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The Blood of Heroes

The Blood of Heroes/Salute of the Jugger (1989)
Dir. David Webb Peoples
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen, Vincent D'Onofrio

Blood of Heroes is set in your typical post-apocalyptic wasteland, where a dangerous game serves as the primary source of entertainment and fame. While not referred to by any particular name in the film, the game played in Blood of Heroes is what happens when you mix a game of lacrosse with the world of Mad Max. Despite being written and directed by David Webb Peoples, who co-wrote both Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys, Blood of Heroes is a film that seems to be relatively unknown. It did manage to inspire the creation of a real sport known as Jugger, that is thankfully not played with real dog skulls, but it doesn't garner much attention outside of those circles.

In the film, Juggers can make a living through tributes won by defeating local teams, provided they can survive long enough to reap the rewards. Once a veteran team has won enough trophies, they have the chance to impress the underground-dwelling aristocracy and earn a place in the League, where the most brutal players compete and are rewarded with a life of relative luxury. Blood of Heroes follows the story of Kidda, a villager from a poor dog town who dreams of proving herself worthy and earning that kind of prestige, as she attempts to join a travelling team lead by former League player Sallow. However Sallow is more concerned with survival than he is with redemption, and if Kidda wants to have a chance against a League team, she's going to need a lot of practice and guidance.

Visually, the film is incredibly reminiscent of the Mad Max series, with Beyond Thunderdome striking the most similarities in both aesthetic and general tone. I expected as much going into the film, given the fact that not only did cinematographer David Eggby work on the 1979 Mad Max, but the film's editor, Richard Francis-Bruce, also worked on Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. On top of that, both Blood of Heroes and much of Beyond Thunderdome were filmed in Coober Pedy, Australia, so even the landscape is familiar territory. I actually wouldn't be surprised if this film used leftover costumes and props from Thunderdome as well, though I can't find any information to support that claim.

Blood of Heroes doesn't add anything interesting of its own, and seems content to leech off the success of the Mad Max series with its style and similarly minimalistic dialogue. If it wasn't for Peoples' original game, this movie likely would've faded even deeper into obscurity not long after its release. That said, the action does certainly deliver on its promise of brutality, and the rules of both the game and the film's universe are easy to understand without any unnecessary exposition. Even the weakest performance is good enough to give the paper-thin characters some semblance of life, though the story and its execution are incredibly predictable and unadventurous. At the very least, if you're a huge fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, you could do much worse than Blood of Heroes.

If you've ever wanted to see a girl play a game of Mad Max Lacrosse in the
hopes of winning a silk dress, then I can't think of a more appropriate film.