I had never even heard of this movie until a few weeks ago when some people on the Internet seemed excited about it getting a blu ray release. I am overall though not very educated on the filmatic works of Mr. Hulk Hogan. I remember the trailer for Suburban Commando used to play at the beginning of a VHS tape I used to watch a ton as a kid (I believe it was Home Alone) but I never saw the full movie. We also used to make fun of Santa with Muscles, the movie with the bluntest name in history until the release of Snakes on a Plane. Oh and of course he was Thunderlips in Rocky III, a movie I have seen countless times. So this may in fact be the first Hulk Hogan starring vehicle I have seen in its entirety.
Not a great introduction to the man’s filmography.
I will say that for the first half hour or so, this movie completely had me. The first shot we see of Hulk Hogan has him screaming and spitting and growling in slow motion as he makes his entrance at a WWF event. That’s always a great way to introduce your hero. Hogan plays Rip, a wrestling superstar and genuinely good dude who is loyal to both his fans and his network contract. So really, Hulk Hogan plays Hulk Hogan with a different name.
We are then introduced to our villain Brell, played by a RIDICULOUSLY over the top Kurt Fuller. He is the new head of the World Television Network and will stop at nothing to get Rip to break his contract and come wrestle for his network instead. This guy is hands-down one of the most ridiculous villains I have ever seen in any movie. Seriously, most Bond villains would look at this guy and think “Man this dude really needs to relax”. At first he just seems like a huge asshole. In his first scene we find out he fired most of the company and continues to fire people simply for presenting ideas he doesn’t like. When he first meets Rip and his offer is rejected, he starts shoving him around and screaming at him, culminating in his repeatedly used insult “jock ass”. Ok, a pretty over-the-top asshole but still an asshole. However as the movie progresses this guy hires henchmen to rape someone, is fully ok with murder, encourages the beatings of innocent bystanders, and spends the whole time laughing maniacally about it. Kurt Fuller just runs right at this whole role screaming and flailing his arms, essentially playing evil incarnate. There are no attempts to humanize this guy; he is just pure evil through and through. Who would have thought an 80’s wrestling movie would provide one of the craziest bad guys in history?
There’s even more crazy presented in this first chunk of the movie too. About 15 minutes in, Rip gets in a limo and quickly realizes the driver is kidnapping him. The limo keeps careening left and right into the ongoing lane and back, creating the illusion this is a frantic car chase, only nobody is actually chasing them. Is the guy just a really shitty driver or is the movie trying to convince us that this is way more awesome than it is? Yes Rip is in the back kicking at the doors to try and get out so are you saying his kicks are so strong that it’s physically moving the car in different directions? So Rip is Iron Man then?
Actually he may be some sort of super hero because at the end of the “chase” when the limo reaches its destination, Hogan comes bursting out of the top of the car like it was made of cardboard. He then beats the shit out of everybody and actually makes the driver shit his pants. This part is especially great because Hogan starts sniffing the guy like a dog before asking “What’s that smell?” The driver lets out a weak “dookie” between his tears. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that in a movie.
The main crux of the story is Brell’s fairly convoluted plan to get Rip to come and wrestle for his network. He creates a show called “The Battle of the Tough Guys” which yes is the worst name ever for a television show and it sounds even worse when someone says it with a completely straight face. It’s eerily similar to MMA and it’s there he discovers Zeus, played by Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister. Aside from a couple lines, Lister’s performance consists almost entirely of yelling, which at first is pretty amusing but gets old fast. Brell is so pissed with Rip for rejecting his offer that he plans to completely ruin his life until he finally agrees to fight Zeus on live TV.
The silly moments and ridiculous plot completely had me in the beginning but then around the halfway mark the movie committed the worst sin a movie can – it got boring. It starts to get bogged down in a love story which of course doesn’t work because one half of the couple is Hulk Fucking Hogan. You never buy for a second these two would get together and a scene of them forced to share the same hotel room just goes on and on and on. Clearly the movie was trying to fill out a decent run time but my god there must have been something more interesting they could have shown us.
The final fight between Zeus and Rip is not too engaging either and also drags on forever. Most of that time is just spending watching Hogan get punched as he knows his girlfriend is being held by Brell and will be killed unless he throws the fight. However once he discovers that she made a daring escape by well, standing up and walking out of the room (seriously), the tables are turned and you are then treated to Zeus getting punched for the next 5 minutes. Things do start to pick up when they take the brawl up into the audience but for the most part it’s rather dull.
What is interesting is how the audience never seems phased by what is happening. There are numerous points where it looks like Zeus is going to murder Rip right there in the ring (which Brell clearly encourages which seems odd because I have to imagine a network showing a live murder is going to catch a lot of shit from everybody on the planet) and nobody seems to mind. Then by the end he’s up in the crowd throwing referees around, punching elderly men in the face and even pushing down crippled people and kicking them in the stomach. The crowd never seems to mind though so perhaps they think it’s all fake? Otherwise they are all absolutely terrible people. I’m leaning towards the latter as the match ends with two people dead (at least I assume Zeus is dead, he looks pretty dead) and the crowd goes completely wild before we end on a victorious freeze frame. I will admit I assumed Brell would go to jail so the fact they killed him was an interesting surprise.
No Holds Barred is a bad movie that manages to entertain for 45 minutes before boring you for the remaining 45. Though the latter half has an occasional interesting moment, it’s largely of poor quality so if you are looking for some fun unintentional laughs, watch the first half and then just shut it off as there is nothing left to see beyond that point.