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‘No Holds Barred’ (PG-13)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 08, 1989

"No Holds Barred" is Hulk Hogan's big-scream debut, unless you count those endless closed-circuit showdowns that have made him the world's best-known pro wrestler. His performance is as dreadful as one might expect from a man with such limited skills outside the ring, made worse by a story that is at once more obvious and less inspired than your average Wrestlemania script.

While the Hulkster himself does little damage to his sterling image, there's a distressing amount of violence throughout the film. Some of it is directed at the few women characters, including poor Joan Severance, who must suffer the double indignity of portraying Hulk's girlfriend and his enemies' stooge. Most of it centers on Tiny Lister, who portrays Zeus, a convicted killer, evil incarnate, who will eventually confront Hulk in the ring. He's so nasty, vicious and a dozen similar negatives that any possible humor or sense of caricature is overridden. Why is it that the exaggerated bad guys of so many lousy films are usually the only blacks in such films?

Thanks to a script that seems to be a collaboration between Hogan's publicists and Hollywood hacks who somehow missed "Rocky" and its progeny, we are led to believe Hulk is a much-beloved world champion. Seems Hulk's also a man of his word, committed to appear on one network but coveted by a sleazy competing network. The head of that network (the sleazy Kurt Fuller) organizes counterprogramming in the form of a $100,000 "Battle of the Tough Guys" -- "no ring, no ref, no rules."

In a series of brawls (taking place for some odd reason in dingy steelworks), Zeus makes quick and nasty work of assorted bull-men. Then he beats up Hulk's brother, sending him to the brink of death and, naturally, arousing Hulk's ire.

Is there a showdown in the works? Will ring domination shift back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball? Will the evil network head get his? Will people be able to stifle their laughs watching the barely credible Hulk get romantic? And how about those big-screen cheek flutters and awesome dead-eye stares, or in the case of Zeus, cross-eyed stares?

Charmless, stupid and badly made, "No Holds Barred" makes "Rocky" look like "Citizen Pain."

"No Holds Barred" is rated PG-13 and contains about what you'd expect from a film about professional wrestling.

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