I can honestly say without a doubt that No Contest is the best Die Hard rip-off ever made and one of the greatest direct-to-video action movies of all time. We all know that most action films made in the 90’s could’ve been described as “Die Hard in a ______”. While movies like Under Siege (Die Hard in a Boat), Passenger 57 (Die Hard in a Plane), and Sudden Death (Die Hard in a Hockey Stadium) more or less took their plots seriously, No Contest knows it’s a direct-to-video rip-off and has fun with the premise. This flick is essentially Die Hard at a Beauty Pageant. Now just say those words out loud. “Die Hard at a Beauty Pageant.” Doesn’t that just bring a smile to your face?
You have to give a lot of credit to director Paul (the ORIGINAL Prom Night) Lynch. Although the film has the same ingredients as Die Hard (terrorists taking over a building, the hero hides in an air conditioning vent, there’s a lot of talk about “detonators”, the annoying computer hacker, a bunch of people talking on walkie-talkies, an almost indestructible henchman, etc.), No Contest spices up the formula just enough to make everything feel fresh.
First and most notable is the fact that the hero is a woman. Shannon Tweed plays Sharon Bell, an action movie heroine described by one character as “Bruce Lee with boobs!” who is the host of the pageant and winds up fighting the terrorists. Yeah, there were a lot of action movies about kickboxing females in the early 90’s direct-to-video market, but this was the first time someone got the awesome idea to place them in the Die Hard milieu. Lynch films all the kickboxing action in a tightly knit manner and makes good use of the flick’s limited Canadian budget.
Secondly, what sets the film apart from the other rip-offs was the casting of a major comedian in the villain role. The criminal mastermind, Oz is portrayed by none other than Andrew “Dice” Clay, who was just getting his feet wet in the direct-to-video market. Dice Man brings an authority to the role that most villains in these kinds of movies lacked, and his stand-up background is well suited to his character, since most of his dialogue is given to a captive (pun intended) audience. The casting also works extremely well because Dice’s raunchy stage act made him hated by feminists, and since Sharon Bell seems like a strong minded female, it makes sense that Andrew “Dice” Clay would be her natural enemy. Dice Man delivered the goods so well in this movie that the big studios took notice and the next year, they cast comedian/monologist Eric Bogosian as the baddie in Under Siege 2 (Die Hard in a Train).
The third thing the film does differently is that all of the cops are not morons like in Die Hard. The police chief outside the building actually is fairly competent and relies heavily on the intel provided by one of the contestant’s bodyguards (the always fun to watch Robert Davi, himself a veteran of Die Hard). Unlike Die Hard, in which the cops created one big clusterfuck, the police force actually siege control of the building and one of the chicks from the bomb squad (Remember in 1994 when EVERY movie had a bomb in it?) turns out to be a hero as well.
The thing that really elevates the film from its direct-to-video trappings are the performances.
But the movie really belongs to the Dice Man. He gets all of the best lines, including the immortal: “I don’t get it. I kill several innocent people, threaten to blow up a building and the police still don’t take me seriously. Maybe taking over a beauty pageant isn’t the best way to gain respect.”