Directed by Bruce Malmuth.
Starring Dolph Lundgren, David Soul, Renée Coleman and Roger E. Mosley.
An Olympic Gold-winning East German pentathlete defects to the West, only to become the target for a group of Neo-Nazis led by his sadistic ex-coach.
With London 2012 getting underway, Olympic fever is taking over the UK. So it would seem the best time, if any, to release this forgotten entry in Dolph Lundgren’s illustrious (yes…I said illustrious, so what!?) back catalogue. It has taken until now for the film to finally get itself upgraded from video format, but it’s pretty much the best time possible to make some gold from this film.
Pentathlon is, as the title suggests, partly based around the Pentathlon event. Lundgren stars as East German super athlete, Eric Brogar, whose coach Muller – played by David Soul (also known as Hutch in Starsky and Hutch of course) – happens to be a Nazi. Brogar wins gold at the 88 Seoul Olympics before escaping his nutty coach and fleeing to America. With Atlanta 96 just around the corner, a now burnt out and unfit Brogar decides to get back into shape and compete again. Muller comes Stateside for a bit of good old fashioned terrorism with a dash of revenge, as he sets his sights on killing Brogar. The Olympic aspect is largely consigned to the beginning and finale, whilst the middle is mostly about Brogar’s ascent from depression, self-pity and bum-dom, and Muller’s descent into obsessive madness.
Penthathlon is a pretty horrendous film it must be said. It looks very cheap and you wouldn’t think an experienced director like Bruce Malmuth (Nighthawks, Hard to Kill) – despite a less than stellar CV – would fail to give proceedings any genuine pace or tension. The cast are okay but mostly nothing special.
However the film is still pretty entertaining. The actual Pentathlon sequences are pretty good, albeit rather formulaic in style terms (it’s a Vangelis away from being Chariots of Fire lite). There’s also some reasonable though far-fetched action. The plotline is absolutely ridiculous and combined with Soul’s fully committed, performance of maple glazed ham, this provides a lot of unintentional entertainment. Soul is nuts in this and he’s so into the role it’s somewhat amusing. If there was an Olympic event for over-acting, Soul would win gold quite easily. He’s weirdly mesmerising. Lundgren actually plays a character a bit more down-trodden, and a bit less stoic than normal. It’s a change of pace that doesn’t always work for him but of course in terms of the athletic side of things, Lundgren’s in his prime here.
Elsewhere the music is abysmal. It’s one of the most ridiculously ill-fitting scores ever. It flits between sub-par orchestral, to porn jazz, to 70s cop show. It’s very jarring and never ever seems to work. Again though it adds to the whole so bad it’s good element that the film has going for it.
In all, this may well make for a Friday night pizza and beer special after an afternoon having watched some Olympic action. For Lundgren its only interesting factor of note was that the film led to him being named team leader for the US Pentathlon team in Atlanta 96. The film was also executive-produced by Dolph and his own film company, in what would be an early stepping stone to his eventual move into direction 10 years later.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★