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Saturday, 12 January 2013

SALUTE OF THE JUGGER (1989)

One of the many cheap sci-fi movies Rutger Hauer starred in after the genre-defining success of Blade Runner, Salute Of The Jugger (aka The Blood of Heroes) carries fond memories with it; Memories of video rental shops, the awesome cover art and the buzz around the film when it came out. Well, three years or so after it came out anyway, as I was only ten when it arrived.

When I was becoming aware of movies with 19 Certificate stickers on them, this was one that people talked about a lot (Like Dark Angel or Robot Jox), due to the weird status thing that went along with having seen a film you were too young for.

It took me until my twenties to actually see the film, and now in my thirties I'm re-watching it thanks to a cheap movies channel and a Tivo spree I went on the other night. So what do we have here? Salute of the Jugger is up there with Split Second and Wedlock as entertaining Hauer fare from roundabout the same era, but this time we're in a proper sci-fi b-movie setting: The archetypal post-apocalyptic wasteland (shot this time in Australia).

Brutal sportsmen called Juggers basically roam the wastes of the old world and beat each other to death with big sticks, chains and anything else they have scavenged from wrecks and assorted junk. Think Mad Max meets Gladiators and you pretty much have the whole film.

It has the feel of earlier films, 1970s/early 1980s fare which exploded in the wake of the Mad Max films (post-apocalyptic stuff was cheap to do – all you need is desert and some junk!), and to me it makes it feel kinda timeless.

The fact there's so little in the way of futuristic technology works in its favour, making it feel both classic and distant, like a Star Wars Fight Club. Also starring Joan Chen as a fellow Jugger, the film follows Hauer and Chen as they battle their way through round after round, working towards the ultimate showdown in the underground cities where the affluent survivors of humanity live and are entertained by brutal bloodsports.

A good sight more bleak than a lot of similar sci-fi movies of the era, Salute of the Jugger holds up well thanks to the limited budget being used wisely onscreen and due to the hard-edged plight of the characters. Not perfect by a long way, Salute of the Jugger is still worth a watch when you're in the mood for some dust, dirt, Rutger Hauer and lengthy fight sequences with plenty of impact.

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