of those. There are so many films of Rutger’s that I have to catch up with).

I find it so very difficult to say anything positive about Split Second. It seems well-intentioned, but the story is so weak, the direction so amateur, it feels like something based on a very dated, very poor 1970s comic strip so obscure most people forgot it and it got handed to a creative team still in film school. Rutger is hamstrung by a very poorly written, cliche-ridden character, but he’s also actually very good in it: you can see a wry gleam in his eye at times, like he knows he’s in a piece of trash only dreaming that its Blade Runner (and God knows he was in that, so he’d know the difference) and that he’s going to have fun with it anyway. There’s a gentleness to Rutger: you could see it in his Roy Batty even though he was ostensibly that films villain. Rutger deserved his own franchise, his own Indiana Jones series of films.  He could have been great in it.

KIm Cattrall of course is as sexy as ever- she just exudes this aura in everything she did, and that’s true even in something as poor as this- the film suddenly brightens, quickens, somehow, as soon as she (eventually) appears in it. The film  missed a trick not bringing her appearance forward by about half-hour. Indeed, she perhaps shouldn’t have been Rutger’s lover at all, but rather his buddy cop. She must have come to the set straight adter appearing in Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country, because I swear she’s wearing the same hair-do. That’s one of the most interesting things I can say about Split Second, its that poor a movie.

Split Second is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

9 thoughts on “Its coming outta the Goddam Couch! : Split Second (1992)

  1. Ah, well, you know what I thought of this. It’s a bit “so bad it’s good”, to me, in part because I think there’s an awareness from the cast that it’s nonsensical. The relish with which Hauer and Alastair Duncan chew the scenery in some of their exchanges (“bigger guns!”) smacks of two actors who no longer give a fuck and are having fun. Heck, there’s even a bit where one of them starts laughing for real, and they kept it in the movie.

    All of which said, if I were a powerful filmmaker, I’d love to remake this. I think there’s some decent ideas buried underneath it all. I mean, we’re not talking Citizen Kane, but a buddy-cop sci-fi/horror thriller? Yep.

    1. I can see where you’re coming from -hell, I’ll champion Lifeforce until Hell freezes over- but I struggled to find anything much worthwhile in Split Second other than the two leads. I think part of the problem was too much ambition, exceeding both the budget and the expertise of the crew/director – in which case its surely the producer/s to blame, really. The script really needed to be stripped down to something more manageable and serviceable by the budget and scale of production; drop a lot of the sub-plots and background stuff, bare it back to just a rogue cop hunting the monster. I’m reminded of how Alien was stripped down to the very basic monster-on-the-loose stuff, right down to dropping the cocoon sequence and much of the character stuff (they could have stripped back more, as I actually think all the “Goddam Company!”/Ash is a goddam robot stuff muddles the film anyway).

      I was also annoyed by some of the buddy-cop tropes (putting Hauer’s character with an academic rookie was too obvious), and the romance angle was unnecessary and too complicated with its back-story. No offence to the guy who played Hauer’s partner (he would actually have been great as the Precinct Boss) but Cattrall should have been his new partner and then the magic might have happened with the two playing off each other. Of course that might have been a different movie altogether and my comments enrage the writer/director but that’s just what I thought. I guess everyone involved did the best they could with Split Second- it clearly isn’t a half-hearted effort no matter how unimpressed I was.

      Can you add a review of the Japanese cut when you see it (I think its on the Blu-ray as an extra?) it apparently has all sorts of extra scenes with Hauer’s partners girlfriend, I’d be curious if that helps the film or not.Its telling that they cut all of that, when I think they could have cut much more. Different cuts can be fascinating.

      1. To be honest, I’m in no rush to watch the Japanese cut — it’s in SD full-frame with burnt-in Japanese subs! Fortunately, they’ve included the extra scenes as a separate extra, so I’ll check them out sometime. But they only run 4.5 minutes, so I can’t imagine they change things too much.

      2. Hmm. hardly a game-changer then if its just a few very short scenes. Makes me wonder why they chose to keep them for the Japanese cut- there must have been some valid reason for it. To be fair though, Had Blade Runner back in 1982 had a Japanese cut 4 – 5 mins longer than the European cut… it would have driven me nuts trying to hunt it down.

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    RH’s presence on any VHS cover in the 1980s and 90s was reason enough not to watch it.

    That Alan Partridge joke about a Hauer / Malcolm McDowell SF movie he was imagining was spot-on.

    1. I vividly recall being endlessly horrified by seeing what films Hauer got himself involved in. He certainly lucked out on Blade Runner and certainly those early films of his really suggested great things ahead of him that his career choices/Agents advice didn’t live up to. But every gig’s a pay-cheque and money off the mortgage, I suppose. Just ask the likes of Nic Cage.

      I maintain Hauer could have been great though had he made better choices/been offered better roles- he could only control one of those two though so it possibly wasn’t his fault. And maybe some of those films were indeed great. There’s a few suspicious-looking ones on Amazon Prime, though…

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