Thunder in Paradise (1993) — Hulk Hogan and the crime boat

“Here comes the hot kiss at the end of the fist! …What the heck does that mean?”

Al’s rating: My inner fourteen-year-old is standing on his seat and cheering wildly.

Al’s review: What is it about Hulk Hogan that makes everyone think they can turn him into a big screen superstar? The only role Hulk Hogan has proven himself to be good at performing is Hulk Hogan, and whenever they’ve attempted to separate Terry Bollea from his much-beloved character, it’s been an unmitigated disaster.

It’s not a bad idea, of course. The Hulkster is, arguably, the greatest professional wrestler of all time and it has nothing to do with any kind of athletic ability. It’s all about the catchphrases, the posing, the come-from-behind victory, and the ability to spread a big goofy grin on your face during every single match. He’s got presence that most celebrities would kill for. So, again, it sounds like something worth giving a shot.

And, in 1989, they did — it bombed. They tried again in 1991 — it still bombed. They tried again in 1993 — and it was a wild success!

Nah, just kidding, it bombed. The man is clearly an Edsel with a mustache, and yet, after three spectacular silver-screen failures, it was nevertheless deemed that only Hulk Hogan could successfully helm TNT’s newest franchise, Thunder in Paradise.

Paradise is probably a concept that wouldn’t have happened at any time besides the mid-nineties. For those of us lucky enough to have been between the ages of eleven and fifteen during those years, our televisions were tuned pretty much exclusively to one of two paragons of entertainment: Baywatch or The Action Pack. Baywatch, I assume, needs no explanation. It brought the uncompromising charm and charisma David Hasselhoff into the living rooms of a brand new generation of young people and introduced the world at large to Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Erika Eleniak, Nicole Eggert, Yasmine Bleeth, Alexandra Paul, and dozens of other young, attractive, nubile boys and girls who were just dying to run in slow motion through the pounding surf of coastal California.

The Action Pack was Universal Television’s two-hour block of epic action shows, most notably Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. While not quite the international success that The Hoff in red swim trunks turned out to be, it still, for a little while at least, captured the imaginations of prepubescent teens and stoner college students across the country. From Tekwar to Highlander to Tarzan, the nineties were filled with tons of this sort of self contained, high-adventure TV that featured sixty minutes of energetic and (mostly) family-friendly combat while delivering a rather unsubtle wink to the camera at all times.

So, I’m like 500 words into this review and I guess I haven’t really mentioned the movie much, have I? Sorry about that. In a nutshell, Thunder in Paradise is Hulk Hogan helming Knightboat (the crime-solving boat!) and tearing around the Caribbean with his schmoey partner, Bru, battling drug smugglers, foiling kidnappers, and hunting for buried treasure. Of course, all this is spliced in between generous money shots of beach bunnies wearing as little as TNT will let them and Hulk flexing-but-pretending-not-to in a speedo.

Our inaugural adventure opens to find Hulkster, playing the free-wheeling bachelor and ex-Navy SEAL Randolph “Hurricane” Spencer, letting his 24-inch pythons run wild on Cuba. He and Bru are testing their new boat, Thunder, by rescuing a friend’s wife and child who are being held against their will by Castro’s iron-fisted regime. As this is the opening sequence of the movie, they naturally come up victorious, but find out when they return to land that the military has passed on purchasing their prototype craft and that they are officially broke.

Meanwhile, snooty and super-rich hotel owner Megan Whitaker finds herself about to have her family’s resort snatched away by her evil Uncle Edward unless she fulfills a clause in her late father’s will that requires her to get married to someone she loves in the next 48 hours. So, in a twist that no one saw coming, Spence agrees to marry Megan and pretends to be deeply in love as long as she agrees to pay off his debts and finance he and his buddy’s adventures on the high seas. Did you get all that? Good,because, while it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of this movie, it does set up the TV series they were banking on rather nicely.

The actual story of our film has to do with a necklace that Spencer finds while gutting a shark(!?) As a gift, he gives it to Megan’s super cutesy, overly talkative, highly obnoxious Hulkamaniac daughter, Jessica. When Jessica’s picture appears in the local paper, some Miami Vice-ish nogoodniks recognize it as containing a map to hidden treasure and attempt to abduct Jessica and track down the swag. Our heroes, however, are also wise the secrets of the map and are now embroiled in a race against time to rescue Megan, find the treasure, and outwit the bad guys before it’s too late!

Exciting stuff, right? Right? Okay, yeah, so it’s been done a million times before. But if you’re a fan of The Orange Goblin like I am, you’ve likely sat through worse. Suburban Commando. Santa With Muscles. 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain. Really, we’re kinda talking about a high point of Hulk’s career here.

It’s not what you’d call ‘high art.’ Or ‘low art.’ In fact, I’m going out on a limb and saying that no one that isn’t looking the Hulkster in the eye is gonna mention “Thunder in Paradise” and “art” in the same sentence without sticking a big honkin’ “not” in the middle.

But it *is* entertaining. Like The Action Pack and Baywatch were entertaining. Lots of explosions. Lots of exposed flesh. Cool gadgets. Actors with varying degrees of actual acting ability stumbling through an embarrassing script. But if you can take Thunder in Paradise for what it is — perhaps as long as you’ve kept up your training, said your prayers, and taken your vitamins — you can apply a little sunblock and likely come out the other side of this one with a nice tan and a big goofy grin on your face like only Hulk Hogan can provide. Brother.

Drew’s rating: I asked my sister, “Do we still have Thunder in Paradise on tape?” She said, “Is that the one with the black talking car?” Gah.

Drew’s review: A brief background: Sometime during our childhood, my sister and I stumbled across this film and fell in love with it. We rented it so often that my father eventually recorded it off TV just to save some money, and man, we wore that tape OUT. So when I decided to review Thunder, I asked my sister if they still had it. After refreshing her memory (see above), she located the tape and gave it to me. When I got home I eagerly popped it in the VCR, sat back, and watched as… an episode of Friends began. Horrified, I fast-forwarded — maybe the rest of the movie was still intact. No, next came a Jets/Giants game. Damn!

I called my sister and told her it’d been taped over. “Can’t you just rent it?” she asked. After explaining why I doubted copies were clogging up the shelves at our local Blockbuster, I tried Netflix. Nothing. How I eventually put my hands on a copy is a tale for another day (I’ll say this — when the Pope offers you a favor for saving his life, you don’t refuse), but what you may be wondering is: why? Why go to all this trouble to track down an old Hulk Hogan movie?

Because it is the greatest movie ever made, that’s why. Don’t question me!

The concept is deceptively simple: Spence (the Hulkster) and Bru (Chris Lemmon) are ex-Navy SEALS who live together (don’t ask, don’t tell) and are building Thunder, the most ass-kickingest speedboat the world has ever seen. It transforms, it talks, it carries enough firepower to overthrow Cuba six times… everything your recreational weekend boater could want. But because Bru and Spence spend all their money on tanning oil and repairing Thunder (no, that’s not a euphemism), they’re flat broke.

Enter: Megan and her daughter Jessica. Megan hates Spence while Jessica loves him — oh, the comedic potential — but when Spence gives Jessica a necklace he found in the belly of a shark (sanitary!), it turns out to be a map to some hidden treasure. Because… treasure maps often come in necklace form. Inside sharks. Anyway, the chicks get kidnapped by bad guys who want to use the treasure to feed dying orphans instead of spending it on sweet rims for Thunder. And that’s when you start thinking, “Man, if only there were some ex-Navy SEALs around with some kind of awesome boat…”

When I say this is the greatest movie ever made, it’s because it contains everything you, as a cult viewer, could possibly want to see. Star of the film (later spun off into a TV show)? Uh, I’ll take “Hulk Hogan” for 200, Alex. Goofy sidekick, antagonistic love interest, cute kid? Yep, yep, and double yep. Amazing piece of technology that outshines anything the military has, cobbled together by two unemployable guys with a toolkit from Sears? You know it. To say nothing of cheesy villains, hidden treasure, and oh yeah, a supermodel who can (and does) tie a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue, yet chooses to work at a crappy beachfront bar slinging drinks. Honestly, I’d say the only thing missing is explosions. No, wait — there’s lots of those. Lots and lots and lots of explosions.

I can’t say any more without ruining it, so just know this: You need to see this movie. Enjoy the opening credits (as kids, my best friend — two years older than me — made us rewatch them about five times while I rolled my eyes because God, they’re just girls in incredibly skimpy bikinis), then sit back and marvel at the intricate plotting and strong character arcs. And remember: for once, it’s not the Hulkster and his 24-inch pythons you need to worry about, it’s his damn boat. Because as the film’s transcendent theme song informs us, mess with Thunder and you’ll pay the price. Best believe it, brother.


  • Drew talks to his car regularly. Sadly, he probably got this from Bru and Thunder.
  • Hulk’s disappearing eyepatch?
  • The voice for Thunder sounds an awful lot like He-Man’s old Attak Trak? Or am I just unnecessarily baring the depths of my geekiness here?
  • Does *everyone* have to yell a triumphant “Ha ha!” when they successfully blow something up with a missile? I mean, I’d do it too, I’m just wondering.
  • The cast apparently graduated from the A-Team school of marksmanship? Lots of property damage and absolutely no casualties.
  • They weren’t even pretending that they weren’t angling to make this into a TV series, were they?

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