The Eliminator (2004)

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Bas Rutten could’ve been a star on a level with…well, not the Rock, but easily a Stone Cold Steve Austin or John Cena. He’s a super-charismatic Dutch mixed martial artist, and I think he came along a few years too early, leaving MMA just before it experienced its biggest wave of popularity (in the US, at least). He’s commentated on numerous MMA events and spent 10 years as host of TV show “Inside MMA”, and his own commentary on his career fight retrospective DVD is really entertaining – acting seemed a natural progression for someone with his gifts, but aside from an apparent long-lasting friendship with Kevin James (Rutten appeared on “King Of Queens”, and has made appearances in James’ movies regularly since then), that career never really took off. I imagine it must have been deliberate on his part, as if he’d wanted a career like recent Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme, ploughing through swathes of Eastern European extras in Sofia, Bulgaria, he could have easily had one.

 

Before we get to the review, a word on “The Most Dangerous Game”, which I reference all the time as it’s one of the simplest and cheapest templates for low-budget cinema. It was a short story from 1924, written by Richard Connell, and is about a big-game hunter who finds himself shipwrecked on a deserted island, where he himself is hunted by Russian aristocrat, General Zaroff. All you need is some forest and a handful of actors (and preferably some scenes in a mansion, to let you know the villain is rich and evil), and you’ve got yourself a movie. Just in terms of ISCFC reviews, we’ve covered the 2014 version of “Turkey Shoot”, Donald Farmer’s “Deadly Run”, Roddy Piper gem “Immortal Combat”, Steve Austin’s “The Condemned” and 2009’s “The Tournament”; there are literally hundreds of others.

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“The Eliminator” starts off with a boat race, organised by wealthy scumbag businessman Dawson (Michael Rooker, who’s far too good / menacing to be in something as trashy as this). While the speedboats move round the Everglades-style location, we’re treated to their trash-talking dialogue to each other (which sounds like it was recorded via intercom), and I think it qualifies for some sort of “worst dialogue in movie history” award, or at the very least a nomination. Rutten is the totally normally named Dakota Varley, a former LAPD officer, and he wins; but before he can collect his $250,000 (for some random-ass boat race? I seriously question this movie’s grasp on cash), he’s drugged and wakes up in a plane above an island along with six other people in cages, where he’s shoved out with nothing more than a parachute.

 

The twist on the formula here is it’s a bet between a bunch of super-rich assholes, each of whom has found a “champion” – one a guerrilla fighter; one a drug-dealer’s main enforcer; a soldier; and so on. They’re gathered up and told that the last survivor gets $10,000,000, but they’ll be hunted at night by guys armed with rifles, rifles which for some reason only have two bullets each in them. They can kill each other at any time they like, and with those two simple instructions they’re sent off into the forest. A lot of this is an opportunity for Rutten to show off his fighting skills, which are extraordinary – his first big fight is against former UFC star Marco Ruas, and I get the feeling the director just pointed a few cameras at them and told them to go for it. Rutten seems at ease here, quipping to his stoney-faced opponent, and it’s only from here on out that you get a flavour of the charisma he has in spades.

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He befriends Jesse (Paul Logan, who looks a little like a ripped Jerry O’Connell), who’s a solid guy, and also Santha (Danielle Burgio), the freedom fighter, who perhaps seems a little too friendly? Anyway, people run round the forest, make plans, get shot and occasionally do some shooting, and the rich bastards plot away against each other and exchange some terrible dialogue as their champions are eliminated.

 

The basic plot of the movie is solid, so you’re sort of okay on that front, but it’s let down not so much by the acting (most of them are pro fighters, what do you expect) but by the directing and script. The director is Ken Barbet, who’s employed other MMA guys in his other movies, and he’s both a bad director and was given a very low budget (take the awful CGI for the long shots of the island, when it would have been vastly simpler to use some stock footage of an actual island). The writer, David Neilsen, was in the same line of work as me in the very early days of the internet, under the moniker “Self-Made Critic”, starting in 1997 (don’t bother visiting his site now, it’s been parked by some Chinese spammer). He was so unusual in those days that he actually got some work in real movies, much like that idiot from Ain’t It Cool News, and this represents his sole full-length writing work. I feel bad that he got the chance to write an actual movie, and this is good as he could manage, with its pathetic banter and beyond-predictable twists and turns.

 

I’ll give you an example of a logic hole and see what you think. It’s revealed near the end that Dawson is actually arranging the whole contest as well as entering into it, and he’s stacked the deck a little in his own favour. Now, if I was a rich guy, and wanted to bet on human-hunting, but knew the guy organising the tournament was cheating to allow himself to win, I’d probably think twice about participating more than once, and would also tell all my rich friends not to bother. Poor business model, my friend! I’ll also provide you with an example of “someone should have checked this crap before they released it”, and the below graphic, which is one of the “introduce the fighter” screens from near the beginning. Here it is, and let’s see if you can spot the mistakes:

untitledYes, as well as being unable to spell “interrogator”, they also misspell the name of the most famous drug cartel in the world, but in a way that sounds like the graphics guy was just told it rather than having it written down for him, then never bothered to check. “Medy Yeins” = “Medellin”, which had been disbanded for ten years by that point but never mind.

 

I could turn this site into one dedicated to solely covering riffs on “The Most Dangerous Game”, do 3-4 reviews a week and not run out for years, and this would be solidly below-average when it came to the final reckoning. I like Bas Rutten, and think Danielle Burgio is really good too, and of course Michael Rooker is always fun to watch, but it’s so leaden and predictable. Only of interest if you’ve seen all Bas Rutten’s actual MMA fights and want to watch him kick a bunch of ass.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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