Total Recall: Rutger Hauer's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Rite star.
During the 1980s, the action thriller genre soared to absurd new heights, only to retreat into direct-to-video cheese -- and Rutger Hauer's career went right along with it, from early cult favorites (Nighthawks, Blade Runner) to, well, less memorable fare (pretty much anything Hauer filmed in the 1990s). But even if the scripts got worse, Hauer's steely glare and commanding screen presence only improved with age -- and he's put them to use in a recent string of successful films, including Sin City and Batman Begins. With Rutger appearing alongside Anthony Hopkins in this weekend's The Rite, we knew now was the perfect time to take a look back at his brightest critical highlights. It's time for Total Recall!
A marked departure for its young star Matthew Broderick, who was mostly known for playing the wisecracking protagonist of WarGames, Richard Donner's Ladyhawke blended lush medieval fantasy with 1980s synth pop to tell the tale of an exiled knight (Hauer) and his betrothed (Michelle Pfeiffer), separated by the curse of a jealous bishop (John Wood) -- and the escaped thief (Broderick) who becomes a crucial ally in their quest to reunite. Audiences didn't quite know what to make of Laydhawke during its theatrical run, and mostly stayed away, but most critics enjoyed it -- including Jeffrey Overstreet of Looking Closer, who enthused, "We need more fantasy like this: high adventure, brilliant swordplay, convincing magic, three-dimensional characters, arresting cinematography, and best of all, a good story."
9. Simon Magus
A period drama with a mystical bent, Simon Magus takes place in a 19th-century European village, where a poor young man (Stuart Townsend) and a wealthy, unscrupulous businessman (Sean McGinley) vie for the right to build a train station that will attract travelers on the nearby railroad, whose path has dried up tourism and brought economic hard times. As the eccentric landowner who cares more about poetry than material wealth, Hauer had a chance to prove he was capable of playing characters who aren't warriors or villains -- and to take part in a film that Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised by writing, "Poetic and ambiguous, it manages to be magical in both the beautiful and terrifying senses of the word."
Hauer's first major role in an American production came courtesy of Nighthawks, a Sylvester Stallone/Billy Dee Williams buddy cop thriller whose script had been refashioned from the abandoned French Connection III. Despite those rather uninspired beginnings -- and its disappointing performance at the box office -- Nighthawks is one of the more fondly remembered entries in the genre, largely thanks to Hauer's performance as the publicity-hungry terrorist known as Wulfgar. "All of it is standard stuff," admitted Janet Maslin of the New York Times, while hastening to add, "and yet Nighthawks has been assembled with enough pep to make it feel fresh."
One of Hauer's many collaborations with director Paul Verhoeven, 1980's Spetters was the Dutch hit that really launched their careers in America. Nominally about the world of professional motocross racing, Spetters courted controversy with sexually graphic scenes, heaps of violence, and a script heavy with offensive portrayals of... well, pretty much everybody, including Christians and gays. Plenty of filmgoers failed to find much of value here, but as Verhoeven proved so often in his early career, there's a difference between shocking simply to shock and doing it to prove a point, and Spetters leans far more heavily on the latter tactic. As Ken Hanke of the Asheville Mountain Xpress sighed wistfully after a later viewing, "Remember when Paul Verhoeven made good movies?"
6. Sin City
Part of a busy 2005 for Hauer that included roles in major films (including Batman Begins), a direct-to-video sequel (Dracula III), and a made-for-TV disaster epic (The Poseidon Adventure), Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's Sin City used modern filmmaking techniques to bring the distinctive visual thrills of Miller's graphic novel series directly to the screen. A member of an impressive ensemble cast that included Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, Clive Owen, and Benicio del Toro, Hauer appeared as the villainous Cardinal Patrick Henry Roark, whose murderous machinations set in motion a gory path of revenge for Marv (Rourke). Definitely not for the squeamish, Sin City earned the admiration of critics like Bruce Newman of the San Jose Mercury News, who called it "The most gorgeous digital movie ever made" and "a stunning leap forward in both the technology of digital cinema and the art of filmmaking."