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Hellbound

(Aaron Norris, USA/Canada/Israel, 1993)


 


I am not sure which humble film began the vogue for mixing the horror and cop genres – perhaps it was Larry Cohen’s mind boggling Demon (1977) – but the combination has persisted in the fringes of popular cinema, rarely failing to intrigue.

Taking a cue from the enormous success of the Exorcist cycle, these movies play up a contrast between the routine suspense of cops on their daily, urban rounds, and archaic legends of monsters and devils from remote, exotic lands.

True to this form, the Chuck Norris action vehicle Hellbound begins in the Middle East in 1186, where “Satan’s servant” Prosatanos (Christopher Neame) wreaks havoc until he is incarcerated in a sacred tomb, hopefully for eternity. Naturally, Prosatanos escapes in our time thanks to curious gold-diggers, and immediately sets off on a bloody world tour to piece together his magic sceptre.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Shatter (Norris) and his young, black partner (Calvin Levels) are playing good cop/bad cop games in the mean streets of Chicago. As the genre demands, they are slow to twig to the supernatural nature of the bizarre crimes confronting them – especially Calvin, whose running joke is to arrive seconds late for every Satanic manifestation, whooping incredulously “what the fuck happened here?”

The plot eventually works itself out in the Holy Land, which is shown off abundantly for prospective tourists. Director Aaron Norris juggles the cross-generic mix of elements well – horrific gore, Lethal Weapon-style cop antics, and silly gags taken straight from a popular tradition of Israeli cinema (such as the Lemon Popsicle series).

As always, Chuck’s curious star persona – laconically brutal but forever chaste – is quietly magnetic.

MORE Aaron Norris: Delta Force 2

© Adrian Martin August 1994


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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