The year is 2008 and global warming has seen to it that the city of London has become waterlogged as the seas rise. The inhabitants are used to living in such conditions, as the whole area has gone downhill dramatically, but cop Harley Stone (Rutger Hauer) has more to worry about than property prices since his partner was murdered in mysterious circumstances a while back. He is clinging onto his job, especially as he thinks the killer is still at large and he needs to track it down. Tonight he ends up at this nightclub, and after braving the door staff finds that he may be close to his quarry...
Split Second was a modest British attempt to keep up with the type of science fiction action flick that had become such a genre staple across the Pond. Scripted by American Gary Scott Thompson, it may not have turned out to be particularly accurate in terms of its predictive powers - the actual London of 2008 didn't look much like the damp murk of its depiction here - but what it did have in its favour was the sense that everyone involved were well aware that this was a load of nonsense, and were hellbent on having as much fun as they could with it. Not everyone got this film's sense of humour, but those who did have a small place in their hearts for it.
In some parts it skirts close to spoof, as Hauer most notably cannot resist sending up his surroundings as the hardbitten but deeply eccentric cop. His idiosyncrasy is excused by the trauma he has suffered, so he has given up the booze to indulge in cup after cup of sweet coffee instead, which would amount to a running joke if it was not entirely clear whether we were meant to be laughing at him quite as much as we do. In the nature of these things, Stone is given a new partner to assist him, and they are of course mismatched to the extent that Detective Dick Durkin (Alastair Duncan, then best known in Britain for Taggart) tries to give Stone a massage and gets a gun up his nose for his trouble.
The ways in which these two set out to rub each other up the wrong way are farcical, with Durkin boasting that he "gets laid every night", and Stone playing such tricks as throwing away his partner's car keys so he cannot follow him on the case. The rest of the cast were made up of British talent like Alun Armstrong as the perpetually bad-tempered chief, and Pete Postlethwaite as the antagonistic cop who would be even more mismatched with Stone. There had to be love interest, and she is another imported star Kim Cattrall as Michelle, who is merely present to be menaced by the baddie, although she does get one weird/funny line when the killer breaks into the flat she's showering in, Stone hears her scream, goes to the rescue only to be told she cried out because the water went cold (!).
There are plenty of such touches in Split Second that too many missed at the time, preferring to take the movie on face value, but now look to be downright odd in the manner it parodies itself, almost as if embarrassed. This was not only a sci-fi effort, but a horror hybrid, so the villain is eventually presumed to be the incarnation on Earth of Satan himself thanks to his tendency to rip out hearts, leave messages in blood for Stone, and generally dress his crimes up with occult significance. Hauer plays all this tough cop on the edge business to the hilt, indulging in such strangeness as playing a scene with a pigeon on his head or interrogating (and insulting) a guard dog at the nightclub, which if you are willing to go with it does quickly grow very funny. Plotwise, it could have been a lot more coherent, as if lifting various clichés and piecing them together was considered sufficient, but you can see why this enjoyed a minor cult following among those pleasantly surprised by its daftness. Music by Francis Haines and Stephen Parsons, incorporating Nights in White Satin for some reason.