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Hipster Holy Grail: Revolt (1986)

The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 5,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews

As far as enjoyably bad movies go, Revolt starts strong, but gets so morbid and sleazy that not even its over-the-top ending can save it.  If you can watch a cut that's just the first twenty-five minutes followed by the last ten, then you're in for a treat.  Otherwise, don't bother.

My Rating: 2 / 5 (Failed Secret Comedy)

The Plot Summary

Before I even get to the plot, I wanted to point out that this movie has one of the better opening credit sequences I've seen in awhile.  It's not that they have any nifty footage or anything like that. I just mean that the credits themselves amused me.  For example: "Script Shield."  Is that a credit or an advertisement for a fancy binder?  The fact that they're displayed with a lot of over-excited period music backing them up makes it all the better.

Then we get to the actual movie itself.  It opens with a narrator explaining that drugs are bad while we see footage of college students trying to buy drugs from each other discreetly and failing.  At first you might think you're in for an educational film or maybe a documentary.  But that's just because the director didn't think you'd understand an action movie about drug dealers without explaining what drug dealing entails.  Hint: it involves drugs.

So then the movie actually finally starts.  It seems there's a ruthless drug lord named MacIntosh (though he goes by "Mac" because "MacIntosh" is as intimidating as a pharmacist) who has control of The Town.  Mac kinda looks like Norm McDonald's impression of Burt Reynolds, by the way.

So, Mac's trying to get it on with a lady friend, but his goons drag him away because they've run into a problem: Curtis, the driver they usually use to run drugs, is refusing to work with them anymore.  They've tried to beat him to make him change his mind, but Curtis is stubborn.  Instead of just killing him now and being done with it, Mac tells his guys to drag him out to a field first and then kill him.  This allows Curtis to break free and run away, but not before he gets shot in the stomach.

Mac puts out a call for a new driver through his goon network.  Eventually word reaches George, an excitable, well-meaning dude on hard times.  George has no idea he's being hired to smuggle drugs, so he jumps at the chance to drive Mac's car for a weekend.  He shares news of his job to his brother, Steve, the hero of our story.

Steve is married to Mina, an Iranian woman, and runs a Persian restaurant with her.  He's also apparently a secret martial artist as we'll eventually find out.  Steve is an innocent, level-headed dude with an idyllic life, so naturally things are going to go south for him soon.

Curtis makes his way to a hospital and has his gunshot wound treated.  Steve's mother, a nurse, assists the doctor, and through an incredibly revealing conversation learns the truth about George's new job.  She calls Steve to warn him, and Steve in turn calls the sheriff to try to resolve the situation peacefully and save George from any unintentional wrongdoing.

The sheriff seems to be totally powerless to do anything helpful, though, because some police officers run George's car off the road, then chase him down through the woods and shoot him in the back, killing him.

Steve goes to Mac's headquarters - Mac is well-known, I guess, but somehow not so well-known that George would have deduced that drugs were involved in his new job? - and raises a fuss.  But Steve doesn't actually beat anybody up just yet.  Pretty much the only reason he goes to Mac's lair at all is to put himself squarely in Mac's sights.

So of course, in the very next scene, Mac's goons go to Steve's restaurant to stir up some crap.  They act like dicks and yell at Mina to go back to Iran, then grab her ass.  So Steve takes them out back and beats the shit out of them.  It's not really a good action scene, but it's fun to watch, regardless.

Steve rightly suspects that he has to take Mac down for good now before further escalation.  He figures the best way to go about this is to track down Curtis and get him to testify about Mac's crimes to the police, and then they can finally arrest him.  Steve learns that Curtis is recovering at his girlfriend's farmhouse and pays him a visit, but Curtis refuses to testify out of fear of repercussion.

(Why didn't he fear repercussions in the first place when he decided to quit?  I don't know.  I guess it's a once bitten, twice shy kinda thing.  For dumb people.)

Now, this is where you can draw a neat and tidy little line between the first and second acts.  Seemingly out of nowhere, the movie cuts to news footage of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and suddenly the movie starts focusing on the double-header hardships of being of Middle Eastern descent in Podunk America and being in an interracial relationship.  In other words, shit gets real.

Mina and Steve start freaking out because the hostage crisis is likely going to rile up bad blood in their community.  At that exact same moment, Mac starts spewing racist vitriol at his son - Mac has a son by the way - and tells him not to hang out with Steve's son anymore - Steve has a son, too, by the way.  Also, apparently he and Mac's kid are best friends?  How does that work?

Anyway, all the kids in town now hate Steve's son because he's part Iranian, so they beat him up on the playground.  Distraught, Steve's son runs away from school and gets hit by a speeding car, then dies.

Why does any of the racist stuff matter and why was Steve's son killed?  Who knows.  It's almost wholly unrelated to Mac and the drug stuff, except for the tangential connection between Mac being a racist and his son being friends with Steve's kid.  So... there's basically no reason for it except to bum you out.

Speaking of bumming you out...  Mac eventually finds out where Curtis has been hiding out, so he sends his goons over there to finish the job and kill him like they were supposed to do forever ago.  But Curtis isn't home; he left to meet Steve and discuss the possibility of testifying against Mac again.  So Mac's goons instead tie up Curtis's girlfriend and gang rape her.

Sigh.  Yeah.  It's one of those movies.

Curtis and Steve come to the ranch and you think you're going to get a good revenge-lust action scene.  But that doesn't happen.  Curtis kills one goon, and then his girlfriend accidentally gets shot to death and the other goons escape.

Did I mention that Curtis's girlfriend was pregnant?  That detail also doesn't really matter except to make the movie even more upsetting.

So... okay, that's all shitty.  But at least they have their motivation to go get some vengeance, right?  So we can move on to some ass-kicking finally?  Good.  Let's do that.

Curtis and Steve gear up and stage a raid on Mac's compound.  They take a few goons down, but then Curtis is unexpectedly shot to death and Mac escapes in a car with his wife and son, who are in the scene for some reason?  Steve chases Mac down a highway, and then, through some sequence of actions I couldn't quite comprehend, Mac is run off the road.  Mac's son is thrown out of the car, but Mac blows up in a fiery ball and dies.

Then Mina comes out of nowhere to comfort Mac's son, and I guess she and Steve are going to adopt him?  Who knows.  The movie throws a big "THE END" up there before you have a chance to find out.

What I Liked / Didn't Like

Well, there's one thing I obviously didn't like.  Wanna take a guess?

Coming off the heels of both Time Barbarians and Hell and Back, I probably could not have picked a worse time to watch Revolt.  Not that there's ever a context when the rape scene wouldn't have bothered me, but if this hadn't been the third movie in a stretch of ten days to shove it in my face, at least I wouldn't have had such a short fuse.

But it's not just the rape (oh, and murder) of an innocent pregnant woman that put me off - it's also the disgusting xenophobia and bigotry that led to the death of an Iranian boy.  Good stuff in a serious drama, but really unsettling and depressing in a low-budget B-movie.

Revolt starts amazingly, I'll give it that.  The first twenty-five minutes or so are hilarious and hooked into me.  The nonsense pseudo-educational documentary opening made me think I was potentially in for another If Footmen Tire You..., and the terrible acting, poor ADR, and wretched cinematography got me in a good Bronx Executioner mood.  (Incidentally, even Bronx Executioner had a gratuitous rape scene, and I still had fun watching that movie overall.)

But then things just start to get sad.  When Steve and Mina start to worry about the safety of their son and it cross-cuts with Mac spouting off anti-Iranian babble, I stopped laughing.  Fearing for the life of your child is sobering, which is not what you want in your campy movie.  And in the context of Trump leading the polls for clinching the Republican nomination?  You can't help but feel like the movie's suddenly real.

Then Steve's son gets beaten up by bullies and he's run over by a car.  Is it as poorly filmed as the child beheading that I found so hilarious in If Footmen Tire You...?  Sure.  But there's so much difference between the two.  The child actor in Revolt is actually halfway decent and the preceding bigotry hits so close to home that I actually bought into his peril, whereas the kid in Footmen is terrible and the entire scene is surreal and stupid.  It's a lot less fun to watch a movie ironically when it affects you for real.

That just soured the whole evening for me.  One innocent kid gets killed and suddenly I'm all like, "Ew, not sure if I can laugh."  Damn.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I didn't care much for the second act.  By the time Curtis's wife is raped and killed, it just seems like par for the course.

It starts to get a little better once Steve and Curtis go on their revenge spree.  The action is terrible and there's a completely nonsensical chase scene that is marginally funny.  It just never gets back into the lighthearted groove it started with.

And because it falls out of that groove, you start to obsess about how shitty the politics are.  This is an anti-drug movie about how drugs make everything fall apart and ruin lives... except that almost none of the terrible things that happen are the direct result of drug use.  Steve's brother?  He's running away - unarmed - and gets shot in the back by a police officer who does not issue a warning.  That's not because of drugs - that's just police brutality, plain and simple.  Steve's son's death?  That's indirectly because of racism and directly because of shitty drivers / poor supervision at his school.

The movie's strongest anti-drug argument is that many drug dealers are shitty, violent people, and will therefore be empowered to do shitty, violent things if you give them money.  But if you ask me?  Being shitty and violent is probably the key part of that problem.  Revolt is funniest when it doesn't realize that.

How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?

Quite a bit.  As of the writing of this post, it has a scant 21 user ratings on IMDb, has no Rifftrax available, and has not, to my knowledge, been featured on any major bad movie podcasts.  It also has all the benchmarks of amateur / independent / poorly-made film.  So, if there was ever a movie that could be seen as the Holy Grail of hipsterdom, this would be it...

...if it was worth watching.  That's not to say that it isn't worth a lot of cred, it's just that the cred it earns is the angry kind.  Same as with Time Barbarians.  This isn't a movie you can easily watch with a crowd and then wait for the accolades for having discovered something amazing and everybody thanks you for sharing.  This is the kind of movie you watch alone in your underwear, drinking a watered down whiskey sour while you check your phone listlessly and wonder why you haven't finished painting that stairwell, but god damn it if you aren't going to finish this movie.

So, keep it in perspective.

I'll award Revolt 65 hipster cred out of a possible 100.  It's a much seedier, more incompetent, and more obscure version of Reefer Madness.  If only you wanted to share it with everyone you knew, it would get a hefty bonus and you'd truly be king of the Hipsters for a night.

Where You Can Watch

I streamed it on Amazon Instant Video with my Prime account.