THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"SLAUGHTER NICK FOR PRESIDENT"
Back in the early '90s, before a jilted David Letterman took over the 11:30 PM time slot, CBS ran a late-night crime show called “Tropical Heat” (also known as “Sweating Bullets”). I caught bits and pieces of it when flipping through the channels after a hard day of trying to put myself through grad school. The show was kind of a low-rent “Baywatch” - and, yes, I know “Baywatch” is already low-rent. Few people watched; those who did were likely looking for a quick flash of attractive people living and working at a seaside locale. But just as David Hasselhoff became a bigger star in Germany than he ever was in America, the star of “Tropical Heat” developed a massive following abroad. In Serbia, to be specific. And he had no clue how big he was until fifteen years later. This amazing story is told in the documentary Slaughter Nick for President.
Rob Stewart played a private investigator named Nick Slaughter. When the show ended, he did a lot of bit parts on TV shows and a couple of low-budget movies. One day, he got a Facebook message informing him of his longtime Serbian popularity. Slaughter Nick for President follows Stewart as he travels to the country to explore the reasons for his fame. Long story short, “Tropical Heat” presented an optimistic view of life during a time when Serbia was under the control of dictator Slobodan Milosevic. The Nick Slaughter character became a symbol for young protestors seeking democracy in their country. Over the course of the movie, Stewart talks to some of those involved with the protests, is coerced into appearing in a dubious TV commercial, and performs with Serbian punk band Atheist Rap, creators of the tune “Nick Slaughter, Serbia Hails You.”
There are two things that make Slaughter Nick for President fascinating. First and foremost, it serves as a dissection of fame. In this day and age where entertainment is a global business, anything thrown into the ether can make an impact somewhere in the world. Even a cheesy '90s “Baywatch” ripoff. Rob Stewart, a humble and likeable guy, is awestruck by the love Serbians have for him. He clearly enjoys soaking up the adulation he never got in the U.S. or his native Canada. Secondly, the film works on a political level. How astonishing is it that the Nick Slaughter character took on such prominence during a time of great unrest and strife? Stewart interviews a number of people, including the guy who brought the show to Serbian airwaves, about how this happened. Actually, I wish the film had done even more on this count. The atrocities that took place under Milosevic's rule are only briefly touched upon. I understand that this is supposed to be a feel-good documentary, but the political aspect would have had even greater power with more detail.
Slaughter Nick for President tells a story so unlikely and so improbable that you will be delighted in hearing it, just as I was. It's proof that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Do what it takes to see this massively entertaining documentary.
( out of four)
Slaughter Nick for President is unrated but contains some adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 12 minutes.
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