The good lord blessed us with an ultimate b-movie action angel with the great Wings Hauser 🙌 😇
So be it for me to use an emoji when describing an ultimate 90s action movie, but I’ll be damned if Wings Hauser doesn’t warrant a smiley face halo for his work knocking out ultimate b-movie action hits over the years.
Best known to many as a character actor, or often bad guy or bully, over decades of television work and spot film appearances, Wings has a remarkable talent for onscreen scene chewing in any role. However, where the man really shines is in his self-directed b-movie action vehicles like the 1990 classic Living to Die.
UAMC Reviews Living to Die (1990)
Oh man, is this ever a Wings MF-ing Hauer film. We get our man as a retired cop/detective guy or something quickly set up in an opening bust gone wrong number. Or something like that, I was as distracted as Wings’ character Nick Carpenter was casually hitting on his lady partner. Regardless, we arrive in Las Vegas where Wings is cast in the middle of a weird world of drugs, prostitution and all the neo-noir criss-crossing of characters and allegencies that you’d find in Chinatown.
Wings does his part though sifting through the many leads, turns and women as he roughs up various characters, kicks plenty of butt and downs as many whiskey neats (water backs) as possible. Overall the film actually works quite well with Wings offering a surprisingly deft hand at directorship. Some shots and sequences drag a bit, but for a film where you can see the budget play out at times with actors and sets, it’s actually a quite impressive job done.
Character Actors Babyyyyyy!
But what really makes the film great are all the character actors babyyyyyy! Led by Wings’ uncanny ability to make a MEAL out of any scene he’s in, the rest of the cast seems to relish the opportunity to play up against his oozy confident charisma and takes their turns at ramping up the ACTING! I say this in caps because you can tell when an actor is really GOING FOR IT in terms of how quiet, loud or explosive they can be.
Wings, for example, can turn a casual scene of, hmm you know: picking up a payphone and asking for a number. And turn it into this beautiful 5-minute masterclass into how to do as much screenwork as possible, yelling to a non-existent bartender in the back, coughing up a lung for dramatic effect, then finding his light and positioning himself into some renaissance art pose to take the most casual of phone conversations.
We also get a huge ensemble cast of women who undoubtedly Wings had hand-cast in each role from his personal Hollywood friend groups with the promises of making them into stars… And as seedy as that might sound today, you could argue that he at least delivers the goods because there are some great roles in this film as the women show off a surprising amount of diversity and range from a full improvised dance number to a classy songstress that could have led off any scene in Goodfellas.
But, How Ultimate is it?
That’s just the acting though, and odd as it may be for me to recommend a film just on acting, I’d actually have to do it for Wings’ performances alone. However, luckily, there is a very respectable amount of action as well. Wings is not one to hold a punch should it come up in any scene. And working as a hired gun of sorts, he certainly knows how to play the tough guy and rough up a few figures to put the story together.
There’s also the aforementioned big action set at the beginning with several fisticuffs and minor shootouts sprinkled throughout. However, if you’re looking for Arnold or Chuck Norris level action you might be a bit left out. This is a Wings movie baby, and like it or not he’s gonna get his screentime with his acting and with his ladies. He saves the action for key scenes where a butt needs to be kicked before he can kick back with another whiskey neat and wax poetic on life – Wings style!