Tom Jolliffe mans up in preparation for The Expendables 2 with an overdose of explosive action cinema, beginning with ‘The Dolph Lundgren Rampage’…
Over the course of the next 6 weeks, I will be getting myself ready for the action spectacular that is The Expendables 2. This will be possibly the manliest film ever made, so with that in mind I feel it necessary to man the hell up in preparation by re-watching films from the Expendables themselves. Each star, a load of action, and possibly a whole bunch of dead brain-cells by the time the release date rolls around.
The rules are simple. I shall be avoiding the most iconic roles, like Rambo for Sly, the Terminator for Arnold etc., with the exception of naff sequels. I will be thinking randomly, delving into some of the darkest recesses of these muscular CVs, as well as some films that simply get forgotten. Hell, whatever jumps out at me from my DVD collection and 360 kicks me in the chin will end up in my player. Simples. I won’t include Jet Li on account of him being a cameo in the sequel, rather than a more integral part of the Expendables (and being somewhat reluctant to return). I also won’t be including Randy Couture, Terry Crews or Scott Adkins, as they’ve yet to establish themselves as action movie veterans just yet.
I’m gonna start with my childhood hero, Mr. Dolph Lundgren. Bonafide chemical engineering genius, as well as a former Karate champion with a 3rd degree blackbelt, Lundgren – like a lot of his 80s action contemporaries – is the real deal. His career has seen him go from blockbuster, mainstream success to being a straight to video king, and back again. So many films, so little time, but here is my Lundgren rampage:
Men Of War:
When Avatar came out, the storyline seemed to underwhelm many. It was old hat, done to death. Pocahontas again! It was so old hat in fact that it was a tired plotline at the time Lundgren unleashed it in 1994 with Men of War. Yes it’s basically Avatar without all the CGI and giant Smurfs.
Dolph heads a team of expendable mercs to a remote island in the South China Sea. His mission is to persuade, perhaps forcefully, the locals to sign over their Island’s mining rights to a money grubbing American corporation. They want to strip the place bare for bat shit, which they deem more valuable than the natives. Nasty people and Dolph realises this and decides to stay and protect the Island from some of his former comrades. Men of War was actually (at least the first draft) written by Oscar winner John Sayles. For a Lundgren video special, this has a bit more humanity to it amongst the wreckage. To fans, myself included, Men of War is a favourite. It’s nicely shot, the music is good, there’s plenty of action and Dolph plays one of his more likeable characters, and whilst the Pocahontas thing has been done before, it’s a classic story and still a reliable go to.
Lundgren dispatches heinous villain Kiefer (a brilliantly hammy Trevor Goddard) after a long and brutal fight by shoving an old piece of human bone up through his jaw and out his mouth. Gruesome, but vintage Lundgren finisher.
From director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander), this is a great looking but somewhat bewildering sniper flick. Dolph plays a haunted shooter, whose mind delves into philosophical ponderings about his existence. Having failed to pull the trigger in his last assignment, his bosses want him dead and try and fail to kill him. Skip forward and he’s back on another mission, so we must assume he’s got another chance.
Again he tries and fails to pull the trigger and his bosses want him dead once more. It makes little sense and there’s no real plot at all. This is a movie where what should be subplot – Dolph’s fluctuating levels of sanity and inner torment – become the focus. Moments of action aside then, it’s pretty much Dolph waiting in a tower block with his partner (who happens to be a hot young woman as luck has it – Gina Bellman) for the mission, haunted by flashbacks of his previous mission.
That said, the film is nicely shot, with great lighting and a very unique score. The action is good, though brief, and it’s suitably violent. There’s certainly a few parts of Dolph’s character here that he’d later revisit for Gunnar Jensen, and he gives one of his more interesting performances, but too little happens in the film.
Pretty much anytime Dolph pulls the trigger with his high powered, pretty badass looking sniper rifle there’s a crimson explosion of squib-gasm. However Gina Bellman probably gets best kill, by machine gunning a bad guys skull at point blank range causing his (evidently poorly made) helmet to burst open with some brain chunks.
First things first: Jerry Springer is the president! Sold? Good. This is a decent little siege movie, and Dolph’s directorial debut. Well and truly into his video phase at this point, the budget’s getting low and action more sparse, it’s hard to keep a film going with a solid pace, but Dolph manages it. The pacing is good and it’s pretty much action from the half hour point on as terrorists attempt to storm the hotel Dolph and his team of bodyguards are in. You could call this film Assault on Precinct Dolph perhaps. The film never slows to a halt, instead it relays the plot on the move, under duress to avoid dragging, which is a pitfall some B-level movies fall into.
Dolph has directed better since, particularly The Mechanik, but this is a solid action flick.
Dolph saves the best to last when a former member of his team gone rogue fires at him. She misses but Dolph nonchalantly flicks a knife up from its holster into his hand before tossing it all of 25ft, upstairs, into her chest, causing her to fall and roll all the way down said stairs to the bottom. Dead.
The Shooter (also known as Hidden Assassin):
Set in Prague, this film sees Dolph investigating the assassination of a Cuban ambassador. The hit is being pinned on the beautiful hit-woman Simone Rosset (Maruschka Detmers) but Dolph is unsure she is responsible.
Directed by First Blood helmer, Ted Kotcheff, this is pretty well made, even if the plot and subsequent twists lack a bit in logic. The Prague locales look good, and Stefano Mainetti’s music is decent too. Dolph’s playing less of an all out action man here, and someone a little more considered. Detmers is excellent though. It’s actually a memorable female role for this sort of movie and she injects a lot of pathos into it. She also has a good on screen chemistry with Dolph, where-as there normally isn’t much with Dolph and his on screen love interests. In part a more interesting role for the female here helps that.
This isn’t one of Dolph’s best but it’s a solid entry with some decent action. Though it might aspire to be a Frankenheimer/Friedkin-esque thriller, it doesn’t have the script required.
Dolph hangs off a building, taking on a sniper in a building across from him, with just a handgun. Dolph wins. It’s a little inconceivable but hell, it’s Dolph so I believe it!
John Woo directs this film that initially was a proposed pilot for a series. This might well have the most ridiculous script of any Lundgren film and that is quite some feat.
Dolph is a bodyguard who has developed a fear of the colour white. He lives with his butler friend Thomas, who wears an eye-patch. He also has parenthood thrust upon him when his friends die and they leave their young girl to him. Dolph reluctantly takes an assignment from another friend (You need new friends Dolph!) to protect a supermodel being stalked by her crazy amateur actor ex boyfriend. Dolph isn’t ready for this because he hasn’t conquered his fear of the colour white.
So there we have it. His adversary spends large parts of the film wearing a white suit. Then there’s an action scene that takes place in a milk factory where a vat of milk bursts open, creating a swimming pool of pure WHITE goodness that Dolph has to try to fight in.
Despite being hilariously bad at times, Blackjack benefits from the typical action flourishes of John Woo, whilst Dolph adds suitable star power to proceedings. The music – which is a strange mix of 70s porn/elevator jazz – is strangely effective.
Dolph jumps off a balcony, away from an explosion, landing on a trampoline before bouncing back up, turning in mid-air, pulling out two guns (oh Woo, God bless you!) killing a bunch of baddies, before landing safely in a swimming pool behind him.
Finally, this is probably the ultimate dark blot on Lundgren’s CV. The film was made to fit around stock footage. It’s almost a complete remake of a Michael Dudikoff film made years earlier. When you’re remaking Dudikoff, you know you have problems. At this point Lundgren was having serious doubts about where his career was heading.
The film is horrifically bad, but hilarious too. It’s cheap, it’s nasty, it’s not even the first cut of the film which was apparently so monstrously bad they had to re-cut, and add some re-shoots to make something at least a little cohesive.
Dolph knows this is bad and plays on it. He’s got tongue firmly in cheek as well as a constant look of tired resignation.
Lundgren places a vial of deadly chemical in the bad guys mouth and breaks it. Excellent.
Next Up: The Jason Statham Rampage...