Peter’s Retro Reviews: Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)

July 14, 2011

Wanted: Dead or Alive posterby Peter Nielsen

During the 80’s there seemed to be a slew of good Rutger Hauer-movies being released at regular intervals. Nighthawks, Blade Runner, The Hitcher, Flesh & Blood, Ladyhawke, Blind Fury and of course Wanted: Dead or Alive… Take your pick! He had a good stint in the 90’s too with Split Second and Wedlock for instance, and he’s still going strong! Just take a look at Hobo with a Shotgun! And by the way!  In case you haven’t guessed it yet… I’m a Rutger Hauer fan!

And since I’ve also been a huge fan of the rock-group KISS for the last 30+ years, this movie was a double-whammo since Gene Simmons plays the terrorist Malak Al Rahim in it. Mr. Simmons doesn’t really need an introduction does he? Ok, for those of you who don’t know, he’s the co-founder and bass-player in KISS and has also dabbled a little as an actor in movies, such as Runaway, Never Too Young to Die and this one! He’s deliciously evil here, as the first thing Malak Al Rahim does is blow up a movie-theater full of people, just to announce his arrival in the U.S.

Malak Al Rahim in kind of a precarious situation...

Malak Al Rahim in kind of a precarious situation…

Nick Randall is an ex-CIA operative who’s dealt with Malak before. He now works as a bounty-hunter to earn enough money to retire and enjoy life on his boat, together with his girlfriend Terry. She’s played by Mel Harris from K-9 and Thirtysomething, among other things. Nick is planning on catching a couple more bad guys and then getting out of that line of business all together. His best friend and contact inside the police-force, Danny, doesn’t believe he can retire and teases him about it from time to time. Danny is played by William Russ (American History X and Disorganized Crime).

Nick is contacted by Phil Walker, a former colleague from his time in the bureau and also a long-time friend, because they need his help in catching Malak Al Rahim. There’s a big reward in it for him which will earn him enough for his retirement, so he agrees. What none of them knows is that Randall’s former boss, Lipton, played by Jerry Hardin (Deep Throat from The X-files), is only using him as bait to lure out the wanted terrorist. They figure that since Malak wants Randall dead, it’s their best bet. This of course fails miserably and when Nick and Phil finds out, they are understandably a teensy-weensy bit pissed off at Lipton. Phil puts it best when he so eloquently says: “Next time you decide to f**k me, Lipton… Kiss me first!”

Anyone else need a shave?

Anyone else need a shave?

Robert Guillaume is great as Phil and is a guy you’d want to have on your side, ‘cuz he takes crap from no-one. Mr. Guillaume is perhaps best known as the butler Benson from the hit TV-series from the late 70’s: Soap and subsequently also the spin-off from that, simply called Benson.

Now Malak has two goals… the terrorist-attack he has planned and also to kill Nick, now that he knows where to find him. I won’t divulge too much, but things turn nasty and personal as Malak exacts his revenge and Nick sets out to catch him. The final showdown is taut and exciting, but it ends on kind of a bitter-sweet note. I don’t mean this as a bad thing, it’s just that with the way things turn out, it’s not your typical Hollywood ending.

Wanted: Dead or Alive is a great action-thriller, albeit a slow-paced one. This by no means makes it a boring one. Oh, no… quite the contrary. What I mean is, that the action is not there just for action’s sake. Things happen for a reason and it’s not over-done. The reason it’s slow-paced is Nick Randall himself. That’s just the way he is! He’s an ex-CIA agent, remember? He’s calm and very methodical when he takes care of business. He thinks things through, which makes him very good at what he does and Rutger Hauer nails this perfectly.

So… would I recommend this? Yes, of course! I’ve seen it numerous times and I don’t think I’m done with it just yet. If you do decide to watch it, you’re in for a great ride and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. But hey, that’s just my opinion of course!

Until next time, my friends…


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