The Package, 2012.
Directed by Jesse V. Johnson.
Starring Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Keenleyside, Darren Shahlavi, Jerry Trimble, William B. Davis, Mike Dopud, John Novak, Michael Daingerfield and Paul Wu.
A courier for a local crime lord must deliver a mysterious package while being chased by a horde of unusual gangsters.
Over the years one has come to expect a certain checklist ticked off when one watches a straight to video action film starring Dolph Lundgren. In more recent years, Stone Cold Steve Austin has joined the ranks of the B-movie action stars, and works with the same sort of regularity. Austin has yet to achieve similar levels of consistency (if you are game to call it that) as Lundgren or other veterans like Jean-Claude Van Damme, but he’s proven himself tough enough to lead this sort of films. So what we have here is a film that pits Austin against Lundgren. For it to deliver on its promise we expect some broken heads, some carnage, the odd explosion and minimal Shakespearean dialogue. So does The Package deliver?
Well yes! Under the guiding hand of stunt man turned director Jessie Johnson, The Package does what is expected of it. No more, no less. It may not go beyond what it could be, but in the reality of the direct to vid action world, more often than not these films don’t deliver enough of what an audience would want (especially when you watch Steven Seagal movies from the last decade). Most producers don’t particularly care as long as a product is pieced together ready to sell, and if you look at most of Austin’s starrers so far, or Lundgren in something like In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege, you will get the idea that the end products quality isn’t always highest in priority. The constraints of most DTV films are evident here of course. It was shot on a lightening quick 18 (or so) days. Normally these films have about a month of filming, and even then it’s often not quite enough time to really put your all into it. The budget of course is low meaning some things (normally elaborate action) have to be trimmed from the script. Johnson is no stranger to working with small budgets, this is probably when of his more expensive films, and he’s also no stranger to working under strict studio conditions to shoot something on time with limited fuss. For the time and money afforded to him on The Package, he’s done a great job.
The plot is simple and well close to non-existent, with Tommy (Austin) sent to deliver a “package” to The German (Lundgren) in order to earn enough to pay off his brothers debt. Complications arise when a third party become involved. There’s little development in the plot aside from a twist regarding the details of the package at the films climax. That said, we’re not here for elaborate, well weaved storylines, we’re here for the kabooms, of which there are plenty.
The action is well made and carries a punch. It’s delightfully old fashioned with as much on screen carnage and blood that can be mustered from the budget. It’s a good antithesis to the modern blockbuster action film that’s overly reliant on CGI, and seemingly these days a little phobic in using good old fashioned blood squibs. The Package delivers on its promise more so than A Good Day to Die Hard for example. The fights are hard hitting and nicely cut, avoiding a B-movie pitfall of excessive cutting and pointless avid farts (unnecessary editing effects). There are enough action scenes here to give the film a solid pace. The music too helps matters, with Sean Murray delivering a lively, pulsating score, owing nods to Hans Zimmer’s work in Inception amongst others.
Austin is okay. He’s still yet to really deliver the same sort of charisma on screen that he had in the wrestling ring. For me though, part of the problem for Stone Cold here, as with a lot of the other action films he’s lead, is that he’s more bad guy material. He was pitch perfect in The Expendables as Eric Roberts’ chief henchman. This is his best leading man role yet and there’s a little more humour injected than he normally has, but the role doesn’t really suit him. Elsewhere B movie veteran Jerry Trimble makes the most of his screen-time as a heavy and gets to thrown down with Austin. Fans of The X-Files may get a kick out of seeing William B. Davis (The Smoking Man) appear as a doctor here.
This movie however belongs to Dolph Lundgren. Of late, Lundgren has stepped away from the lead roles and taken more supporting parts. The result has generally been more interesting than a straight up hero role he normally plays. His speciality throughout his career has been to play an antagonist. His most memorable performances all seem to be his villains. Especially in his recent string of villainous roles though, he’s always stolen the show. He did it in Stash House, he did it in One in the Chamber, he did it in two Universal Soldier sequels (not to mention the original). The benefit of time has helped him. Lundgren is taking his art seriously. Whilst Daniel Day-Lewis need not start looking over his shoulder just yet, Lundgren is to his credit creating memorable characters. The German is another success. He’s someone loopy but intense, intelligent but unhinged. This guy is a pretty interesting character, and though he’s not supposed to be sympathetic on paper, Lundgren manages to inject a little bit of pathos into his character.
The Package is for genre fans who don’t demand more than what is promised by the cover. This delivers. It’s well made given the time given to it. It is also unashamedly good fun. Forget subtlety here and embrace the old school style of making an action film well.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★