by Shae Konnit
The 90s were a golden age for small-time film production. Video recording equipment was more accessible than ever before, so anyone with a bit of disposable income could give it a try. Consequently, the 90s were also a golden age of shit. I mean that in the most affectionate terms, of course.
There were so many movies being hastily churned out which I describe as “Ego-Massage Productions” and Road to Revenge (1993) is a perfect example.
What do I mean by this? Well, John De Hart presumably had a story he wanted to tell, so he sat down to write it (although he couldn’t decide whether to give it the title Road to Revenge or Geteven, so ended up using both). When it came to committing the story to film, De Hart decided he would also direct it.
And star in it.
And write the music.
And sing the damn songs.
It’s not simply a matter of taking on all the jobs which makes this an Ego-massage production, however; there’s a chance that could simply have been for budgetary reasons; it’s that our hero, ex-cop Rick Bode, strides through the movie as an avatar of brilliance. You name it, Rick Bode is the best at it – singing, fighting, romancing the ladies – he is the standard by which all others are judged. However strained the singing, however clumsy the fighting, however many neck muscles you pull from cringing at the romance; Rick Bode is adored by his friends and feared by his enemies.
There is so much worth talking about in this movie that I feel a simple review is not enough, so here is my analysis of Geteven/Road to Revenge:
The film starts with the untimely end of Rick’s career as a cop. He’s part of a 3-man team, along with his Lieutenant, Normad and partner, Huck Finney. Normad… sounds like he was born to be a villain. They’re creeping up on an old, rotten trailer which some drug dealers are using as their base of operations. Rick laments that they don’t have a warrant to carry out any arrests but Normad wants to attack anyway – he has ears on the streets, so he claims, so that’s why they’ll kill the dealers first and get a warrant later. This sets up Rick as a righteous man who does things by the book. There are some maverick cops out there who may be unafraid to bend the rules to get results, thereby cutting through all that troublesome red tape, but not our Rick Bode; he knows that there are rules to being a cop and following them is the good, Christian thing to do.
The trio promptly get into a firefight with the drug dealers, in which Huck is injured. Thankfully, this was filmed before the proliferation of CGI effects so they used blanks or maybe even live bullets, shooting at distant targets. The actors wince with almost every shot, so you know this is serious business. In the course of the firefight, Rick’s gun jams – a cartridge can be seen stuck in the ejection port but this doesn’t stop him; the sound of gunfire continues and the drug dealers drop dead, regardless.
Rick is now very angry with Lt. Normad, telling him they should have waited for backup and then, maybe, Huck wouldn’t have been shot. In fact, he’s so angry that he ends up slamming his knee into Normad’s gut. “Wow!” you might think, “That’s a fancy move for a cop!” Don’t worry – this shall all be explained. You see, Rick Bode has a black belt in Kung Fu San Soo! Immediately after his act of violent insubordination we’re treated to a training (?) scene, with Rick demonstrating his skills in said art. He back-fists, back-kicks, front-kicks and otherwise feebly slaps a punch bag, possibly hurting himself in the process, with a level of skill which can only be obtained by attending a full hour’s free introductory lesson at any shopping mall karate school!
Of course, a superior officer being assaulted leads to a court case in which Lt. Normad denounces Rick and Huck as junkies and drug dealers, themselves. He testifies that, among other things, he spotted them with small plastic bags containing a “leafy substance”. De Hart certainly knows his pot-heads – no doubt this “leafy substance” is the marijuana leaves which junkies use to roll their drugs joints! Their joints of drugs!
This does not sit well with Huck, at all. We have no idea how much time has passed since the incident at the trailer, but by the looks of it Huck immediately took to alcohol to recover from the stress and hasn’t stopped drinking since. He responds to Normad’s accusations by shouting at the Judge, challenging Normad to a fight and attacking 2 other police officers, all in the middle of the court.
Maybe it’s the drink talking, but Huck takes no shit from anyone.
Time passes, and what do ex-cops do? Go to bars and get drunk, of course. Huck is way ahead of Rick in that regard; by the looks of it he still hasn’t stopped drinking. Which is convenient, as it looks like the actor himself was paid in beer and managed to negotiate an 80% advance on his payment. Ironically, this leads to what I would say is the best, most natural acting in the entire movie. Huck represents us, the audience, and he is showing us that the best way to endure Geteven is to be half-cut at the very least. He ad-libs, ribs the rest of the cast for the stupid dialogue and generally approaches life in a much more believable manner. Here is a great example of his jibing the script at the bar scene:
Huck: “What’re you drinkin’, bud?”
Rick: “I’ll have a beer, buddy!”
Huck: “A beer-buddy?”
Rick: “A beer, buddy…”
The flow was far too natural, compared to the rest of the stilted conversation, for that to have been scripted and with Huck already out of shot when he said it.
We’re not even 15 minutes into the film at this point but already I think Huck should be the star, rather than Rick.
The point of this scene, however, is not to reinforce the camaraderie between our two former LEOs, but to set up the rather obvious love interest in the form of Cindy – a fairly typical, big-titted blonde who ran away from home (we know this is what happened because Rick tells us that her parents haven’t seen her in months) and also to demonstrate another of Rick’s incredible skills: singing!
The bar seems to specialize in country music so when the resident band strike up a familiar tune, all the folks at the bar urge Rick to get up and sing. What results is the scene for which this movie is most well known – The Shimmy Slide. Rick gets up on stage and gives it his full 60% with a performance reminiscent of a high-school talent show and with a look on his face like he wants to punish you with his singing.
While Rick is up, entertaining the clientele whether they like it or not, the bad guys make an appearance. You can tell they’re the bad guys ‘cause they frown. They surround Cindy at the bar, saying she looks familiar. “Yeah, you’re the coven bitch, alright!” says one. I wonder what he could be talking about…
Oh well, Rick doesn’t jump to her rescue like other actions heroes might. We’ve already established that he has a strong sense of duty and obedience to the rules from his time as a LEO and that certainly hasn’t left him – he stays up to finish his song.
Another hallmark of Ego-Massage Productions is their deviation from the usual writing rule of show; don’t tell. The star usually isn’t good enough to be able to show their talents, so they tell us instead. As such, Cindy tells Rick she forgot how great a singer he is.
At this point the tone of the scene takes a rather abrupt, 90⁰ turn in that the band quickly abandon the stage so the topless dancer can perform. Bit of a surprise, but ok…
She’s wearing a cowboy hat and dancing to Rick’s Shimmy Slide tune, so at least she’s keeping in with the theme.
Now, I’m not sure what the hell writer/director/star/singer/songwriter John De Hart was trying to say when he wrote this scene but he does have some odd attitudes towards women. This is exemplified by a couple of girls sitting at a table watching the performance; one of them thinks the show is disgusting and they should call the cops, and the other counters this by reminding her friend that a bit of topless dancing is like Sunday School compared to the parties she has at her apartment, and that she should get over it.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, the bad guys heckle a barmaid, asking why she isn’t up on the stage. “Because,” she says, “I have a brain.”
So there you go, ladies – topless dancing is just a bit of fun for consenting adults, so you shouldn’t take it too seriously. And the dancers are all brainless idiots anyway, so it’s all good!
While the dancer is up dancing, one of the bad guys tries to confront Cindy again but thankfully Rick stands in their way. After he gives the standard warning of “She’s with me!” we finally get a fight. Completely forgetting his kung fu, Rick swings at his opponent with a couple of hooks. You’ve heard of the quick one-two? Well, Rick employs that lesser known technique, the slow one-two. Typically, the bad guy just stands there and takes it, dutifully raising no defence so we can see how tough our hero is.
Contrast that with Huck when he intercepts another goon rushing to attack, punches him in the gut, picks him up and slams his face into a pinball machine – Huck Finney fucks him up!
We cut back to Rick with some more awkward flapping of his arms which somehow connect with his opponents’ faces, and back once again to Huck who’s now dragging a goon to the floor for a good ol’ ground-and-pound. As if that’s not enough, Huck then pours a beer over his downed opponent and kicks him in the face. It’s only the police arriving which likely saved that goon from having a bottle jammed straight up his ass. In fact, Huck seems angry the cops dared to stop him and looked ready to give them a taste of his fury as he shouts “Aw, fuck you!”
Now that the cops have turned up, everyone gets arrested for fighting. Except Rick, of course, who’s too brilliant and perfect to be arrested, so it’s up to him to bail out Huck who apparently managed to sneak a bottle of whiskey into the cells, as he is still drunk. The bad guys are also released and give Rick an evil glare as they depart.
After this we’re granted an insight into Rick’s frankly bizarre methods of wooing a woman half his age, as he takes Cindy out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. We’re treated to some particularly loud and intrusive Spanish guitar music (the reason for which we’ll find out soon enough), a loud, bubbling water feature and some loud crunching from Rick as he gnashes on a cracker. All of this drowns out the conversation between our love birds until the waiter, Benny arrives.
Benny isn’t just here to take their order – he wants to hear Rick’s latest dirty jokes, which he is more than happy to share.
Oh, Rick you are such a card!
Cut to the next day and Cindy now explains who the goons were at the bar and where she’s been these past few months. Turns out she was feeling a bit down and hung out with a bunch of guys who started doing drugs and, next thing you know, they’re all worshipping Satan. Happens all the time, right? I mean, it’s a perfectly logical progression, isn’t it…?
We get a flashback of when she decided to quit the coven. Doing drugs and worshipping Satan was all good fun, sure, but when they started sacrificing babies, (you know, as Satan worshippers do) enough was enough. She kicked up a real fuss with lots of screaming, so she had to be tied up by the bar goons.
“Bitch isn’t good enough to follow Satan!” declares one of the cultists. These junkies have high standards, I suppose.
Sarcasm aside, I would be truly amazed if he said that line on the first take. I’m sure it must have sounded much more menacing and evil in De Hart’s head when he was writing it but when it’s actually being spoken, that cultist has all the gravitas of a 10-year old declaring that the Sega Genesis is only for cool kids!
Oh, and guess who the high priest of this coven turns out to be…That’s right – Normad!
This whole scene makes me wonder if there was some sort of, “escalation of evil” in De Hart’s head when he was writing the story. Crooked cops are a pretty stale feature of action movies in 1993, so what could be worse than that?
A crooked cop… who worships Satan!
Cindy now fears that the cultists are out to kill her because she knows too much. Rick consoles her, promising they’ll “get through this.” Get through this…? It’s not a slightly difficult financial situation. It’s not an unplanned pregnancy – it’s a bunch of lunatics out for blood! You don’t, “get through” it, Rick – you call on those (pretty much forgotten) kung fu skills and kick some ass!
Not that his choice of words particularly matters, anyway; he’s Rick and, therefore, the best at everything so Cindy’s fears are cast aside and she’s more than eager for some kinky sex.
This is the first of two sex scenes in the movie with accompanying love songs performed by John De Hart, of course. The intrusive Spanish guitar we heard at the restaurant was, I’m sure, the intro to this hot, passionate song about rekindled relationships and forbidden love. The music at this point is almost as awkward as the scene itself, with De Hart massively over-emphasising the words in some approximation of passion:
Yeah you feel the PAYNE
You walk through the RAYNE
And now you feel
And now you feel the thunder DHYINNNNNNNNG
Whether this makes the scene better or worse, I’m actually not sure. What I am sure about is that I’m supposed to be tantalized by the sight of Rick awkwardly undressing Cindy and rubbing ice cubes on her nipples.
The sex scenes in this film seem so contrived and awkward that I can’t help but suspect that they’re the very reason De Hart decided to make a movie – easy access to girls who will do almost anything if it’s in a script.
With life apparently reaching whole new highs for our “hero” Rick, everything seems to be turning to shit for Huck. At this point in the film it looks like Huck hasn’t drank anything that wasn’t at least 10% abv for the past few months as he’s back at the bar, amusing himself by stabbing darts into the bullseye on the nearby dartboard.
I believe the point of this scene was to mark the descent of Huck and how he’s losing control of his life but more than that I’d say it firmly established Rick as an incredibly selfish and self-obsessed asshole, and terrible friend. Rick asks Huck to feel happy for him since he’s getting back together with Cindy and soon they’ll have a new house together (how long ago their relationship actually started is unknown but it’s starting to look like Rick must have been counting down the seconds until she hit 18), all the while seemingly oblivious to the fact that his close friend and former LEO partner can barely remain upright. Huck almost gets into a fight with some other patrons over a Hamlet recital and orders another drink, while Rick just stands there and lets him do it.
He could so easily have stopped Huck from drinking himself stupid. Any other hero would see the problem and immediately seek to solve it. Not Rick Bode.
Huck eventually makes his way home somehow, and his life is basically at an end. He can’t pay his bills, can’t pay his ex-wife/landlord to keep her in shoes and dresses, and has apparently forgotten how to treat his ex-wife’s tits, which she, herself, declares as she points them at him.
To make matters worse, turns out Huck’s ex has been seeing Normad, who is also a judge, now.
De Hart really upped the stakes in this story, as he decided the only thing worse than a crooked cop who worships Satan, is a crooked cop turned crooked judge who worships Satan!
Normad has Huck locked up on an assault charge against his ex, which unfortunately leads to a suicide attempt.
Again, this just makes me angry at Rick – he could have let Huck crash on his couch and helped him through the day. Apparently our hero is only heroic with people he wants to have sex with.
Speaking of which, because of the suicide attempt Huck is now in hospital. He’s also still drunk, by the looks of it. He’s visited by a nun, who I was absolutely sure would turn out to be a strip-o-gram. Her lines about spiritual succour were so poorly delivered it was as if they’d been written on her hand. Although, I admit that would quickly have been forgiven if her habit came flying off and she got into bed with Huck.
Huck himself even remarks, “You’re really pretty for a nun.” This could possibly be another ad-lib as once again he’s saying what we, the audience, are thinking.
Now that Rick plans to get a new house with Cindy (Rick’s a dishonourably discharged cop turned part-time chauffeur and she’s a runaway. How the hell can they afford a house?), they have to retrieve some of Cindy’s clothes from her parents. It’s one thing to describe this scene, but it really has to be seen to be believed.
I suspect this could be the very first scene they shot for the movie, as absolutely no-one can act, here. Every line is delivered so poorly they come with a free bag of prawn crackers; it’s like they’ve had 5 minutes to skim-read the script and with no rehearsal. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Cindy’s father was played by the guy who delivers Huck’s beer.
Rick appears with Cindy at her parents’ door dressed like the director of a small-time porn film and the father regards him like he’s one of the Satanists.
Everything is Satan’s fault according to the father. Rick’s an ex-cop? Must have been Satan Worshipping! Drives a limousine? Must be Satan! Cindy shouting back at her father? That’s Satan, alright! Satan, Satan, Satan!
This is the only scene where Rick’s brilliance fails him, as his advice for the family to calm down and talk about their problems falls on deaf ears; the father has his Satan-vision on, so that’s all he can see.
There’s a short scene after this, with Rick reminiscing about his time on the Force with Huck while he leans against his jeep in the orange glow of the setting sun. As Rick recants his LEO tales and mentions their jerk of a superior officer, Normad, Cindy finds that name very familiar. Rick keeps talking while Cindy racks her brains trying to think of where she could have heard that name.
How could anyone possibly forget a satanic high priest, who had her tied up for refusing to sacrifice a baby, named Normad?
Now we get another sex scene where Rick gets to paw at a naked Cindy, this time in a bath. Of course, we also get another love song badly performed by John De Hart. Cindy is giving a fairly convincing performance of someone in the throes of sexual ecstasy, while Rick gives a convincing performance of a man who can’t believe this is happening simply because he wrote that it should.
After all this sex, Rick decides to marry Cindy. Rick is an ex-cop, with a baby-killing, Satan-worshipping, drug-dealing crooked cop turned crooked judge as a nemesis. We are currently two thirds of the way through the movie, and Rick is marrying the damsel. The movie is also called Road to Revenge/Geteven and thus far there’s nothing really worth getting revenge for or, indeed, getting even about.
We all know there is only one way this can possibly end…
Oh, and it looks like Huck has made a full recovery from his attempted suicide and has hit the sauce with a vengeance, as he’s wearing an obnoxiously bright, orange suit to the wedding and starts creeping into the shot of Rick and Cindy exchanging vows, looking straight at the camera. Rick actually deserves the interruption, as he’s getting married in a fucking tracksuit. Huck truly is the hero we deserve.
There is a vague hint of a honeymoon of some kind on a boat, but what really matters is that Cindy performs a strip tease for Rick. They probably should have given us the strip tease earlier in the film, as after two full sex scenes it feels kinda tame. Not that this matters, of course; I’m pretty sure this scene was purely for De Hart’s own enjoyment.
The minions of Satan find out about the wedding and, for some reason, this prompts them to up their game in attempting to kill Cindy. It just so happens that the goons arrive at the newlyweds’ house just in time for Mr and Mrs Bode to hop on a Harley and tear off down a dirt track, so we get a chase scene. Tragedy strikes as Rick loses control all of a sudden, and suffers a horrific crash. Off scene, of course – they likely couldn’t stretch the budget to cover a motorbike crash or DeHart was unwilling to perform the stunt.
The end result is that Rick is basically perfectly fine but Cindy has been killed.
We now have a rather sombre scene with Cindy’s funeral, and her father once again talking about sin and generally blaming his daughter for being a nasty sinner. Huck has also turned up drunk, once again, and clearly really doesn’t care as he sways from foot to foot, looking at the trees. Again, Huck ironically displays the best acting on the scene as, after everyone else has walked away and Rick frowns at the grave, he mutters some excuses about “(having) something on,” yet promises to visit Rick later. Huck barely makes eye contact with his old partner as he can tell he’s seething with rage; now is a good time to just leave Rick be and let him gather his thoughts, as no words can soothe him.
Dammit, Huck, you should have been given a bigger part! De Hart should have paid him more – give him an open tab at the bar of his choice for the rest of his life, even – just get Huck on the screen! Anyway, finally the title of the movie makes sense! There’s barely 15 minutes of run time left, and only now are we given a reason for revenge and, indeed, a reason to Geteven.
”I’ll get even for you, Cindy!” says Rick, “I promise I’ll get even!”
Rick finally takes his first steps on that Road to Revenge we’ve been waiting over an hour for – a road which leads straight to Normad’s house and happens just in time to interrupt a cocaine deal with some Colombians. Rick’s weapon of choice at this point is a compound bow, presumably because Rambo used one so De Hart thought it’s the weapon of true tough-guys.
The problem here is that when Rick spots a guard to shoot, he barely pulls the string halfway down his arm before loosing an arrow. With that kind of pull he’d be lucky to penetrate a sports jacket, never mind his target’s chest. At a guess, I’d say the reason for this is that this raid scene is filmed at night, so if Rick made the shot properly they’d never find the arrow. Rick makes his way inside the building and his compound bow has morphed into a crossbow. The crossbow is forgotten as quickly as Rick’s martial arts skills, and it’s down to the pistols for a hallway shootout. They must have been using some pretty loud blanks as, once again, Rick winces in pain as he trades shots with a set of random, satanic goons in a gun battle reminiscent of an arcade shooter.
Rick hides in a doorway and kills a few goons and… that’s it. Fight over.
Rick catches Normad in his hidden temple trying to snort his way through a briefcase full of cocaine and gloats, saying this “high and mighty judge” will do 30 years. A couple of satanic goons from the bar suddenly appear (in vests, of course) and Rick is taken outside to be shot. The goons aren’t very good at their job, as it looks like Rick has to put his own hand up his back to be led out.
Now, normally at a scene like this, the bad guys would give a short speech outlining their plan or otherwise explain just how much the hero has failed and that his situation is entirely hopeless. Hell, they may even have explained how they’d use Rick’s corpse for a satanic ritual. This is what could have happened if it were the hero they had captured, but we know Rick is not a real hero.
There is no time for words, however, as our true hero, Huck, suddenly springs from the bushes and clobbers one of the satanists! Unfortunately, Huck is once again shot but he caused enough of a distraction for Rick to turn around and wrestle with his would-be executioner. There are some gunshot sounds and the goon lies dead. Presumably the gun was wrestled away by Rick but the sound effects are so oddly placed, much of the action quickly disappears off scene and no-one’s actually holding a gun when the shots are fired – the whole film is a rushed mess at this point.
Rick re-enters the satanic temple and Normad is standing right where he left him, only now in his robes. We get the lamest ever line from a hero escaped from near-death and back for revenge from Rick: “It’s me, again!”
Not exactly memorable but, as I said, no-one in the movie cares at this point.
Rick has an awkward fist-fight with Normad, which came as particularly annoying since Normad is played by William Smith; a film veteran who could be seen knocking fuck out of Clint Eastwood for 10 minutes in the film Any Which Way You Can, so it was difficult to watch him land only a single punch on Rick (to which he didn’t even react) before being slowly thumped and, finally, stabbed in the gut. When you see an actor who you know can deliver a decent fight scene and their skills in this regard are completely neglected, it hurts a lot more than the hero’s feeble love-taps.
Rick burns down Normad’s house, and that’s that.
His lust for revenge now satisfied, Rick sits at Cindy’s grave to give her the good news. Sister Strip-o-Gram appears once again to urge Rick to give her a ride to the hospital and we’re given the happy ending:
It turns out Cindy isn’t dead, after all – she was only pretending!
Geteven/Road to Revenge really has to be seen to be believed. It has so many flaws, so many mistakes that could easily have been cut from the finished movie and such poor characterisation that we’re given a complete asshole for a hero and a brilliant, yet completely neglected, sidekick with a much more interesting journey.
All of these issues are the hallmarks of a low-budget, Ego Massage Production; we are simply told that the hero is great and heroic, so we just have to accept it despite everything that happens in the movie. However, this is also the saving grace of films such as this – the ego means the story is told straight-faced and with the utmost sincerity, which in turn makes the flaws and problems unintentionally hilarious.
If Geteven/Road to Revenge were made with a greater budget or with even an ounce more professionalism, it wouldn’t be half as entertaining.