“People no longer remembered the Golden Age of the 20th Century. They didn’t remember the miraculous technology or the cruel wars that followed. They didn’t remember when Juggers first played The Game or how it came to be played with a dog skull…”
The world in which the movie is set is a barren and bleak post apocalyptic one, one which has been ravaged by great wars that has left the world an empty wasteland. People live in small settlements known as dog-towns and live off what little the land has to offer. Well, either that or they barter for what is needed!
One of the main forms of entertainment is a futuristic sport known as The Game and the people playing it are called Juggers! They wander from town to town challenging each town’s local team. Each team consists of five members, four bulkier ones and a smaller, more agile one called the Qwik. The game is played with a dog skull, which the Qwik is supposed to pick up and place on a stake driven into the ground at the end of the opponent’s side of the playing-field. The other four players are there to protect the Qwik, since he or she isn’t wearing very much in terms of protection, unlike the others who are “heavily” padded! Not that that makes much of a difference, because the sport is brutal as hell! More or less anything goes and yes, weapons are also used. The players basically beat the crap out of each other and their “battle-scars” are nasty and plentiful.
The length of the game is “One hundred stones… three times!” Pretty simple, but let me explain… three hundred small stones are collected and divided evenly into three piles. One person is appointed to throw these stones at a steady pace against a metal surface. The game starts when the first stone is thrown and when “One hundred stones… one time!” is called out, there’s a short break. The game ends either when all three hundred stones are thrown or when the dog skull is placed on the stake.
Sallow, played by the talented Rutger Hauer (Wanted: Dead or Alive, Blade Runner), is the leader and when we first see him and his team, they’re wandering into a small town for their next match. They’re a pretty good team, but on this particular day they play badly or as Sallow puts it… like old ladies, and their Qwik, Dog Boy gets seriously hurt and can’t go on playing.
Dog Boy is played by Justin Monjo who up until 1998 only had smaller parts in various TV movies and series. After that he turned to writing instead.
The other team’s Qwik, Kidda (Joan Chen from Twin Peaks and The Last Emperor) wants to join Sallow’s team instead of their “broken” one and they reluctantly agree to take her in and further train her. Over time they gradually get even better and soon Kidda and one of the other players, Young Gar, wants the attention of The League. As Young Gar, you’ll recognize Vincent D’Onofrio from Full Metal Jacket (he was awesome in that) and Men In Black to name a few.
The League of the Nine Cities is an elite version of the game played in the underground cities and is run by Lord Vile (Hugh Keays-Byrne from Mad Max) and the “aristocracy”. Sallow used to play in the league in the Red City, but was banished for having an affair with one of the finer ladies. The way to get a chance to play against a league-team is to issue a challenge and hope it’ll be accepted.
And if you thought the matches were brutal in the dog towns… they’re nothing compared to the ones played in The League!
The Salute of the Jugger was directed by David Webb Peoples, whose only other directing credit is a short documentary called How we stopped the war. He has however written screenplays for a bunch of other movies, like for instance Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, 12 Monkeys and Leviathan.
The cast is, overall, not bad at all and is pretty solid even in the minor roles. Delroy Lindo (The Hard Way, Get Shorty) as Mbulu and Anna Katarina (The Game, Slaves of New York) as Big Cimber are the other two members in Sallow’s team and Gandhi MacIntyre plays the guy who kind of takes care of them all.
Max Fairchild, who is one of the league-players, Gonzo, was in Mad Max and also had a small part in the sequel The Road Warrior. He only has a few brief scenes in The Salute of the Jugger, but he’s a good actor and I liked him in this!
The first time this movie caught my eye was late in 1989 and I was in one of the many movie-theaters in Copenhagen, Denmark to catch a movie. I’ve forgotten which one I actually watched, but one of the posters for coming attractions was that of The Salute of the Jugger. It looked interesting, so I made a mental note to check it out once it was released, but I’m not sure I ever actually watched it in the theater though. I don’t think I did, but I might be wrong. I mean, it has been 25 years! But watch it I did… many, many times!
It’s been a while since my last viewing, but I used to watch it ALL the time. I loved this movie and knew every line by heart. After watching it again, I found that I still do and also that I still love it! For some reason I never tire of it and if you haven’t seen it before, I highly recommend that you do! Just make sure you DON’T watch the U.S. Blood of Heroes cut, because it’s shortened and is missing the preferred original ending.
So, my friends… that’s all I have for you this week, and as always, if you have any thoughts on my choice of movie… please share them in the comments section below!
Until next time…