Jim Vorel and Kenneth Lowe are connoisseurs of terrible movies. In this occasional series, they watch and then discuss the fallout of a particularly painful film. Be wary of spoilers.
Jim: Ken, as we enter what is sure to be a godforsaken and possibly war-torn election year, it strikes me as something of a comfort that our favorite form of entertainment still exists: terrible movies. And surely there’s no bad movie genre, as it were, more regularly compelling than the hilariously, hopelessly naive directorial vanity project. And my, do we have a singular example of that today in GetEven, a.k.a. Road to Revenge, a.k.a. Champagne and Bullets. Yes, there are three different titles, all of them terrible. And no, we’re not forgetting to insert a space between “Get” and “Even.”
Despite the angry things you typed at me while watching this, I assume that with a little clarity you can now report how wonderful a film it is?
Ken: Jim, I think it was Aristotle who is crediting with codifying the basic building blocks of narrative: The three-act structure, the protagonist who struggles against an antagonistic force in his quest for a clear goal. Dialogue that informs the proceedings. “GetEven” is indeed wonderful, Jim. It is a wonderful way of showing how you can violate every one of those principles. What brought this cursed curio to you?
Jim: I no longer recall how I first found this (possibly via RedLetterMedia?), only that I watched it at a movie night a few years ago, but at the time I was probably as heavily inebriated as Wings Hauser appears to be through the entirety of GetEven. Watching it this time and actually paying attention to its incomprehensibility was quite the trip. Writer-director-star John De Hart makes some truly fascinating choices with regard to narrative structure, as you suggested. But that’s the kind of wonderful oddity you only seem to get with films like this one: Vanity projects made by middle-aged men as some kind of last-chance grab toward fame and fortune.
Ken: Or toward seeing women topless, in this case.
Jim: Well yes, that’s practically a given. I really can’t stress enough how much I love movies like this, which come from a place of both true passion and blindingly pure cluelessness. There are so many “let’s make a shitty movie” films out there that are made by directors who know they’re slumming, but they’re never half as bizarre as movies like this, made by a guy who was really trying to make himself look like a star in the most clumsy way possible. How would you describe leading man John De Hart, and his character Rick?
Ken: Rick Bode is a man’s man: The kind of guy who got kicked off the police force in an incident that TOTALLY WASN’T HIS FAULT, who lives with his drunk asshole of a washed up partner in a living situation that TOTALLY ISN’T GAY, and who can shoot, fight, love, sing country and even recite Shakespeare, provided (in all the above cases) that the director cuts the scenes as jarringly as possible. He’s got the body of a Midwestern junior league karate instructor and a mustache from the ’70s. He must have never shut up during the Clinton adultery scandal.
John De Hart is familiar with the mysteries of the Orient, there’s no doubt about that.
Ken: Do we know much about Mr. De Hart, the chiseled Adonis and modern day Shakespeare who brought this man to life and so ably embodies him?
Jim: We do not know a terrible lot. After the failure of 1993’s GetEven, which no one in any way could have predicted, he has only one other IMDb credit to his name, appearing 13 years later in a sexy lady action movie called The Champagne Gang. I read a few interviews, and it seems he eventually became a lawyer, but contrary to what you might expect, this was after making GetEven. I fully expected it to be before, because a lot of the time these types of films seem to be made by men who are successful professionals in lucrative fields who have set aside the money to make the glorifying vanity project of their dreams. What I’ve read on De Hart, on the other hand, seems to suggest that he may have owned a limo rental service or something of the like, which would actually explain why his character becomes a limo driver after being thrown off the police force.
Ah, let me just find a 25-year-old photo for my law ad, there we go.
Ken: Jim, I watched this movie at the end of a day during which I was medically obligated to maintain a strictly liquid diet. This movie was, without exaggeration, the worst part of my day. I’ll get into why I have such low regard for this strange passion project when you and I have favorably treated one or two others, but first we should describe exactly what kind of dud we’re dealing with here. Why don’t you set the scene for our dear readers?
GetEven opens with meandering home movie footage of Hollywood for some reason, set to an upbeat jazzy tune that in no way fits the opening scene, which is a group of cops engaging in a deadly shootout with a trailer full of drug dealers. This sets an excellent barometer for De Hart’s use of music through the whole film. In the resulting firefight, we are introduced to both the heroes and the antagonist, all three of whom are cops:
A. Rick, the hero cop played by De Hart, who storms the drug dealer trailer.
B. Huck, the drunken sidekick played by Wings Hauser, who immediately gets gut-shot by a drug dealer because he fails to get any backup from …
C. “Normad,” a crooked cop who steals the glory for the bust, gets kneed in the groin by Rick, and then proceeds to frame both Rick and Huck as druggies to get them kicked off the force by way of revenge. This all happens in the opening minutes. And yes, they named the villain “Normad.”
Every time they said his name I was reminded of how ridiculous it sounds. Hauser’s character “Huck” actually has a different first name, but his last name is Finley—yes, I was paying attention—and I thought, “Oh, so his nickname is ‘Huck’ because he’s got ‘Fin” in his last name, that’s kind of clever, especially since they don’t call any overt attention to it.” And then you’ve got some dope whose name you will never stop being distracted by. I will say this about Normad though: Nobody in this film can act, but he can not act the least. I actually thought he was exactly as hammy and ridiculous a villain as you’d want in this type of movie.
Jim: Even given that this is his attempt at an intimidating face.
Both the hero and villain of this film look like they get through the day with a lot of help from Metamucil.
Ken: He at least makes something of an impression. Rick is just a complete vacuum of charisma. It’s all the funnier when, during one scene when he bails out Huck from jail, he gives the corrections officer some money and quips, with totally wooden affect: “Here’s a quarter. Go buy yourself a personality.”
Jim: His attempts at edgy antihero humor are truly painful.
Ken: Huck, by the way, survives this movie, and I think it’s because De Hart was just too lazy to write a scene in which the character dies. Right from the courtroom scene where Normad frames the two, Huck can’t sit still for 10 seconds without starting a fistfight with the bailiffs. Throughout the movie he starts and ends several bar fights, randomly shoots things, and tempts police to exercise some brutality on him on at least three occasions. He is lucky he’s not a black 19-year-old who is attending a prestigious college or browsing a grocery store a little too slowly.
Jim: I think if you’re paying attention to GetEven, Wings Hauser—who was a fairly prolific B movie actor, and the biggest name attached to this movie—becomes the most fascinating thing about it. Ken, he seems at various points to be either fall-down drunk or coked OUT OF HIS MIND. He has multiple scenes where he’s just essentially ranting like a madman, and there’s a 15-20 minute period in the center of the film where De Hart sort of just disappears and you’re left with this story that is about a rock-bottom Huck firing a handgun into his gas and water bills, being framed for assault by his ex-wife, and wading in a pool with random babes while spouting some kind of philosophical gibberish about Huckleberry Finn. There’s no way that was in the script, right? Even in the background of scenes where Huck doesn’t have any dialog, you can see Wings Hauser constantly fidgeting and moving around.
Ken: I confess that I couldn’t tell if he actually was impaired or they just really liked the actor and wanted as much screen time with him as possible. I think, considering the pedigree of the film, that his compensation was probably one of the movie’s biggest expenses and so they just tried to get him in as many scenes as possible. It’s too bad he barely has anything to do with the plot of this movie, which doesn’t really show up until the last 20 minutes.
Jim: We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves here. We should note that Rick has a former girlfriend, Cindy—naturally 30 years younger than him, and played by former Playboy centerfold Pamela Jean Bryant—who had left town mysteriously a year ago, but has now returned. Rick and Huck head to a honky tonk bar that is in no way someone’s basement game room made up to look like a bar, and Rick is reunited with Cindy. This is also when we’re given the film’s crowning moment, the “Shimmy Slide.” Tell us about De Hart’s musical mastery, Ken.
Ken: I cannot handle this “Shimmy Slide,” Jim. Rick is beckoned to the stage for an impromptu display of his vocals. John De Hart is as good at this as he is at the rest of the feats of strength and charm he attempts in this movie, which is to say not at all. He bops around on the stage, a completely expressionless look on his face, staring off-camera at what I’m betting is a karaoke screen with the lyrics. The crowd goes wild, though, so I guess it was great, right?
Jim: I’ve never seen a cinematic depiction of someone performing where they look more actively terrified by what they’re doing than John De Hart in this scene. You keep expecting to see the laser pointer of someone’s gun on his forehead. It’s incredible, you can feel the pull of emotions between the actor De Hart—who really wants to project “I am a cool guy”—and the character of Rick, who he’s in no way able to embody with the confidence he so badly wants the character to have.
Jim: It’s like the cinematic equivalent of a guy hyping himself up at the bar to go approach a woman, tapping her on the shoulder, and then vomiting on her once she says, “Yes?”
Ken: A side note: It really seems like the background songs in several scenes are De Hart and Cindy. Are they?
Jim: I thought the same thing! It’s definitely De Hart singing, but I don’t know if that was Cindy accompanying him. If so, she’s certainly a lot better than he is, but naturally the end credits only credit him for everything. The end credits, in fact, are an incredible monument to De Hart’s ego.
Deserving of its own wing in the film narcissism hall of fame.
Jim: It must be stated that the background songs they perform during other sequences, like some of the sex scenes, are either incredibly cheesy love ballads or songs that in no way seem to fit what’s happening on screen. The first time they hook up, it’s to something that’s like a minor key folk song.
Ken: Readers, these songs are PAINFUL, and they pop up a lot.
Jim: Plenty of encores, here.
Jim: Anyway, De Hart predictably ends up in a fight with some toughs/goons who are picking on Cindy at the bar, which sends her running back into his arms, where he can perform Shakespeare soliloquys and take her out to dinner, where he tells MULTIPLE LONG JOKES to a waiter, just to get over that his character is also “funny,” in addition to all his other talents. It’s after this that she reveals the dark secret of where she went during the year she disappeared.
Ken: And what a secret it is! Jim, it turns out that Cindy has been hanging out with a bad crowd, but it’s even worse than we thought: SATANISTS!
We cut to a dark ritual chamber with robed Satanists chanting “WE LOVE YOU SATAN” as a baby is sacrificed. They tie up Cindy when she protests. She’s the only one there in violation of the dress code, so I don’t know what they thought her reaction would be. This comes out of NOWHERE.
Jim: I love how she phrases it like she saw nothing at all wrong with this group, right up until the ceremony where they decided to SACRIFICE A BABY. Then she speaks up, and they’re all totally miffed about it. One of them, while tying her up, says, “This bitch isn’t good enough to follow Satan!”
Ken: We’re doing readers a disservice by not revealing another part of this scene’s ineptitude: You can see here that the ringleader is Normad. I thought they were just reusing the actor because you know, cheap movie. But no, Normad, by pure happenstance, is the Satanic cult leader, too. Rick does not know this, and Cindy does not know this, but we, the audience, do.
You just can’t get away from this guy.
Jim: Cindy is implied to not be the brightest bulb because Rick later tells her about how Normad got him kicked off the force, and she’s like, “Hmmm, that sounds weirdly familiar.” She doesn’t immediately remember that the LEADER OF HER FORMER SATANIC CULT was also, by chance, named “Normad.” Also, about three lines after relaying the baby sacrifice story, Cindy says the following line to Rick: “How have you been, anyway?”
Ken: Yes, folks, the SATANIC RITUAL SACRIFICE SUBPLOT is thrown on the back burner immediately after it’s brought up in favor of multiple scenes, one right after the other, in which Rick and Cindy drink champagne and bang. Jim, this movie has so much gratuitous female nudity in it.
Jim: Just one part of the overall ego-stroking package. A film like GetEven feels very much like one man’s compensation for everything he’s ever been denied in life. He wishes he could be with beautiful women, so he writes himself as a womanizer. He wishes he could be physically powerful, so he writes himself as a martial arts master. He wants to be cultured, so he recites Shakespeare, which is the most cultured thing he can think of. He wants to be funny, so his character tells literal joke book jokes. He wants to be a musical star, so … the “Shimmy Slide” happens. It’s like this one film is supposed to make up for every romantic or social failing De Hart has ever experienced.
Ken: It’s at about this time in the movie that we also focus in a bit more on Huck and his whole dysfunctional situation. Why don’t you list off some of the problems of this modern-day Job, Jim? Remember folks: None of this has to do with the Satanic ritual sacrifice run by a crooked cop.
Jim: This is the most confusing portion of the film—it’s like De Hart just forgets he’s the main character for 15 or 20 minutes of screen time. Instead, we’re lounging on the couch with alcoholic Huck. His only friend is what appears to be a cigar store Indian that he talks to, but you never even get a close-up of the thing, so I honestly don’t know. His ex-wife shows up demanding alimony, but he’s broke, so she tears up her own clothing and calls the police to frame him for assault. He gets thrown into jail by Normad—who, by the way is now a judge because he was “promoted” from being a police officer—and then tries to DRINK BLEACH IN HIS CELL, which lands him in the hospital. I was speechless through all of this, Ken. Not the least by the idea that a police officer can be promoted to the post of “judge.”
The three faces of Normad.
Ken: It feels like a waste of our collective breath here talking about how “cop” and “judge” are two almost totally mutually exclusive career tracks, right?
Jim: Vice cop, particularly. No conflict of interest there, going from busting drug dealers to sentencing them.
Ken: Anyhow, not a bit of this adds up to anything at all, not even scenes where Cindy is treated like trash by her estranged religious parents. The entire middle stretch of the film is just devoid of meaningful incident.
Jim: Oh god I forgot about the scene with the parents, where they think De Hart is one of her Satanist cult buddies and she doesn’t even try do explain that he’s not. The dad has this amazing line where he says the following: “Who are you? Another drug-contaminated devil worshiper from Hollywood?” A few lines later, he calls his daughter a “guttersnipe.”
Ken: Rick’s rejoinder is to say something along the lines of “I don’t worship Satan!” like this is 1) a reasonable thing one would have had said TO them and 2) a reasonable thing one would respond to that with. It’s hilarious.
Jim: While wearing black leather pants.
A totally natural way to stand and show off one’s leathery package.
Ken: At some point, though, De Hart remembers he’s trying to make a sleazy ’80s revenge flick, so Cindy recognizes a picture on Rick’s mantle of Normad and finally fingers him as the cult leader. We don’t see the picture from our perspective, though, because that probably would’ve required the actors to all stage a photo shoot.
Jim: This was another thing that I loved from a bad movie standpoint for multiple reasons. First, the fact that they were too lazy to take a damn photo. Second, the fact that Rick, who was thrown off the police force by Normad a year or two earlier and hates his guts, has a PHOTO OF HIM lying on his dresser.
And third, the fact that his response to this is “let’s get the police” rather than the standard action movie response of “I’m going to take these guys down.” He’s the only action star in history who actually wants to leave things to the police and stay out of it. Not that he gets a chance, because Normad’s goons show up at his place at exactly that moment, and he and Cindy attempt to escape on a motorcycle. Ken, it does not go well.
Ken: Rick and Cindy lead the goons on a short chase where the most dangerous stunts are Rick taking a hill a bit too quick. But it ends in tragedy, with the motorcycle getting in a wreck and Cindy (apparently) dead. It’s a good reminder of why you need to practice proper motorcycle helmet safety, like Captain America.
Jim: This also has to be the only action movie ever made where a chase ends because the hero CRASHED HIS OWN BIKE, with zero help from the bad guys. The goons, by the way, see that a crash has happened and just leave, rather than even bothering to inspect if Rick/Cindy are still alive.
Ken: Not even a double tap to make sure! Amateurs.
Jim: When Rick accuses Normad at the end of “killing the only woman I ever loved,” how can you not be like, “Dude, you crashed that bike entirely on your own.”
Ken: Rick gears up to go kill Normad by the tried-and-true action movie method of just storming his home. Come to think of it, we don’t even see a Commando-style arming montage. (I’m not being facetious—that’s my favorite sort of montage.)
Jim: Final Form Rick is naturally Black Tanktop Rick.
Ken: And Black Tanktop Rick is also Beer Gut Rick.
John De Hart, prisoner of Fabio.
Jim: This leads to an exceedingly underwhelming sequence of killing guards and snapping necks that lasts two or three minutes. You can sense that De Hart probably thought these scenes would be great, but the film clearly had no one who had ever done any action movie blocking/stunts before, so they have no idea how to execute them except in the most straightforward and un-thrilling way imaginable.
Ken: My favorite part of that is the neck-snap, achieved via silhouette. Rick walks up behind the dude, makes one perfunctory motion, and the guy just lies down immediately. It’s kind of amazing how this movie can actually teach you what you NEED in an action movie just by so perfectly not having those things itself.
Jim: There are Key & Peele sketches that effortlessly capture the ’80s direct-to-video action vibe that De Hart was going for here. It’s also funny that we keep saying ’80s, considering that this movie was made in 1993. But that just goes to further show how completely out of touch De Hart was. He was hopelessly behind the times.
Ken: I think we can safely say it was inspired by a specific sort of ’80s B movie, the kind of thing Steven Seagal in particular used to make that could have been considered good. GetChampagneBulletRevenge is nowhere near bumping its head on that low, low bar, though.
Jim: Anyway, I don’t even need to tell you, dear readers, that Rick eventually gets his man, diverting Normad’s arthritic-looking knife thrust into the villain’s own midsection. It’s like a law in this type of movie that the bad guy must be killed by some element of his own aggression. The hero is always snapping necks without remorse when it’s nameless security guards, but once you get to the Big Bad they have to die because they attempted some kind of cowardly double-cross or whatever.
Ken: Rick then burns the place down for good measure because you know, roaring rampage of revenge. Afterward, he is tending to Cindy’s grave when a nun—the same one who robotically tried to get Huck to find Jesus in an earlier scene—robotically demands Rick come with her. We find that GUESS WHAT, Cindy is alive after all, and was kept sequestered by these nuns to protect her from the Satanist drug dealers. They even lampshade the fact that they put on a real funeral for her and everything!
Jim: I’m guessing the funeral must have been closed casket. Either that, or Rick can’t tell the difference between his wife and a mannequin. Although in terms of acting ability, it would be tough to call.
Ken: Nobody has any facial recognition in this damn film, so I’d believe that long before I believed any of these actors’ acting. Jim, what other things about this nonsense jumped out at you?
Jim: I think it’s safe to say that the “Shimmy Slide” is technically the most memorable thing about GetEven, but what I’m left really focusing on afterward are the two major rants from Wings Hauser—the one in the bar, and the one in the pool. They’re each totally chaotic, whether he’s yelling at a barfly that “My buddy here can speak Hamlet!” or trying to make some kind of point about “Israeli-lites” in the pool sequence. I truly think they caught some genuine, drug-fueled rambling on the second of the two. Also, I’d like to add that Rick got married in a black-and-white tracksuit.
The finest wedding attire that Foot Locker has to offer.
Ken: The most random detail to me was the prudish woman at the bar who calls the cops on the striptease show. Why was that a thing? What is this movie?
Jim: Not to mention the fact that it’s country western and stripping night at the basement rumpus room bar to begin with.
Ken: This brings me to my final impressions of the whole thing, though, and specifically why I totally hate something like this but can’t get enough of weird crap like Don’t Let The Riverbeast Get You or Who Killed Captain Alex? In both of those latter cases there were certainly at least a few exploitative scenes, but in both cases you got the impression the creators were having fun making a movie. In this case, as you point out, it’s entirely to stroke the ego of the one guy making it.
Or, as we might say: Writing, directing, starring in and producing your own whole damn movie sure is a LONG way to go to see topless women.
Jim: That is true. There is no other reason for GetEven to exist except to make John De Hart feel powerful. Which also applies to stuff like The Room or the collected works of Neil Breen, of course. Maybe De Hart just wanted an excuse to buy some leather pants?
Ken: I even rank this below Ben & Arthur, which is REALLY saying something. The director at least treated his actors better, all things considered.
Jim: Damn, son. That means I’m going to have to work extra hard to offend your tastes even further. Next time it’s my pick.
Ken: I shudder to think what you’ll come up with. Until next time sir, watch out for those Satanists.
Jim: Guard your babies.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer, and you can follow him on Twitter. Kenneth Lowe is a contributing writer for Paste, and you can read more of his writing at his blog.