Confused views: The early cinema of Hulk Hogan

This week, Matt celebrates the fine early movies of wrestling, acting and shirt-ripping sensation, Hulk Hogan…

Of all the lessons we learned from Rocky III, perhaps the most important was that Hulk Hogan was ready. The big man with tiny underpants and the coy hairline made a huge impact on the screen, and, understandably, the world lusted after more.

An acting juggernaut, Hogan’s Hollywood career was undoubtedly shaped by his first three starring roles. His performances in No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny cemented Hogan’s position as a person who sometimes acted in films. He displayed a physical presence in these films and was able to say some lines of dialogue

In many ways, it’s acting in its purest, rawest form. In many other ways, it isn’t. Regardless, in this column I’ll be looking back at these early Hogan films and questioning the taste of a world where Hogan simply never gets a chance to be an action hero anymore.

No Holds Barred

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Hulkamania rating: That’s quite a bandana!

Items of clothing ripped: Vest (x2)

Number of times Hulkamania runs wild: Twice

Expanding his career with his first starring role, the Hulkster takes a break from pretending to fight in a ring by pretending to fight in a ring in a film. Some people might argue that Rip, Hogan’s character in No Holds Barred, is very, very similar to his wrestling persona, but those people have clearly seen the film No Holds Barred, and so, their opinion is likely to have been badly warped. 

Hogan plays an all-American wrestling hero named Rip, a character very, very similar to his wrestling persona. Rip is the champion of the world and sends TV ratings through the roof whenever he competes. The head executive at World Television Network is sick of his ratings suffering every time Rip’s on another channel and, after failing to tempt Rip to join his organisation, sets up a rival wrestling company and sets about destroying Rip’s life.

He discovers an unhinged fight-maniac named Zeus. Rip is goaded into fighting Zeus with an interesting mix of unsuccessful kidnappings and televised gym destruction. Can Rip defeat Zeus and, oh, nothing. It’s just defeating Zeus. Can Rip defeat Zeus? That’s all.

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It’s hard to imagine a dumber film than No Holds Barred that isn’t a ninety minute close-up of a constantly farting arsehole.

Early in the film, Hogan’s character Rip is kidnapped by his limo driver. Rip is so slow to realise that he’s been kidnapped that when he’s trying to make small talk with the limo driver, they assume he’s experiencing Stockholm syndrome. His kidnappers are able to put together a mob of the world’s least effective fighters to keep him captive, while Rip is still fumbling at putting his seat belt on.

When he finally does emerge from his limousine prison, he’s faced down by these six bumbling henchman. Using a combination of moves that I missed while I was disinterestedly playing with my phone, Hogan manages to stop them all, causing one of them to shit himself in the least dignified way possible.

For those questioning whether there are different levels of dignity attached to the variety of ways in which a man can evacuate his bowels during combat, you’ve obviously never been bear-hugged by Hulk Hogan. ‘Dookie’, indeed.

As has been my experience with Hulk Hogan movies, if you can smell a feint whiff of faeces then sexual confusion isn’t far behind it. 

No Holds Barred doesn’t hate women, but it’s not really sure how they work or why it should care. Rip manages to secure a date with a female executive using a winning combination of aggressive pro-charity statements and public sexual harassment. When they end up sharing a hotel room together, Rip erects a curtain in the middle of the room, and it’s at first unclear as to whether this is a gesture to make her feel comfortable or a prelude to a sex attack. Fortunately, it turns out to be the former.

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Much clearer is the scene where she watches Rip, who’s wearing nothing but Speedos, doing push-ups. No chance of confusion here, just a scene of Hulk Hogan’s almost nude body thrusting up and down, flexing some of his muscles for us all to enjoy.

The homoerotic tension in No Holds Barred could have been toned down by making it a five hour gay porn epic. This would at least offer some context for Hogan’s moustache. Still, it’s unlikely to be the case that as little as five hours of explicit homosexual intercourse could produce anything as obscenely graphic as the final wrestling match between Rip and Zeus.

I can’t even begin to imagine how many Hogan fans celebrated his win over Zeus by masturbating and then crying because they don’t love their wife. Although there’s no evidence to suggest it, I’m certain that the pitch meeting for this movie ended with the director suggesting that everyone in the room should touch dicks.

Of course, even if No Holds Barred did understand those tingly feelings it gets when it looks at Hulk Hogan’s chest, it would have a tough time saying it. The dialogue in the film is as confusing as it is awful. Hogan is repeatedly insulted using the word ‘jockass’, like that’s a real thing. Zeus is described as having “killed some kid in the brain after the bell.” Guys, brain dead is something people say, killing someone in the brain isn’t.

In the most dastardly act of the whole film, Zeus beats Rip’s brother so badly that he ends up in a wheelchair. In the final battle, Rip beats Zeus so badly that his brother is able to stand up again. I’ve read this paragraph eight times now and, even though I’m only reporting what happened in the film, I feel like an arsehole for writing it.

Suburban Commando

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Hulkamania rating: Intergalactic family comedy that does a legdrop on quality, brother!

Line of dialogue that sums up the message of the film: “Y’know, Charlie, I spend more time saving worlds than I do living in them. Sometimes I wonder why.”

Number of times Hulkamania runs wild: None

Hulk Hogan simply lights up the screen in Suburban Commando as Shep Ramsey, an intergalactic hero. After defeating the downright dastardly General Suitor, Ramsey takes a much needed break on Earth while his spaceship recharges its batteries. He rents a room with a local family, bungles around the planet for a bit and then finds himself battling alien bounty hunters and not-as-dead-as-previously-thought General Suitor. 

With Suburban Commando, Hogan looked to move outside of his comfort zone and play a character who wasn’t a wrestler. It was a brave move and one that would see him forced to lean more heavily on his acting skills. Either that or his performance in No Holds Barred inspired his being cast as an alien. I don’t know. The end result is a film that is considerably better than No Holds Barred, and yet still absolutely awful.

I remember going to see Suburban Commando at the cinema and hearing annoying noises all the way through the film. They turned out to be a group of NES consoles laughing at the special effects.

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Any film which struggles to make intergalactic combat look more realistic than Hulk Hogan’s facial hair is doing something wrong. Although facts disprove this statement, animation company, Pixar, was created to balance out the damage done to cinema by Suburban Commando.

Watching Hogan struggle to play a wrestler is always confusing, and so it’s a welcome relief to see him struggle as a space commando. The Hulkster controls a spaceship like your mother plays Mortal Kombat. He jabs at the controls with no real understanding of what’s happening and wonders what he did wrong and why there’s not someone else there to do it for him.

In a scene where one of Hogan’s space weapons is used to freeze everyone, he’s still the stiffest presence on screen. His character avoids being frozen by drinking antifreeze, something I was also considering doing an hour into the film.

The supporting cast features Shelley Duvall and Christopher Lloyd. I don’t know what powerful movie gods they offended that resulted in them being here, but here they are. Certainly, this is the most frightening film Duvall has ever appeared in. Christopher Lloyd battles on valiantly against a script that has him propositioned for a freebie by a hooker in a family comedy. This happens after an ill-advised decision to try to recreate the attempted rape scene from RoboCop. Take a moment to think about that. In Suburban Commando, starring Hulk Hogan, they dress Christopher Lloyd up in futuristic looking armour and have him stop a back alley rape.

Mr. Nanny

Hulkamania rating: Say your prayers, take your vitamins, shoot yourself in the face.

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Things used as weapons: A car park barrier, a motorbike, a boat steering wheel, an electric wallet, an electric toilet seat, a highly charged electro-magnet.

Number of times Hulkamania runs wild: Once

In Mr. Nanny, the Hulkster simply immerses himself in the character Sean Armstrong, a, er, a professional wrestler turned bodyguard. Hired by a rich inventor to protect his children so he can develop a valuable microchip, Hogan finds himself tormented by the little bastards. Of course, they only go and get themselves bloody kidnapped, and it’s up to Hogan to rescue the family, recover the microchip and save the day.

By the time I sat down to watch Mr. Nanny, my patience had been somewhat worn by three hours of Hulkmaniacal cinema. I was in no state to watch a film like Mr. Nanny, a film so bereft of charm that it wouldn’t look out of place as a contestant on The Apprentice.

Mr. Nanny sees the Hulkster tumble into a situation where he’s being constantly foiled by elaborate and painful pranks played by the two young children he’s charged with looking after. It’s like Home Alone, except you really want the kids to get violently slaughtered. So, it’s really like Home Alone 2.

The traps that he falls into are callously laid and perfectly executed. The kids are genuinely trying to murder him. They must have seen No Holds Barred. By some horrible twist of fate, neither Sean Armstrong nor the young children are ended.

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The children have been allowed to get away with anything, presumably actual murder, by their wet blanket father. He turns to Hulk Hogan for advice.

If you’re taking parenting advice from Hulk Hogan you might just want to place your children in a sack and dump them in the nearest canal. There are people who have named their children after sports equipment brands that are better qualified to assist you with parenting than Hulk Hogan.

If there’s one consistent theme in Mr. Nanny it’s this: electrocuting people is hilarious! It’s rare that five minutes goes by without some poor bastard taking a few volts for our viewing pleasure.

The film features an electric toilet seat and it plays a major role in the plot. It would be unprofessional of me to suggest that this is a clear indication that someone involved in the production had an electrocution fetish, but the long list of things I’ve been accused of doesn’t stretch to include professionalism. Someone involved in this film clearly had an electrocution fetish. Also, everyone involved in this film was a masochist.

Perhaps the best way to end this article is to discuss the very serious issue highlighted in Mr. Nanny. Hulk Hogan’s character explains that he fell out with a former promoter, the villain of the film, after he refused to throw a match. Hulk Hogan refused to throw a wrestling match.

Then, he takes it upon himself to teach one of the kids he’s looking after to fight. His first instruction? Drop your hands low. Now, some of you might think that that’s the opposite of the correct advice, but you guys haven’t heard the second piece of advice, which is: it’s all about attitude.

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Hulk Hogan doesn’t know how real or fake fighting works, and he’s a professional wrestler. Every time this guy wrestles and nobody dies, the concept of probability ceases to exist.

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