In the eighties, Rutger Hauer was king. He was a man who managed to impress as both villain and anti-hero in many movies from the classic “The Hitcher” and “Bladerunner” to the not so classic but memorable “Blind Fury.” And as is the case, with every generation of bad asses, there’s always someone Hollywood is looking to peg as the next McQueen. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is based on the excellent Western series starring Steve McQueen as a lone bounty hunter in the old west who travels along the land with his shot gun acquiring his next catch and teaching them lessons along the way while fighting the local bad guys. As is the case with the eighties, director Gary Sherman completely diminishes all of its period settings and sets its hero down in to modern times coating him with black leather, slicked back hair and teaming him against local terrorists as played by the tongued one Gene Simmons.
For all its inclination to be considered a very loose television adaptation, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” makes very little effort to mimic the series as a whole. Sure, Nick Randall is a bounty hunter, but there’s only one real instance in which he hunts a bounty and in spite of the sequence being a typical prologue wherein our anti-hero thwarts a liquor store robbery and defies authorities, Randall for the most part is a boring anti-hero. Nick Randall is explained to be the purported descendent of McQueen’s character Josh Randall in the original series, and there’s little to no argument made to why that’s even remotely relevant to the overall arc. Nick is nowhere near as interesting as Josh, in the end. He’s edgy but bland, and in spite of the screenwriters attempts to add some complexity to him, he fails at being anything remotely interesting during his time on-screen.
What starts as a man who hunts different criminals soon becomes nothing more than a crime thriller about Nick being called back in to active duty to track a terrorist who is corrupting every bit of his life. Nick is then embroiled in a plot with the local authorities where he’s being used as a tool to capture Malak Al Rahim all the while Simmons is basically forgettable as this villainous terrorist who takes it upon himself to strike at Nick’s home, his financial security and his bland love interest, all the while Nick never actually hunts anyone. The title is turned on its head from being a summary of Nick’s whole job to being about Nick who is wanted by local authorities and Rahim’s crime syndicate by the time the second half rolls around.
Nick’s whole shtick revolves around his eluding the authorities and danger all the while rarely ever implementing his use of his Mare’s Leg, or his ability to hunt people too much. When Nick finds himself confronted with Rahim in the climax, much of “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is a muddled and rather disappointing little affair taking what was an interesting and utterly exciting premise and turning it in to just another action film. Gary Sherman’s action thriller acts as something of an unusual animal. It’s a sequel and adaptation of a Western series that is set in modern times with little to no relevance to the original source material beyond marketing on Steve McQueen’s name recognition. “Wanted: Dead or Alive” is a bland and often lackluster action thriller with Rutger Hauer failing to hold a candle to McQueen.