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Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Monday, December 21, 2009

No Holds Barred (1989)

No Holds Barred (1989)

Written By: Dennis Hackin

Directed By: Thomas J. Wright

Starring: Hulk Hogan, Joan Severance, Kurt Fuller, Tony ‘Tiny’ Lister

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
The name says it all. Hulk Hogan. There has never been, nor do I expect there ever to be, a bigger name in the world of professional wrestling. Sure, you all have the list of names you could rattle off that compare, but EVERYBODY in the world has heard of Hulk Hogan. He’s a former five-time World Wrestling Federation Champion that starred as Thunderlips in Rocky III and made the terms WrestleMania and Hulkamania household and global. Say what you will about the state of his current situations, he’s still Hulk Fucking Hogan.

So it should come as no surprise that Vince McMahon and the WWF wanted to capitalize in any way they could on the Hulkster’s ever-growing popularity. The fastest and easiest way in the business of pro wrestling to get that license to print money is to merchandise the hell out of your talents. Hulkamania wouldn’t be what it was if you didn’t market the man to a wider demographic by slapping his face on everything you possibly could. There were Hulk Hogan action figures, water guns, coin banks, t-shirts, pants, championship belts, headbands, teddy bears, Frisbees, alarm clocks, watches, shoes, hats, slippers, and toothbrushes, and that’s just what I recall in my collection. Of course, it should go without saying by this point, that there were Hulk Hogan movies, too. In fact, both Hogan and McMahon recognized the need to make Hulk an even bigger star than he had already grown to be. So after Hogan’s appearance in Rocky III, the crew went to work on another cinematic epic of altogether different proportions: No Holds Barred.

The term itself is a vintage wrestling colloquialism about a knockdown, drag-out donnybrook between bitter rivals. So just by hearing it attached to the name Hulk Hogan, you would assume you’re in for a thrill ride of epic clashes between Hogan and evil villains in some phantom outlaw world. Sadly, this would actually be the plot of a slightly less and slightly better Hogan film, Suburban Commando. No Holds Barred, however, decided to rest comfortably on the idea that they could be completely unimaginative, stupid, and campy and still get by on Hulk Hogan as a legitimate action star. The following evidence supports this case.

Hogan plays Rip, the World Wrestling Federation Champion and most popular number one super guy in all the known world. He’s the biggest star and everybody, especially competing television networks, is desperate to get Rip for a ratings plug. Did Hogan executive produce this so that he could play a character that is an even more egotistical version of himself? Actually, yes, he did.

Rip is the essential “say your prayers, eat your vitamins” version of Hogan that most of us grew up with. He fights the bad guys in the ring and gives back to his many charities and friends in his off-times. You’d never once stop to think what would happen if Rip had children that were untalented moochers who live off of his money so they can crash cars and record shitty music albums. No, that would be too much like Hogan. He’s playing Rip, a better version of…himself. Big stretch there. Rip’s influence on the world is borderline orgasmic to everyone he comes in contact with, but more on that later. For now, we’ll stay focused on the World Television Network, a rival station (though it is never made clear what channel the WWF is being broadcast on, either) and its crude owner, Mr. Brell. Brell has a vision in which everyone who isn’t on the same wavelength as he is immediately becomes a “jockass” (his words, not mine) and we should do anything possible to lure Rip to the network.

Brell, played by Kurt “I played a network executive in Wayne’s World, also” Fuller, is a total dick. He does everything in his power to treat his people like garbage, making sexist and sometimes racist remarks to them whilst never losing track of his quest to keep Rip exclusive to WTN. He even goes so far as to hire Rip a new publicist, Samantha, played by Joan “I feel like I was paid for this movie in” Severance. Not surprisingly, after weeks of following Rip around on the road attempting to seduce him over to the WTN and Brell, Samantha falls for the giant oaf. After all, what’s not to love about Rip? As if his already mammoth reputation hasn’t won you over, he’s a listing of some other things he can do through the course of cinema magic:
-Makes footprint indentations on the outside of limousines by kicking them from the inside
-Explodes through sunroofs with Michael Jordan-esque vertical leaps
-Terrifies toadies into shitting themselves on cue for comedic effect
-Speaks fluent French
-Creates hilarious anecdotes while oiled up and naked (side note: I got to see Hulk Hogan’s ASS way too many times in this movie)
-Saves restaurants and diners with his impeccable chair throwing technique
-Sets off pyrotechnics by throwing barbells at neon signs and mirrors
-Cures Cancer (probably)

With all of his plans blowing up, Brell decides to create the incredibly homoerotic “Battle of the Tough Guys” in an attempt to lure Rip to his network. Somehow, this shoot fighting, mixed-martial arts style of competition draws big ratings, especially when Brell introduces a cross-eyed monster by the name of Zeus. Zeus terrorizes opponents in the ring, and women and children out of it. He nearly cripples Rip’s brother Randy until Rip agrees to fight Zeus one-on-one on Brell’s network. What follows is a long, boring match that starts in a wrestling ring (despite advertisements of no ring, referee, or rules, which clearly, all three are present) and ends when Zeus tumbles a few stories to his assumed death while Brell finds a new and interesting way to electrocute himself to death. Nobody seems to care about Rip’s multiple homicide caught on tape, as the film ends in that generally awesome everybody loves everybody way that the 80’s made famous.

Quote of the Film:
“Dookie?” -Rip
Final Thoughts:
Its funny, because if you really wanted to delve into the complete and total works that this movie has to offer, you’d recognize that WWF inadvertently predicted their own latent competition with the rise of MMA and UFC in the states. Sure, it isn’t a Battle of the Tough Guys, but you get the picture. While I criticize this movie for being unimaginative, I do so for the all-to-obvious combination of Hogan and McMahon failing to come up with something different from their everyday lives. Did you know that they sat in a hotel room for three days completely rewriting this script when they didn’t like the first draft? And this is what they came up with? In the months that followed, Hogan feuded with Zeus on WWF television at both SummerSlam and the Survivor Series, until what was supposed to be a one-on-one encounter at WrestleMania VI. But when box office and pay-per-view receipts turned up less than expected, Vince McMahon axed the idea and went with the backup plan of having Hulk Hogan defend the World title against the up and coming Ultimate Warrior. I wonder how that ended?