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  Salute of the Jugger, The Ultimate Play The Game
Year: 1989
Director: David Webb Peoples
Stars: Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen, Delroy Lindo, Anna Katarina, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ghandi MacIntyre, Justin Monjo, Aaron Martin, Max Fairchild, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Richard Norton, Lia Francisca, Dale Brown, Cecilia Wong, Greg Jordan, John Samaha, David Bookalil
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The cry goes up that there are Juggers on the way, and that can only mean one thing: there will be a match imminently where the wandering fighters battle the team of the village. The game they play has been a custom ever since society broke down after the wars of a century ago, and though its purpose and origin has been lost over all that time, that hasn't prevented it from being the defining activity of the post-civilisation society which remained in the rubble of the former, advanced one. This team in question are led by Sallow (Rutger Hauer), a man with a past and Kidda (Joan Chen) wishes to join him...

There lay the problem with Salute of the Jugger (aka The Blood of Heroes) for many, right there in that introduction. The whole point of playing the game is to win, and the sole purpose of winning is to play once again, which with nothing but getting another go achieved made for a film that seemed somewhat lacking in the tension front, especially considering it was a Mad Max clone, also filmed in Australia, that didn't have half the ingenuity of the George Miller movies. Nope, what you got here was dubious glory and lots of grunting, sweating and characters proving themselves as true hardmen, or hardwomen in some cases.

Yet somehow this tapped into the whole mindset of computer gaming, not that there's any such technology in evidence here, but the Jugging actually caught on in real life, so much so that there were small but significant teams playing the sport cropping up all over the world. Seeing as how the rules are not even explained much in the script of writer and director David Webb Peoples, they were obviously watching the movie a lot closer than many when they popped it into their video machines all those years ago to accompany their beer and pizza, and of course the players did not set out to wound and scar their opponents with real weapons as the combatants did in the movie.

But it just goes to show you that when some people watch a film and wish they could do that, there are others far more active in that ambition and make the fantasy a reality, especially when in the case of the plotline here there really wasn't much to it but getting a dog skull on a spike and pairing off to thump one another while that was going on. They don't use genuine skulls in the recreations, naturally, but that sense of taking part for the hell of it, for the winning when you knew there was no true gain to be had outside of that playing, translated into an appeal for quite a few, if not enough to make it, say, an Olympic sport. Should all of this have passed you by, then settling down to watch the movie itself may well be underwhelming.

Particularly as there's not one laugh in the whole thing: inspirations from gritty sports flicks like North Dallas Forty and Slap Shot to futuristic ones such as Rollerball and Death Race 2000 at least had grim humour to them which threw their action into sharper relief, yet here we had to sit through far too much of the central team wandering the Aussie landscape, getting into scrapes, then sitting around debating their next move with very little variation. Even the action was what you see is what you get, with the basics of hand to hand combat followed with sci-fi movie weapon accoutrements (though nothing as interesting as a light sabre), and no flair whatsoever, fine if you wanted to watch down and dirty brawling, but very humdrum as far as the classic fights of cinema were concerned. What this finally built to was a shot at, not the championship, but the chance to play yet more Jugger games, this time in an underground city, so with that lack of achievement it was hard to care unless you fancied a go. Music by Todd Boekelheide.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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