Posted in Film

The Sandra Bullock Files #1: Hangmen (1987)

The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut Hangmen from 1987, to her two 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.

Yep. It all started with a little B-action movie called Hangmen.

But first… let’s go back.

Sandra Bullock was born in Arlington, Virginia, on July 26, 1964, to Helga Meyer, a German opera singer; and John Bullock, a voice coach. Sandra lived in Germany in her younger years and has remained fluent in German throughout her adult life. Sandra has one sister named Gesine, and the two both became heavily influenced by the arts at a young age. Sandra studied ballet and vocal arts as a child.

In high school she started acting in local theater productions, and she was also a cheerleader. She graduated in 1982 and attended East Carolina University in North Carolina for the next four years but left prematurely in 1986, just three credits shy of graduating, to pursue an acting career. She made her way to New York to pursue auditions, and she supported herself through a variety of jobs, like cocktail waitressing.

In New York she became serious about acting and started taking acting classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse. While taking odd jobs, attending class, and going out on auditions, she landed her first film role. The movie is called Hangmen, and it is by far one of the most forgettable titles on Sandra’s resume.

Before Demolition Man in 1993, Sandra appeared in a lot of random movies, most of which were never released to theaters and made little impression on anyone. There can’t be a lot of people out there who genuinely love When the Party’s Over, The Preppie Murder, or Religion, Inc. 1993 was the year she started appearing in more substantial films, but before then, the woman needed to pay her dues, as well as her bills.

Directed and co-written by some guy named J. Christian Ingvordsen, Hangmen is awful, so truly bad it is hard to imagine anyone involved with the production thinking their time and hard work would translate into a good movie. Sandra’s first scene takes place four and a half minutes in. She sits at the foot of a statue in the middle of a New Your City park and kisses her boyfriend rather nonchalantly. Her first words ever in a movie? “Spoo head!” Her first conflict ever? “I have two tests tomorrow that I haven’t even bothered to study for.” Not exactly deep, but it’s a start.

She isn’t the main character in this mess. The plot has something to do with Danny Greene (Keith Bogart), the sixteen-year-old boyfriend to Sandra’s character Lisa Edwards, discovering inside information about the CIA and having to run for his life. The music is cheesy, the cinematography is clumsy and dark, and most of the actors look like they’re reading off cue cards.

The film is important for only one thing: it started Sandra’s career. It’s a lot of fun to watch her scenes in this, as brief and fleeting as they may be. At one point Sandra appears out of nowhere brushing her teeth, wearing only a towel. This scene, with all its funny phone props and old-school computers, brings to mind some of the absurdities of The Net, a thriller she would make in 1995.

But the main highlight of Hangmen occurs at the forty-six minute mark, where, while walking outside and holding a newspaper, Sandra’s character gets shot in the neck with a tranquilizer. It is as hilarious a moment that she’s ever appeared in. The way she starts weaving side to side, drifting in and out of consciousness, is completely ridiculous, and has to be seen to be believed.

In the end, Sandra starts getting in on some of the action in, again, scenes in an abandoned factory that bring to mind the conclusion of The Net. Hangmen is a very bad movie, one that now only makes its way into DVD dollar bins due to Sandra’s name value. If Sandra ever does Inside the Actor’s Studio with James Lipton, it’s unlikely they’ll be bringing up this one.

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