Roy Batty himself, Rutger Hauer passed away ironically in 2019 the same year the iconic character he played in 1982’s Blade Runner went out in. Current news reports say that Hauer battle an illness, and that he died on July 19th.
Hauer was an actor who like many owned in movies of the 1980s, and his performances stood ingrained into your mind. From the psychotic Hitchhiker in 1986’s the Hitcher, to 1981’s Nighthawks where he played the villainous terrorist Wulfgar (which was my first experience with the actor). He’d do more nefarious work playing Cardinal O’Rourke in Sin City and William Earle in Batman Begins (2005).
Yes, he played a really good bad guy that you hoped to see get competence. But me personally? I really loved it when he played the good guy. I know crazy right? Me the guy who loves villains from an actor who played a lot of bad guys. HA! The irony is delicious, but yeah I’m aware of it.
Thing is, when Hauer played a good guy there was just something to the character he played an added dimension he added to the most meaningless of film. The very concept of that perfectly captures this is a very lesser known role: Harley Stone in 1992’s Split Second. The best way I can categorize the film itself is it’s a buddy cop action film that has an edge of Science Fiction and Horror to it. The role is pure Hauer as he plays a grizzled paranoid mess of a cop who’s hunting a gruesome killer with the backdrop of a waterlogged London in the future.
The moment when the two forces finally collide after all the teasing/taunting the killer has done. It’s just so damn good. Add the chemistry Hauer has with fellow actor Neil Duncan (remember I said this was a buddy cop movie) is just damn exceptional (how has this movie not been released on Blu-Ray yet here in the US?!). Like literally this movie is just so damn under-rated on how off the radar for some folks shocks me at time. If you’ve watched movies with Hauer this should be on your list of films to watch:
The other is Nick Parker in Blind Fury (1989). This one is a Western version of the Zatoichi franchise, and Hauer just delivers that exceptional dry wit he’s known for, against a plethora of heavies. Again, glorious 80s action, and Hauer was a damn good lead.
The final performance I really enjoyed out of Hauer was the Hobo in the aptly named Hobo with a Shotgun (2011). Its a gritty grizzled performance that only Rutger Hauer could have provided so perfectly.
These are the easy roles of protagonist I can recall. He’s the hero in Omega Doom, the anti-hero in Arctic Blue (which basically is 3:10 from Yuma just modern, in Alaska, and Hauer is channeling his Hitcher performance just a tiny bit, but dammit it’s still so damn watchable) or Blast where he steals the entire movie with a lone scene.
If there was a villain role that I enjoyed from him? It probably be a tie between the Huntsman in the TV mini-series the 10th Kingdom (nothing escapes the Huntsman) and Lothos from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). But to be fair, Paul Reubens was also hungry in that film:
Whatever the case there was always a role that Hauer played that would resonate in a viewer’s heart: good or evil. Me? I preferred it when he played as a protagonist. But I know some others liked his evil roles. But of course there is only one line that seems utterly fitting now.
But these moments from Hauer will not be lost. Thank you so much Mr. Hauer for all your glorious performances you gave us.