The Hidden: A Review on 80s Excess and Action
The Hidden. Ultimate Gem.
Directed by Jack Sholder, The Hidden came out in 1987, which was a great year for action movies with such classics as Predator, Robocop, Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop. To say the 80’s was a decade of excess is a bit of an understatement.
When you think of excess and the 80’s the first film that would come to mind would be Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, which itself came out the exact same year. It got all the critical and commercial acclaim and gave birth to the immortal line from Gordon Gekko that defied the decade: “The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Now I’ve never come from money and I doubt I never will be rich. I can’t relate to Gekko because I’m not a greedy bastard. But the desire of wanting and coveting things is just human nature, but in the case of the film I’m writing about there is nothing human about the lead villain’s intentions. The Hidden is what I believe to the the definitive action movie about excess of the 1980’s.
A Truly 80s Movie
The Hidden is about ordinary, law abiding citizens in Los Angeles suddenly turning into criminals with no previous inclinations of violence whatsoever. A local cop called Beck (Michael Nouri) cannot figure out the motives behind the sudden crime rate which involves grand theft auto, robbery and murder from seemingly normal folks. FBI Agent Gallagher (Kyle MacLachan) is brought in to help Beck with the case and informs him that it’s not random as it appears but committed by the same person. Of course Beck doesn’t believe him but as the investigation goes on, all of Gallagher’s theories start making more sense.
The movie opens of grainy security footage of a bank when a lonely figure comes into frame. He casually surveys everything when a group of security officers with cash bags come close to him. All of a sudden he pulls out a shotgun, kills them, takes a bag of money and looks at the camera smiling, before shooting it. He leaves the bank calmly, hopes into a parked Ferrari and speeds off with some sweet trash metal blaring out of the car speakers. Cop cars quickly pursue he speeds through construction sites, tunnels and freeways with reckless abandon. He even runs over of wheelchair bound man with no remorse. This would sound like a movie version of the Grand Theft Auto video game series. It’s not until a blockade headed up by Beck stops him that the smiling assassin is taken to hospital.
While at the hospital Beck finds out his name is Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey), a family man with no prior history of violent crime and no motive to go on a crime spree. Banged up in a hospital bed, DeVries wakes up from a coma and goes to the bed of another comatose man, Jonathan Miller (William Boyett). DeVries rips off Miller’s breathing mask, opens his mouth then an alien slug appears from DeVries’ mouth and transfers itself into Miller’s body, then Devires drops dead. Miller wakes up and proceeds to walk out and the crime spree continues. Gallagher is then assigned with Beck because of his connection to the case and together they try to stop the parasite before more people are killed.
Jack Sholder’s Action Directing
I won’t give anymore of the story away because I don’t want to spoil it for you. This was only Jack Sholder’s third movie after the horror movies Alone in the Dark and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. He combines the science fiction and horror elements of the story really well by presenting it as a solid action movie. All the action scenes are well staged and shot, you can follow the action incredibly well. Some of the humor and jokes do fall a bit flat but that doesn’t out way the overall experience of the movie. The practical effects are done great too, especially the alien slug transfer scenes.
Acting wise I can’t fault it to much. Michael Nouri handles the role of Beck well, even though it is an outrageous situation he plays it straight and it works. Also with the usual hardened cop flair. And keeping up with the playing it straight style, Kyle MacLachan preceded Special Agent Dale Cooper by three years with Gallagher, who is even more wound up than Cooper. But there is a reason for this which I won’t give away if you haven’t seen it. But he does the whole “boy next door” mixed with “spent too long in his parent’s basement” great, adding to the uneasy partnership with him and Beck. The supporting cast is great as well with Katherine Cannon as Beck’s wife Barbara, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager and Ed O’Ross. Keep an eye out for Danny Trejo as a prisoner too.
An A+ B-Movie
All that being said, for a “B” action movie it definitely gets an “A” for effort. The script written by Jim Kouf (as Bob Hunt) seems like your typical buddy cop, Shane Black style story but because of the body-swapping angle it can be a bit unpredictable by the fact this alien can be anyone at all, like the Agents from the Matrix trilogy. It was also interesting to make the alien a gluttonous character, wanting money, fast cars and violence without repercussion as a version of humanity that left unchecked, can do incredible damage to itself and the environment. That’s why I like B movies because they can have the ability to put in social commentary and mix it up with exploitation stories. It could almost be like John Carpenter movie.
So if you want a fun, sci-fi action movie with some subtle hints on excess-driven 1980’s America then give The Hidden a try or if you have just give it a rewatch.
Article by Dan Wilson. What do you think about The Hidden and 80s Excess? Let us know in the comments or on the Facebook page. And if you have any ultimate action movies you’d like to review or write about, let us know!