The time: after the Fall. The place: beyond Thunderdome. Civilization has retreated to vast subterranean cities, while barbarism reigns on the barren surface. There, in a scorched, poverty-stricken town where mere survival is a struggle, the ragged inhabitants gather to watch the Jugger Game, a brutal sport whose object (to impale a dog skull on a spike...read more
The time: after the Fall. The place: beyond Thunderdome. Civilization has retreated to vast subterranean cities, while barbarism reigns on the barren surface. There, in a scorched, poverty-stricken town where mere survival is a struggle, the ragged inhabitants gather to watch the Jugger
Game, a brutal sport whose object (to impale a dog skull on a spike as a sign of victory) is simple, and whose rules--protect your teammates and try not to die--are even simpler. Two five-man teams suit up, disappearing under homemade armor and wielding the vicious tools of a game that's something
between prison-yard football and war. There are no rounds or defaults, and only the inexorable thud of stones thrown against metal plate marks the passage of time. The players batter and lacerate one another until a goal is scored or until 100 stones are thrown three times, in which case a tie is
declared. Nomadic teams play against locals for honor, money, and such glory as the debased can imagine, then move on to the next town and do it all again. Rutger Hauer plays one such combatant, namely Sallow (think salaud, meaning bastard in French), who leads his grimly scarred team through the
wasteland. As a young man, he was admitted to the elite Jugger League, whose players live in luxury and rub elbows with the effete aristocracy, but he was banished to the desert after he overstepped an invisible line. Sallow and his companions accept their debased existence, until one of them is
crippled and his replacement, an ambitious peasant girl named Kidda (Joan Chen), convinces her teammates to challenge the League. Winning isn't the issue--the youthful challenge that won Hauer admittance was over in minutes and left three of his companions dead--but putting up a good fight means
getting the chance to leave the harsh life above ground forever. Kidda and Young Gar (Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio) are willing to take the risk, and once they convince Sallow they're right, the others follow. Their challenge accepted, the team fights against impossible odds and triumphs, proving
that theirs is indeed the blood of heroes.
Though presumably intended to be futuristic, BLOOD OF HEROES seems to take place in a vague, nowhere place and time, its ambiguity designed to make the story seem a kind of parable for all times and all places. The film derives its imagery and metaphors from a variety of sources--conspicuous among
them ROCKY; ROLLERBALL; A BOY AND HIS DOG; the "Mad Max" series and its imitations; and gladiator movies too numerous to name--and has a formulaic, basic story with undeniable appeal: underdog takes on the big guys and wins. However, the film goes wrong by appropriating worn material, then
constructing around it a narrative so ruthlessly straightforward it steamrolls over any possibility of dramatic suspense. The new kid wants to shoot for the stars, the old hands hesitate to rock the boat, the man who was once a dreamer recognizes his last chance to grab the brass ring, and so on,
as the story proceeds from stereotype to cliche without a single dramatic diversion. The international cast (representing Holland, China, Switzerland, Australia, the US, and Great Britain) can make little of this sketchy material, and are also handicapped by having to work under disfiguring
makeup--a few get by with artfully placed scars, but the rest labor beneath latex deformities.
In the end, therefore, BLOOD OF HEROES is just one more ROAD WARRIOR clone, noteworthy only for its outstanding, rhythmically complex score by Todd Boekelheide, which hypnotically combines "primitive" and "industrial" effects. (Violence, profanity, brief nudity, sexual situations.)