Picks and Pans Review: The Blood of Heroes

updated 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen

You'll find a few fascinating moments in this megaviolent futuristic sports movie, but you'll hate yourself in the morning.

Set in a bleak, post-Armageddon landscape, it is about a game called jugging. Most of the film is devoted to watching two teams compete to protect their goalposts. Ostentatiously grim players block, tackle, pummel, kick, gouge, break limbs and generally strive to maim their opponents. It's almost as bad as today's NFL.

But this game is played with a dog skull instead of a football. Most of the players carry clubs. Time is kept by a man tossing rocks at a gong—100 rocks to a period. (If the timekeepers at Madison Square Garden hear about this system, the Knicks will never lose another home game.)

None of the rules are explained, nor is it revealed how the world became such a desolate place, with rigidly stratified societies living far underground as well as in ramshackle surface encampments.

The film was shot in Australia but directed and written by an American, David Peoples. He worked on the script for Blade Runner, which may explain the similarities in mood between that movie about future desperation and this one.

Atmosphere is this production's strength. The story is standard underdog stuff, with Hauer leading an itinerant team of semipro juggers toward a challenge match against some big-leaguers.

Chen, the empress in The Last Emperor, plays a rookie on Hauer's team. While she is so slightly built that it's never convincing when she knocks much larger men around on the field, her stubbornness is good for a voyeuristic kick or two. Vincent Phillip {Full Metal Jacket) D'Onofrio plays Hauer's aggressive young teammate with a Brian Bosworth-like foolish bravado, and Delroy Lindo lends dignity as a weary veteran. (It's a Delroy Lindo festival!)

There are philosophy breaks: "How do you know if you're good enough?" "You know." "What if you're wrong?" "You find out." But a little of that and you're ready for Chen to bite off another ear.

Maybe this is a parody of our taste for brutal entertainment—the final game is an irresistible invitation to cheer for some head bashing. But long after the director has made his point, the stomping continues apace. Nobody dies, so it isn't exactly overkill. It sure is overinjury though. (R)

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