From the Archive – Hellbound (1993)

“Mess with this Chicago cop and there’s hell to pay.”

Directed by Aaron Norris
Starring Chuck Norris, Calvin Levels, and no one else of the slightest consequence.

Not Hellraiser II, but a film widely considered to be one of Chuck Norris’ worst. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

We open with a prophecy regarding the emissary of Satan, a demon named Prosatanus, which makes sense – he’s pro-Satan – but still sounds a whole lot too much like ‘prostate’ to be really frightening coming from anyone but your doctor. Apparently a shining knight under the banner of a lion will vanquish him and entomb him for the requisite thousand years. Sure enough, Richard the Lionheart shows up, does the entombing and rescues some random princeling, then breaks Prosatanus’ sceptre of plot into nine pieces.

Flash forward to the fifties, and two greedy tomb robbers remove the jewelled daggers holding the lid of Prosatanus’ sarcophagus. D’oh!

Flash forward again, and streetwise, wisecracking, pimp-hating cops Shatter (Norris) and Jackson (Levels) are exercising their own brand of rough justice on the mean streets of Chicago when Prosatanus kills a Rabbi and throws a prostitute out of a window onto their car; as you do. Prosatanus escapes despite being shot, and what with one thing and another the two cops are told to escort the Rabbi’s body back to Israel. The usual warnings from authority figures not to get involved are given and ignored.

Shatter and Jackson hook up with the requisite love interest – a pretty archaeologist whose boss turns out to be a demon – and the requisite cute street urchin.

Prosatanus gets his sceptre back and tries to sacrifice the love interest. He is introduced to a world of hurting via the sharp end of every Chuck Norris joke there is, and a mysterious bearded man gathers up the bits of sceptre to hide again.

What’s wrong with it?

The dialogue is poor. The acting is for the most part wooden, or at least bad. The plot is fairly minimal, without even a decent quota of fight scenes to pad it out. The demon is called Prostate, and just isn’t that scary. Chuck Norris’ character is almost a parody of himself in the extent of his world-weary, unflappable pragmatism.

What’s right with it?

Well, not much really. It has a few unintentional laughs, but not enough to make it a ‘so bad it’s good’ film. I suppose at least there isn’t any bad movie sex.

How bad is it really?

Not that terrible actually. Hellbound manages to scrape in as mediocre.

Best bit (if such there is)?

[Jackson examines the body of the murdered Rabbi]
Calvin Jackson (horrified): Oh shit! His heart’s gone!
[Shatter points to the floor beside Jackson]
Frank Shatter: No it isn’t. It’s right there…

What’s up with…?

  • When will the forces of good learn to seal the unspeakable evil into its coffin with regular iron nails? If the ritual seals weren’t always gold, they wouldn’t keep getting stolen by greedy and stupid thieves.
  • Why does evil always hire a cheap, stupid prostitute, and then kill her out of hand? If you were a creature of darkness, whose only goal was to recover your sceptre of power and sacrifice a child of royal blood to release Satan from Hell and usher in the coming apocalypse, would you jeopardise your situation by casually murdering people to get your rocks off?
  • When you divide up the artefact of ancient evil and scatter it across the known world to be hidden for all eternity, why keep a list of where all the bits are? It’s supposed to be hidden for all eternity; why would you ever need to know?
  • Why is there so little security in an Israeli police station when the heroes break in? Israel wasn’t noted for the laxity of its security officials the last time I checked.

Ratings:

Production values – pretty good really. Not much in the way of special effects, but the film is decently lit and framed, even if the direction is a little static. 7

Dialogue and Performance – The dialogue is pretty naff, but nothing exceptional. The performances are middling to appalling. The prostitute is the worst (I’m guessing the producer’s girlfriend or something), with all the acting skills of a plank, and not that really talented plank from the short film of the same name either. 17

Plot – Sparse, and only barely explained. Of particular note, streetwise Chicago cops apparently have no trouble processing the fact that they’re going up against nameless and ancient evil. 14

Randomness – Moderate. for the most part the film follows a constant – if contrived – flow of cause and effect. Who speaks English and how well seems to follow plot more than logic though, and the small street urchin with the perfect English moreover has an oddly comprehensive knowledge of local geography and holy sites. 10

Waste of Potential – Well, this was pretty much going to be bollocks, wasn’t it. The ancient evil could have been a little better thought out, but that’s about it. 7

Overall – 55%

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