The Blood of Heroes (1989) — Death sports in the apocalypse

“I don’t like brutality. I like heroics. I like the blood of heroes.”

Justin’s rating: I caught the golden snitchy-poo!

Justin’s review: If civilization as we know it collapsed and the few survivors regressed into agrarian tribes, perhaps the greatest loss would be the firehose of entertainment from which we drink on a daily basis. What would you do for amusement if the world ended and your subscription to Netflix lapsed? Well, you’d probably start up a brutal sports league and go on tour around the wasteland.

That’s exactly what Sallow (Rutger Hauer) and his “jugger” crew (which includes a young Vincent D’Onofrio!) do on a daily basis. They’re an aspiring team for The Game (or “Jugger”), which is sort of like football crossed with medieval combat crossed with a dog’s skull. Their goal? To make it to the big leagues in the underground Nine Cities and prove that they’ve got what it takes to hang in with the best of the best.

If you had to describe this to friends, it’s like Mad Max if everyone in that post-apocalyptic universe stopped to put on barbed wire and play tackle football. Also everyone makes their own protective outfits, can wield weapons, and fight to their heart’s content. And they’re all kind of friends afterward.

Considering how important sports are to cultures throughout human history, it’s actually not that far-fetched of an idea to imagine what a regressive barbaric league would look like. It’s certainly a refreshing change of course from your normal post-apoc film where someone has to go on a quest to find the last can of gasoline or something. Blood of Heroes treats The Game much like you’d see a regular sports movie do so — including a montage — and I think it’s much better for it. As a fictional sport it’s certainly more interesting than, say, Quidditch.

It’s at one of these villages that the team encounters Kidda (played by Twin Peaks’ Joan Chen), who turns out to be a powerhouse player in her own right. When their team’s “Quick” (a fast runner) receives a dire leg injury, Sallow recruits Kidda to take a pretty-good team and make them unstoppable. This really is Kidda’s tale, a kind of Karate Kid for the end of the world where we see a scrappy underdog rise up in the ranks and prove herself. For Sallow, it’s trip of redemption, as he used to be a League player who got kicked out for noodling with a woman he shouldn’t have.

While Blood of Heroes‘ director David Peoples didn’t helm a lot of films, he is pretty acclaimed for writing classics such as Unforgiven, Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, and 12 Monkeys. He knows a good scifi story, is what I’m saying, and it lends this movie more credibility than it would’ve deserved otherwise. While sometimes this film can be literally too dark, the final match is every bit as gripping as Rocky’s. Blood of Heroes was a fun discovery from one of my favorite years of cinema.

Didja notice?

  • The jury-rigged, handmade protective outfits are nicely diverse and well-done
  • What ISN’T allowed in this game?
  • How do you give Dog-Boy a drink? From a cupped hand, of course
  • Slow-mo game with no sound effects is an interesting choice
  • EAR BITE!
  • The underground city is pretty cool
  • The sporadic score is actually really wonderful if you listen for it

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