Split Second (1992)
Split Second has great aspirations. Sadly they’re totally beyond the movies budget, the quality of screenplay and the ability of director Tony Maylam. The poster clearly demonstrates this with the rather bold tagline of "Blade Runner meets Alien". The reality is somewhat different. Furthermore Split Second seems to be from the wrong decade. Despite being a nineties sci-fi action movie it has all the hallmarks of one from ten years prior. The Director of Photography relies on a wealth of neon lighting to try and create a suitable atmosphere. The costume design is heavily based on leather clothing and outfits that accentuate the shoulders. There's also a drab and grating electronic score that was synonymous with this genre during the eighties. Overall Split Second certainly has a lot of strikes against it.
However the film has one trump card up its sleeve which it plays right from the get go; the presence of Dutch character actor and genre stalwart Rutger Hauer. He starts chewing the scenery immediately after the credits have finished and despite the movies many failings, manages to keep the film together. Hauer plays Harley Stone, a cop on the edge who’s become a loose cannon after losing his partner to a serial killer. He's the kind of guy who shoots first, asks questions later and swears profusely in his spare time. Writer Gary Scott Thompson obviously felt that a plethora of strong language could fill the gaps in the film's plot. Hauer even calls a dog a dickhead within the first five minutes of the film.
Split Second like so many other low budget genre movies seems to run on its own unique internal logic. Characters are ill defined and plot devices are often left underdeveloped. It's as if there was a production meeting and it was decided to throw in every possible cliché and trope in the hope that some of them would work. So we have an “Alien” style monster that has occult affiliations, prowling through a flooded London that has been brought about by global warming and pollution. Hearts are torn out, big guns are brandished and people swear copiously. The Police Chief shouts a lot and Hauer's new partner (Alistair Duncan) is a book worm who becomes gung-ho. Oh and there’s an obligatory and totally arbitrary love interest played by Kim Cattrall. The London locations and the finale set in an abandoned part of the Tube are convenient and cheap.
Now to the casual viewer this all adds up to a shoddy, poorly conceived movie with no redeeming features. However Split Second is not really the province of the causal viewer. Its core audience are viewers who love cheap and cheerful genre knock offs of this idiom. All the potential faults and flaws that I’ve catalogued are the very thing that fans enjoy. If you watch this movie on your own it may either raise a wry smile or annoy you. View it with a few like minded friends after a trip to the pub and its merit grows exponentially. See Split Second at a film festival with an audience of rabid B movie junkies and you'll have a totally different cinematic experience. It all comes down talent versus enthusiasm. Split Second is wanting in many respects but it has been made with a degree of love for the genre. Somehow that has managed to permeate the film and can be tapped into through shared viewing in the right circumstances.