I may have put the Devil on my list of monsters I can’t take seriously anymore, but I still can’t help but have a soft spot for stories where Satan or a Satan-like figure serves as the antagonist. The Devil, at his best, is more a psychological enemy than a physical one and his method is not to commit acts of evil himself, but to make others do it, which offers up some interesting story ideas. Good portrayals of the character not only tempt the protagonists into evil, but make the audience feel tempted too; he may be the Ultimate Evil, but seems like the sort of guy you would hang out with and buy a drink for. Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate, Jack Nicholson in Witches of Eastwick, John Goodman in Barton Fink, all fine variations on good old Diablo. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be adding the late James Coco to the list, though he does play the role in low-budget 1987 comedy Hunk.
This movie actually has some interesting tidbits to it. According to a review on IMDB, it came about when director Lawrence Bassoff got a movie deal from Crown International Pictures, and when the movie spawned from that, Weekend Pass, proved quite successful, Crown wanted to fund another movie from him. All they said, apparently, was that they wanted it to be called Hunk, and what the story was about was up to Bassoff. It’s also the film debut of Brad Pitt, who makes an uncredited cameo in a beach scene and was one of James Coco’s last films, being released shortly after his death. The movie itself, however, is not really that interesting or entertaining.
The main character of Hunk is a computer nerd. How can we tell he’s a nerd? Because his name is Bradley Brinkman. Brinkman. Sheesh, they may as well have called him Geeky P. Dorkerson (the P stands for Pocket-Protectors). He looks like a fusion between Gene Wilder and Jim Parsons, but is played by Steve Levitt. He works as a computer programmer, but hasn’t been putting his all into it ever since his girlfriend ran away with her aerobics instructor. One day he says he’ll sell his soul for a donut a winning program, and the computer writes a program for him: The Yuppie Program. It’s so good – hellishly good even, muahahaha – that Brinkman is given a paid holiday to Sea Spray beach where he will come up with his next program.
There, he’s pushed around by the yuppies – because he’s a NEEERRD – and then is approached by this weird lady called O’Brien, because having a name befitting of an Irish barkeep makes you seductive and mysterious I guess. She offers Brinkman a chance to become a popular, good-looking hunk in exchange for his soul – again? Does he have two souls? Okay then – and he gets it after a rather disturbing scene where his muscles (and package) inflate while he sleeps.
Brinkman is now rechristened Hunk Golden…oh, come on. Still, it’s not the most generic name in the movie. I mean, the beach is called Sea Spray, one of the mean yuppies is called Skeet and there’s even a television host Golden saves called Garrison Gaylord. Garrison Gaylord. When Golden saves Gaylord, he becomes a beloved hero, though he’d probably be more beloved if he let him drown. However, if Brinkman chooses to continue being Hunk Golden, he’ll have to help the Devil bring suffering and destruction. So yeah, you can see where this is going. Brinkman goes back to being himself – the good old “be yourself” message – gets the girl – O’Brien also sold her soul to the Devil- and everyone lives happily ever after.
So Hunk is dated. Very very dated. Pretty much a checklist of everything comedy movies in the 80’s had to have: nerdy protagonist who gets laid by the film’s end, spoof of yuppie culture, supernatural made silly. Some 80’s movies about Halloweeny things have managed to stand the test of time – Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, Little Shop of Horrors – but Hunk feels longer than it actually is and barely contains any laughs. There are some mildly amusing touches here and there, like when Brinkman signs with blood, O’Brien makes him do so with a pen-syringe combo – but no belly laughs, nothing that will stick in your mind.
Remember when I wondered if Brinkman had two souls? Well, that seems to be the case, I guess. One night, Brinkman as Hunk Golden is visited by his former self. Now you might think this is some sort of Jekyll/Hyde thing (or hell, maybe like the good angel and evil angel in Dr Faustus), but Brinkman says to Golden that he’s in Hell. When Brinkman became Golden, his original body went to Hell. But…didn’t we see Brinkman’s body physically transform into Golden? O’Brien underwent a physical transformation as part of her deal, so did something similar happen to her old body? We had that creepy muscle inflating scene when Brinkman became Golden, yet he turns back with a glowy effect? Satan, what hast thou wrought?
Speaking of the devil – get it? – I’m not sure about James Coco’s Beelzebub, called “Dr. D” here. He comes off as neither likeable nor threatening and is in fact, just as confusing as the whole body thing I talked about last paragraph. When he first appears, he’s dressed as Attila the Hun and even says he’s “currently” sacking Rome in 451 AD. ‘If history is going to repeat itself, I have to keep evil going in the past as well as the future,’ he says. So, I guess the Devil is Dr. Manhattan or something and experiences time differently than we do, I dunno. He also appears as in several different costumes throughout the movie, even as a Nazi, but it hardly makes him endearing. He’s neither frightening enough to make you believe he’s the Prince of Darkness, nor is he entertaining enough to make you believe someone would want to sell his soul to him. In fact, the acting in general isn’t very good in this, with the best performance probably coming from Brinkman’s boss.
So, as you can see, I’m not very fond of this movie, and wouldn’t recommend it. It does some interesting things in its background, but that’s all it has.