Bounty Hunters, The (1985)

Video 2 Video strikes like the cobra. From the opening logo with wobbly synths to the final fade out that had me sitting there for 10 seconds before I said “Oh, it’s over,” V2V has handed me The Rapture in one of the oddest 60-minute adventures ever.

Two ex-Vietnam Vet/Bounty Hunters are called up from the States to Toronto. Their Sergeant from ‘Nam sends them on a mission to kidnap a crazy gentleman who escaped to Canada after killing three women. They are helped out by two women: one of whom never has her presence explained (although the Sergeant tells us that all shall be made clear) and one of whom never actually does anything. It all ends with a very tense “crossing the border” scene that provides “hair-trigger tension” for everyone in the room, including your dog.

I bought this video from Amoeba Music about five years ago for $1.98. And, it wasn’t until this past weekend (July 31, 2010) that I actually sat down and watched it. Then, I watched it again. Then, I called Joe over and had him watch it. Then, we just shook our heads and jumped up and down with hot buttered verve. The Bounty Hunters is 60 minutes of pure 80s SOV loopy insanity. Any video box that says “Shot-on-video for use in the home of the videophile” (or words to that effect) is going to have something for the discerning viewer. And, Oh Lord, am I discerning!

The video doesn’t always jump right out and say “Hey! We’re crazy!” Its craziest trait is a subtler one: a series of Narrative Bumps. Plotlines begin…Things seem to be going one way…suddenly, we’re in the middle of another story. Who are these people? What’s going on? Then, we’re somewhere else… What, what, what? Well…it all makes sense but not in a linear way. And, then it ends and whole scenes are left unexplained. Characters have appeared and done nothing. We’re slowly moving towards the climax…suddenly, we’re in the middle of it. And, the big exciting kidnap scene is over and we’re winding down and, literally, if you went in another room for one minute, you’d miss it and wonder how they got the cult leader in the back of their van so quickly.

But, the film gives up its insane bouncing dividends gradually. The first fifteen minutes are pretty straight. The lunacy occurs after that. And, all I could think was “Why? Why is this film so…whatever-it-is?” Was it general contempt for the video renting public? Was it a general inability to control an overcomplicated narrative? Was the original cut much longer? Or (I like this one) was this meant to be the first in a Bounty Hunters series? The two guys look out over Niagara Falls at one point and think about where they’ve been and wonder “Where will we go next?” “The Clearance Table at a Hollywood Music Store twenty years later” may not have been what they expected but I’m glad I found them.

What might be a straightforward shot-on-video action piece turns loopy every few minutes until you don’t know who you’re looking at or why you’re looking at them…and then it ends. This is great. This film is living the “Bleeding Skull Lifestyle”. You should find a copy.

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