DVD Release Date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I was seven years old as the 1980s drew to a close, so I wasn’t quite old enough to have experienced the glory days of Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger first-hand. I also never latched on to comic books for whatever reason. So Hulk Hogan was it for me – action star, comic book superhero, and all around role model. Unfortunately, my daughter won’t get the chance to share my childhood hero with me, but that’s another column for another time.
Hogan was discovered by WWE head honcho Vince McMahon (along with much of the rest of the world) after a memorable turn on the silver screen in Rocky III in 1982, and it’s somewhat surprising that it took seven years for a film with The Hulkster in the lead role to come out. Boy was it ever worth the wait.
No Holds Barred is easily one of my favorite movies of all-time, despite the fact that it’s objectively pretty bad. In the lead role, Hogan shows his tremendous range by playing a professional wrestler named Rip, the World Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Champion and the biggest ratings draw in the history of TV, pretty much. Rip is also the world’s greatest big brother to Randy (Mark Pellegrino), and donates every second he’s not pummeling opponents like Jake Bullet (Bill Eadie) to his various charitable works. Basically, he’s the second coming. Why yes, Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon are both credited as executive producer here, why do you ask?
Meanwhile, a crooked TV executive named Brell (the really hamming-it-up Kurt Fuller) wants Rip to be exclusive to his network. But of course Rip is already under contract, and more than that, his word is his bond. Brell doesn’t like that answer, and his response is to create an underground fight club type show called “The Battle of the Tough Guys.”
On the first televised broadcast of the new show, an unscheduled participant joins the fray and lays waste to everyone with ease. His name is Zeus (Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister Jr.), and Brell immediately sees dollar signs. Brell wants to pit Zeus and Rip against each other, and when Zeus attacks Randy that’s enough to get Rip’s attention.
Along the way, Rip is given TV Executive Samantha (the lovely Joan Severance) basically to fall in love with, and she plays the typically offensive damsel in distress character that was obviously written by a man with no idea how to write women.
As goofy as this movie obviously is, I actually wouldn’t call it a complete failure. Zeus is an amazing villain, and gave me nightmares as a kid. As far as the story progression, it absolutely works as a wrestling angle: the irresistible force good guy finally meets the immovable object bad guy; bad guy gets built up by beating lots of other guys, and then gets the good guy mad at him by beating up his brother and calling him out in front of a bunch of charity kids when Rip couldn’t fight back. Rip wants his revenge, so the match is set. Zeus even has a great mouthpiece in Brell to really build up the impending clash.
The problem is that while this structure would work as a wrestling angle, those are usually spaced out amongst several segments over a few weeks or months. No Holds Barred is a 91-minute film that crams in all that storytelling and adds in stock characters and some bizarre miscellaneous scenes, and it really doesn’t work.
Also, spoiler alert, but how crazy is it that Rip literally kills two men on national TV in front of a crowd, and then everyone just cheers for him?