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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Split Second': A Monstrous Disaster

May 05, 1992|CHRIS WILLMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's hard to think of a less satisfying creature feature in recent memory than the simply terrible "Split Second" (citywide), which by the end not only has allowed few glimpses of the beast in question but hasn't even explained where the big guy came from or what kind of animus, supernatural or otherwise, is responsible for its strange m.o. It's a monstrous cheat.

The most obvious models for this quasi-sci-fi are the "Predator" movies, with gullible audiences as the intended prey. The toothsome, sentient, 10-foot-tall creature (unwritten law has dictated that all movie monsters be 10 feet tall ever since "Alien") is devouring the hearts of random victims in London, circa 2008. Lucky for the Brits, Schwarzenegger surrogate Rutger Hauer is on the case, as a guilt-wracked detective determined to track down the thing that killed his partner.

Though Hauer's presence stirs inevitable echoes of "Blade Runner," we don't find out much more about the future here than we do about the monster, after an opening crawl offers some nonsense about global warming effects having put most of London underwater. (A few inches of water, that is; this ain't "Thunderball.") We do also learn that there's a bothersome rat epidemic, and co-star Kim Cattrall even calls the monster "rat bastard!," among other epithets--although, when finally, fleetingly glimpsed, the ugly fella looks a lot less like a giant rodent than just another H. R. Giger rip-off.

Being the usual renegade cop, Hauer is forced to take a partner on the case, an academic type played fussily by Neil Duncan, ensuring the picture its full quotient of buddy-movie cliches. Duncan starts reading up on the occult--as the psycho-beast apparently uses its claws to leave very legible English messages and mystical symbols in blood--and eventually decides the unearthly killer must be Satan himself. Responds artillery-laden Hauer: "Well, Satan is in deep. . . ."

So is anyone who plunks money down expecting entertainment from "Split Second" (MPAA-rated R for violence and quick nudity). Still, students of appropriation might want to see a movie that borrows this unashamedly from so many before it, even films as unworthy as "The January Man" (dig the way the cops lay a zodiac sign over a map to piece together the murder sites).

And students of absurdism, if no one else, will appreciate a horror picture scored in large part by instrumental and vocal versions of the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" (with the title misspelled as "Knights" in the credits, no less).

'Split Second'

Rutger Hauer: Harley Stone

Neil Duncan: Dick Dirkin

Kim Cattrall: Michele

Michael J. Pollard: The Rat Catcher

A Muse Productions B.V. presentation of a Challenge production, released by InterStar Releasing. Director Tony Maylam. Producer Laura Gregory. Executive producers Keith Cavele, Chris Hanley. Screenplay Gary Scott Thompson. Cinematographer Clive Tickner. Editor Dan Rae. Costumes Antoinette Gregory. Music Stephen Parsons, Francis Haines. Production design Chris Edwards. Creature effects Stephen Norrington. Additional sequences directed by Ian Sharp. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

MPAA-rated R.

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