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Hunk
(1987)

Director: Lawrence Bassoff  
Cast:
John Allen Nelson, James Coco, Deborah Shelton


I may not know everything, but I am least absolutely certain of a few things. One of those things I am certain of is that for just about everybody in the world of ours, life isn't totally satisfying. For many of us, grass does seem to be greener on the other side of the fence. The question then comes up as to what one can do about it in order to improve things. But for a great many people, they can do little about it. People who live in poverty, for example, often have few to no resources at hand. Then there are people that are better off and have more options. Well, the options more often than not have to do with working harder and more often, and that can be a turn-off. So looking for a quick and painless short cut seems to be the wish of many people. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be very many wish-giving genies around these days. On the other hand, there is the Devil. Countless times over the years I have heard about how eager the Devil is to give people what they want, like in Christopher Marlowe's play The Tragical History Of The Life And Death Of Doctor Faustus, which I read in high school. In that story, as well as other deal-with-the-Devil stories I've read, the people who make these deals instantly get everything they want and are happy. Of course, there is always a catch: the Devil will eventually get your soul for all eternity. With that catch always made clear, it makes me wonder why people would think that eternal damnation is worth just a short while of happiness. Though there is always the question as to why the Devil always sours the idea of the deal by wanting the person's soul for eternity. To me, it would make more sense if the Devil would give good fortune to people if he put a minor catch like the person promising to worship forever the Devil over God. That would make the deal sweeter, and the Devil would soon build a mass of loyal followers.

But despite that logic that I just wrote, the Devil to this day repeatedly tries to make deals with people in order to get their souls. Anyway, I think that most people are pretty smart and would not make a deal that would eventually have them damned for all eternity. But I would like to announce that I have figured out a way that you can get all sorts of cool stuff from the Devil and not have to worry about eventually going to hell. I got the idea from, of all places, a Jack Chick tract. It was the tract titled It's A Deal (which you can read here.) In the tract, a high schooler who's bad at basketball and his studies sells his soul in order to receive straight As and great basketball skills for the next thirteen years. For over a decade, the young man's life is extremely enviable - great grades, fame from being a basketball star, and tons of women on the side. Then near the end of those thirteen years, he becomes ill and starts to die. But his preacher father manages to get the young man on his death bed to accept Jesus Christ as his savior moments before he dies. And we are then told, "Moments later his soul was taken into heaven." Apparently, accepting Jesus Christ can break any deal with the Devil. From that information, it's pretty easy to figure out how to deal with the Devil without him getting his claws on your soul. First, make a deal with the Devil for complete happiness for a certain amount of time, let's say twenty-four years like with the pact that Faustus made. For the next twenty-three years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days, enjoy your fortunate life. Then just before the last day dawns, accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. By doing all that, you'll not only have a great life on Earth, you will be taken to heaven when you eventually die, because Jesus has broken the contract you made with the Devil.

Although what I have just written seems to be the logical thing to do, I am mystified as to why apparently no one else has figured this out, sought out the Devil, and subsequently lived an ideal life on Earth before moving to heaven. The only thing I can think of to explain why that Hunkhasn't happened may be because of accounts I have read, the Devil is one tricky dude. My guess is that he seeks out stupid people to make deals with, because the stupid people won't get the idea that I proposed, as well as not having the ability to see that a short time of bliss is not worth eternity in damnation. As a matter of fact, in the various stories I have read or watched about deals with the Devil, the people seem remarkably dim about their eventual fate. When I found a copy of Hunk - which is about a deal with the Devil - I wondered if that would be the case again. On the other hand, it also promised to be a comic telling, and in comedies you can often forgive people for being dumb if they give you laughs. The movie is mostly one big flashback, though before it starts it introduces us to Hunk Golden (Nelson, Killer Klowns From Outer Space), who seems to have it all - good looks, wealth, and fame. But he's unhappy, telling psychologist Dr. Susan "Sunny" Graves (Rebeccah Bush) that he didn't always have these supposed positive attributes. The movie flashes back to when he was once Bradley Brinkman (Steve Levitt), a nerdy computer programmer who struck it rich, and promptly travelled to the exclusive beach community of Sea Spray to enjoy his fortune. But the rich snobs of Sea Spray rejected this geeky-looking fellow when he tried to interact with them, with the exception of a mysterious woman resident by the name of O'Brien (Shelton, Dallas). It doesn't take long for O'Brien to make a surprising offer: With the help of her boss, one "Dr. D." (Coco, The Cheap Detective), Bradley can be transformed into a real life hunk that will win the admiration and attention of everyone around him. To make the offer more enticing, they give him a thirty day trial offer before he can decide if he wants this new identity for the rest of his mortal life - though if he does, he will then have to sign over his soul. Bradley agrees to the trial offer, gets transformed into Hunk Golden, and soon has all the women, fortune, and admiration he can imagine. But he soon learns that his good luck has a negative side, and starts wondering if it's all worth it. To add to his problems, O'Brien and Dr. D. are determined one way or another to get his soul.

As I indicated earlier, over the years I have encountered countless retellings, cinematic or otherwise, of the old story about someone making a deal with the devil with them signing over their soul in return for a relatively short period of good fortune. Whenever I come across one of these retellings, I find myself heavily judging the particular retelling in a couple of key areas. One of those key areas is how the mortal soul comes across. Personally, I think that anyone who would agree to be eternally damned after getting that relatively short period of good fortune is deep down a real moron - what person of reasonable intelligence would allow themselves to eventually be eternally damned with no chance of escape? Still, even with this in mind, I can sometimes find myself sympathetic to the individual who agrees to such a foolish deal. And Hunk's writer/director, Lawrence Bassoff (Weekend Pass), manages to make the hero of this particular selling soul saga a reasonably likable fellow. When we're taken to the beginning of the hero's story, we see for ourselves that he was not thought of well by his boss (played by Doritos spokesman Avery Schreiber) or his fellow workers before he handed in the computer program that made him rich. Later, when he makes his way to Sea Spray, he attempts to be friendly with the various members of his community, but finds that they don't for the most part accept him despite showing he's a decent fellow. When he subsequently throws a party at his beach pad, and no one comes, we can see the confusion and hurt on his face. By this point of time we in the audience can see for ourselves that this is a guy who deserves acceptance and good fortune. So when I saw him shortly after dealing with demonic forces in order to have a dream life, I could understand it, even if part of me knew it was a foolish decision. I strongly suspect other viewers will be sympathetic to this character as well.

It also helps that the character of Bradley Brinkman, and his subsequent replacement of Hunk Golden are both played by actors who add a lot of heart into the character. As Brinkman, Levitt puts a touch of awkwardness into his words and physical actions that feels natural instead of being laid on thick. We can really feel his character's struggles to be accepted, and our hearts go out to him. As Hunk Golden, Nelson, despite his good looks and perfect body, doesn't act the part as a kind of egomaniac. Hunk is still Bradley Brinkman deep inside, and there are a number of times when Hunk is struggling in his mind despite the good fortune that surrounds him. Nelson shows this well, and the character remains sympathetic. Although most of the people surrounding Bradley/Hunk in this beach community are snobbish yuppies, there are a few characters that are written and performed with a gentleness that prevents things from getting too harsh. While Coco's Satan character and his assistant played by Shelton are trying to get their hands on Bradley's soul, they don't come across as all that bad. They are more soft in their words and actions than you might think, even showing a sense of humor at times. Another character with charm is Chachka (Cynthia Szigeti, Prime Time), an eccentric member of the beach community. The character is a pleasant non-conformist type, and you may believe upon first seeing her that at the end of the movie she ends up with the non-conformist Bradley. Although during the course of the movie Bradley does learn that the lifestyle and personality of the Sea Spray yuppies is a pretty empty life, surprisingly he does not end up with Chachka. He instead ends up with a dream girl. Although that may please many members of the audience who have their own dreams of meeting and hooking up with a beautiful mate, to me this ending was unsatisfying. It might have helped if the dream girl Bradley ends up with was given more time to express her thoughts, but we don't get enough of that.

Maybe I am kind of overreacting to that ending. I do know that this Crown International movie was essentially made to be a comedy, and we should be looking at stuff to laugh at instead of really deeply thinking about stuff like morals and thoughtful decisions. That leads to the big question as to if Hunk is an amusing movie. And my answer to that question is to say no; I simply didn't laugh that much. To be more precise, I didn't laugh at all, though I may have slightly smiled a few times. I simply didn't find the movie's belief of what was funny to be that funny, whether it was a parody of the '80s television show Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous, or the sight of multiple women exiting Hunk's beach home after an implied night of passion. There is a curious feeling to much of the attempted humor. It constantly feels like it is running way below top speed, with no real energy or enthusiasm evident. Scene after scene runs by sluggishly, and the movie ends up running over one hundred minutes long, quite long for a B movie comedy. The movie even disappoints with delivering a staple of many Crown International movies, nudity and onscreen sex - there's none of that stuff here, and the movie only (barely) gets a PG rating with a few mildly raw words. Maybe the evidently low budget of the movie instantly defeated director Bassoff long before the first time he yelled "action". Frequently the movie looks like scenes were set up and quickly rehearsed for less than a half hour before they were actually put on film. All the same, Hunk was released to theaters, and happened to be one of the last movies Crown International released. Having seen this and several other Crown International movies made and released around this time, it's probably best they stopped making movies before their product got even worse.

(Posted February 4, 2016)

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See also: Amanda And The Alien, Boardheads, Hot Resort

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