Published May 09, 2013Hollywood has long been known as an unforgiving place for Canadian actors, which is something Rob Stewart knows all too well. His biggest claim to fame was playing detective Nick Slaughter on the low-rated '90s U.S. cable series Sweating Bullets, which was later syndicated around the world as Tropical Heat. When the show was cancelled, Stewart was in his 40s, with nearly 20 years under his belt as an actor. Sporting a mostly lackluster resume, he was forced to move back home with his parents in Brampton, ON.
Unbeknownst to Stewart, the fame and sense of importance (read: entitlement) he had longed for had been there, only in a foreign country. For the past 15 years, Stewart's Nick Slaughter character had been a curious source of hope for Serbians who had been enduring the Slobodan Milosevic years. Slaughter had become a national icon: Serbia's own Magnum P.I. meets David Hasselhoff.
It wasn't until a fan club reached out to Stewart via Facebook that he knew of his notoriety in Serbia. Self-admittedly down on his luck and desperate for a project to make some money, the now 50-something Stewart decided to film a documentary about this quirky twist of fate and set off to Belgrade to investigate.
The result is Slaughter Nick For President, which is ostensibly a marketing campaign to show North America how great he is — if Stewart could have been such an unlikely pop icon during Serbia's political and social upheaval of the '90s, surely North America had him pegged wrong all along.
Once there, Stewart finds himself in a country where he's highly regarded. Demonstrating very little humility, he soaks it all in and enjoys every moment of his newfound attention, hamming it up for the camera at every opportunity, desperately pleading for all forms of attention, even if they're vaguely patronizing. And, unfortunately, since the documentary is framed by a voiceover from Stewart, all of which has a desperately corny, self-affirming vibe, there's no perspective to give his experience a bit of depth or sense of reality.
Riding the coattails of 2012's Searching For Sugar Man, wherein an American folk singer became the voice of the South African apartheid, Stewart's documentary misses the mark, coming across like a muddled piece of throwaway trash.
Where Sugar Man delved into the apartheid movement and uncovered stories that kept viewers on the edge of their seats, Slaughter only scratches the surface of the Serbian political movement, and the tie-in between Stewart's television character and the country's turmoil is cute, at best. The Serbian people needed something to watch on TV and one can only assume Tropical Heat was very cheap for a Serbian network to pick up in syndication.
The resultant film is nothing more than a glorified "look at me!" tale of a man unable to cope with his lack of fame. Sure, it's always interesting whenever a former "celebrity" finds out they're huge in a distant country — David Hasselhoff still continues to be huge in Germany, for some reason — but this particular story and the lackluster assemblage of the film certainly aren't substantial enough to support a feature-length release.
Much like the Canadian actors that fade quickly from Hollywood, destined to return to Canadian television series in bit parts, Slaughter Nick For President isn't headed for much more than a seven p.m. time slot on CBC adjacent Heartland. (Indiecan)