Wild Thing, I think I watched you...
WILD THING is one of those harmless, afternoon piece-of-crap pulp potboilers that seem to have gone the way of the dodo in today’s Hollywood. The ‘modern-day’ Jungle Book/Tarzan tale tracks a child of slain hippies grown into an urban legend neo-primitive (white) ‘ghetto-warrior’ stalking the streets of ‘the Zone,’ bent on avenging his parents’ deaths. The film is also notable as an early credit for independent auteur John Sayles (MATEWAN/EIGHT MEN OUT), who probably scrawled the screenplay on a cocktail napkin.
The prologue, of course scored to ‘White Rabbit,’ shows us the grizzly deaths of Wild Thing’s folks, slain in their VW bus, as they travel from the idyllic highway into the mean streets of ‘The Zone,’ and fall victims in a gun robbery by the fearsome, skull-tattooed ‘Chopper’ (dependable baddie Robert Davi) and a corrupt cop (Maury Chaykin). Their child escapes into the nearby river, presumed drowned. Next we see the adolescent Wild Thing in full Jungle Book mode, being raised by an off-the-grid bag-lady (Betty Buckley). Here Sayles entertainingly sketches the world of Wild Thing as shaped by his mother-figure- she rails against The Company (civilization) and its paper (money). On her deathbed with disease, she begs the youth not to let the ‘blue-coats’ (police) or ‘white-coats’ (hospitals) get her, and he obliges by burning her hovel down, leaving Wild Thing on his own.
Fast forward to the ‘modern-day’ Zone, a cheap set-bound 80s NYC pastiche complete with fake graffiti and dark ‘edgy’ lofts. A group of ‘urban’ street kids tell ‘boogie-man’ tales of the Wild Thing, and his werewolf/Robin Hood exploits. We are given thankfully few glimpses of the adult Wild Thing (Rob Knepper), (late of Fox’s ‘Prison Break’) a smallish weaselly guy with teased hair and Chuck Taylor high-tops.
Chopper is still the BMOC, holding the cops under his thumb and running the local vague drug/sex trades. There is a hilarious ‘pimp-lifestyle’ escort party scene set to a Michael McDonald-ish tune called ‘Business-Lady.’ Cue love story (yawn) – Jane, a social worker (Kathleen Quinlan) arrives by bus, to take over the local priest’s youth rehabilitation work at the safe house. She receives a rude welcome, as Chopper’s henchmen attempt to subdue and rape her. But she is saved by the mysterious Wild Thing, who kicks off the thugs and vanishes- in order to begin finger-painting her likeness on his loft wall (uh-oh.)
Jane’s work draws ever-deeper into Chopper’s world, as the good-hearted lesbian street-kid loses her lover in his clutches, and her building is burned to the ground as the whole Zone watches. The film takes its inevitable turns, as Wild Thing and Quinlan explore the ‘body-bump,’ and she gives him the means to finally get Chopper once-and-for-all. He throws him through a plate-glass window and stuff, then dives back into that damn river. O well- at least they use the Troggs version as the theme song.