Up Too Late Film Club: Whatcha Gonna Do...?!

CW: Hey, this movie is fun and when I was a kid I was a big fan of the star, but given the whole "racist tirade" thing and subsequent non-apologies, I really want to stress that has not been the case for me for quite some time. But still, if you opt to skip this one because you want nothing to do with the guy in any form, that's valid and I totally understand.

Click to let VHS-amania run wild on you, brother!

I'm not going to tell you that No Holds Barred is a good movie. By almost any metric you can name it is, in fact, a bad one.

But it is also an astonishingly watchable one, and it is never boring. For all its flaws, No Holds Barred knows exactly what it is and commits to that, wholeheartedly, unironically, and without a moment's hesitation. In fact, I'd put it up there with Tommy Wiseau's The Room and the infamous Vanilla Ice vehicle Cool as Ice, two other movies that aren't in any danger of being labeled "classics" but are so weirdly of themselves that they go past the other side of bad and come back around to being sort of wonderful. Your brain can't quite make sense or tails of what your eyes and ears are feeding it, and yet you need to keep watching.

No Holds Barred, like those others, creates a world that sort of resembles our own but mostly operates by its own rules and its own physics, and consistently follows them throughout. For a project created by and featuring the then-World Wrestling Federation, we spend 90 minutes inhabiting a place even more surreal than any WWF/E storyline.

Hulk Hogan, arguably the biggest star in pro-wrestling history and long before the sex tapes and racist tirades, plays Rip, who is arguably the biggest star in the WORLD! Having Rip on your TV network makes it the biggest outlet in all of entertainment! He's committed to his charity work, he helps teach kids to wrestle in parks, and he sure does love his manager and his brother, too. Oh, and he's almost superpowerful, too, fighting off hordes of heavies singlehandedly with his fists, a motorcycle, or a diner's case of pies. Also, he has the power to make limo drivers shit their pants more or less on command.


via GIPHY


via GIPHY


via GIPHY

(If you know just one thing about this movie, it's probably this scene.)

What's an evil TV exec who wants Rip, and therefore his star- and moneymaking prowess for his own network, to do? He's the guy sending all these baddies (including the dookie guy) after Rip; whose blank check, "work for me and you can do pretty much anything you want if you come work for me" offer was rejected outright (which, if you know anything about Hogan's real life backstage life in wrestling, is hilarious); and whose attempt at hiring a sexy PR manager to seduce him backfires when she legit falls for him because reasons.

Seriously, do you have to, like kinda-sorta invent the UFC and in the process find a presumably unstoppable monster who loves to hurt people and has no problem with paralyzing a dude and maybe a little light murder?

Oh, wait, that might actually work...

So, yeah. It's all pretty ridiculous, but it steers headlong and at full speed into that ridiculousness, without seat belts or crash helmet. Most movies about pro wrestling present pro wrestling as a 100% legitimate sporting endeavor, but this goes so far above and beyond this conceit that not only is it all supposed to be real, but entire entertainment empires live or die based upon it.

Also, we have a champion and hero who is so important, good, and pure that he can wake the comatose and help them walk again through the sheer power of his love and support. That's a pretty big step beyond "train, say your prayers, eatcher vitamins, brother;" it's wrestler as Christ figure, which is a more cartoonish idea than anything even presented on Hogan's actual cartoon series, a show that once depicted Tito Santana using tacos as fishing bait.

Which goes to show that pretty much everything the Hulkster is involved with is equal parts bananapantsedly crazy and problematic. Guess we always should've known.