Split Second (1992) — Rutger Hauer returns to cyberpunk

“Are you telling me there’s something running around loose in the city, ripping out people’s hearts and eating them so he can take their souls back to hell?”

Justin’s rating: The dog knows everything

Justin’s review: One of the reasons that I find cult cinema more fascinating than the mainstream is that it’s all about second chances. It’s about giving a failure or overlooked story a chance to redeem itself and overcome poor (and hasty) first impressions or bad initial timing. Split Second is exactly the sort of movie that deserved to be remembered after it was here-and-gone in early 1992. What you’ll find here is a startlingly good cyberpunk film noir tale that’s as daring as it is cheesy, as good-looking as it is bloody.

Rutger Hauer is best-known for portraying the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner, and so it’s good to see him back in another techno-metro landscape. Here he’s Harley Stone, an emotionally damaged detective who lost his partner to a serial killer years ago and has become obsessed to the point of lunacy in getting revenge. He’s the type of brusque cop who everyone loves even though he’s a complete jerk to all around them, wearing sunglasses and never giving a work colleague a friendly “How’s it hanging?”

It could be that his mood is soured by his station in life, which is to police a semi-flooded London where it’s almost perpetually night. Let me tell you right now that the setting and atmosphere of this film is worth the price of admission all by itself. It’s drenched in terrific visuals that tells me the filmmakers spent a whole lot of time and effort trying to make an alternate world that feels lived in and real. I loved how half the streets are flooded up to the actors’ ankles, which looks really neat every time they speed through with cars or stomp through alleys.

When bodies start showing up without hearts in them, Stone is convinced that his old nemesis is back for another murder spree. He gets a new partner/babysitter for this mission, a serial killer expert called Dick Durkin (Neil Duncan). Poor Durkin gets the unenviable job of being the nerdy, earnest nice guy while being the butt of Stone’s abrasive behavior. But they stick together, because Stone also has some sort of psychic connection with the killer due to his previous encounter with him.

Split Second is an easy target for critics to point out how over-the-top it can get, and… yeah, it totally can. It’s more of a comic book-style movie where looking impressive and making over-exaggerated gestures are par for the course. But it’s also, as I said, a great watch. I’ll take cheesy over boring, especially if that cheese is married with some, er, savory sauce? I don’t know what I was going with that.

What I’m saying is that there’s a lot more here than a few scenes that everyone likes to mock. It’s moody, it’s littered with loads of character actors doing their best, and it’s even appropriately tense. It’s no big secret here that the killer isn’t human — or even, possibly, of this world. It’s certainly nothing that either of these men are prepared to face, but face it they shall. The creature is hinted at being demonic, coming up through the sewers, but it definitely looks a lot like Alien’s xenomorph or Venom from Spider-Man. Just, you know, with a giant motorcycle-style visor for some reason.

After finally realizing that they’re hunting big game, Stone and Durkin gear up with the biggest guns the police precinct has to offer, chomp on some cigars, and head out for a showdown. By then, this partnership has really gelled with a lot of great back-and-forth comradery and equal determination to put this creature down for good.

As long as you don’t demand perfection or strict cohesiveness, you’re going to have a good time with Split Second. It really is one of those rare lost gems of the early ’90s that’s worth excavating.

Didja notice?

  • “40 days and 40 nights of rain” caused a flood? You’re not being exactly subtle there, movie.
  • Round sunglasses are such a ’90s thing
  • The ever-present water on the roads (and hovercraft!) makes for a neat setting, although you’d think they’d learn about ramps.
  • Good cops talk while chewing cigars and disturb the crime scene
  • When you’re looking for witnesses, wildly brandish your oversized pistol at a crowd
  • He’s the kind of cop who talks to dogs. That’s not weird.
  • He’s been fired from every job he’s had, yet he’s “the best?” I think your standards are a little low there.
  • Fresh heart delivery!
  • At some point, guys, you’re going to need to clean up that bathroom
  • Heh I love that he’s following him so closely he lightly rams into him when they stop
  • Even the rat gets it
  • The pigeons in his apartment attacking her is pretty funny. And they like his hammock!
  • Apparently Kim Cattrall filmed this right after Star Trek VI, which is why she has the same haircut
  • I don’t know why police jeeps are cool but police jeeps are cool
  • He ties his partner’s shoelaces together and triggers the alarm. That’s hilarious.
  • Don’t try to give your mentally disturbed partner a massage while driving
  • Durkin going slightly crazy after seeing the monster is a funny scene
  • Those are some big guns
  • At least he got the rat!
  • He doesn’t seem to be quite that perturbed by having his chest carved up in to a map
  • Blowing up a monster is always a good time to grab a quick smooch

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