Like most people who like films, I was saddened yesterday to hear of the death of Rutger Hauer. Seventy five seems far too young for an actor who I’m sure could have rocked his way through old age with gusto.
A revered stalwart of what I suppose you might call the “Fuck yeah! [insert name here] is in this film!” fellowship over the past four decades, I am sad to see him go.
I’m aware of course that Hauer had a mighty rep as a serious actor in The Netherlands, particularly with regard to his regular appearances in Paul Verhoeven’s pre-Hollywood films, and his subsequent role in Nicolas Roeg’s ‘Eureka’, but, having not seen any of those films at the time of writing, I’m forced to admit that I know Hauer the same way most cult movie fans do: as an all-conquering b-movie beast of the ‘80s and ‘90s, seemingly ready to wield a machine gun and get a peroxide buzz-cut for anyone willing to hand him a cheque, and reliably dishing out a mess of scene-stealing bad guy / anti-hero business in the process.
A few highlights that immediately spring to mind include:
The Hitcher (1986) – Hauer plays the relentless, nigh on supernaturally efficient psychopath at the centre of Robert Harmon and Eric Red’s relentless, nigh on supernaturally efficient suspense thriller. Sadly, some kind of copyright wranglings or right-holder issues have seem to have led to ‘The Hitcher’ enjoying a lower profile than it deserves in recent years, but readers who have not seen it are urged to do what they must to track a copy down. They won’t be disappointed.
Split Second (1992) – Probably my absolute favourite bad ‘90s sci-fi movie, ‘Split Second’ features Hauer as an ultra-macho, rule-breaking cop with requisite trench-coat, mirror shades and obsession with “BIG FUCKING GUNS”, stalking his way through a flooded, dystopian future London which looks suspiciously similar to actual, 1992 London, eating greasy breakfasts in run-down bars and battling some kind of baffling conglomeration of elements borrowed from ‘Alien’, ‘Predator’ and… some random Satanic cult movie? Feeling very much like an unusually knuckleheaded ‘90s 2000AD strip brought to life, ‘Split Second’ is more fun than just about anything else I can possibly imagine, and, unlike ‘The Hitcher’, you can probably buy a beautifully restored copy for peanuts without even leaving your chair. Life is good!
Salute of the Jugger (1989) – To be honest, I’ve not actually seen this Australian post-apocalyptic sports movie(!), in which Hauer plays the lead alongside Joan Chen of ‘Twin Peaks’ fame, since the VHS era. I remember really enjoying it though, and I’ve recently acquired a copy, so look forward to re-visiting it. Maybe this weekend? Should work well with the hot weather, right? I can scarcely wait.
As readers will no doubt be aware, Rutger Hauer also memorably appeared in another sci-fi movie in the early 1980s, in which he delivered a striking, allegedly improvised, soliloquy on the nature of mortality which few have ever forgotten.
Something tells me one or two other obituaries may be liable to pick up on that one though, so… we won’t go the obvious route here. Let’s face it, you can probably all recite it by this point.