Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Heath Holland On...Three Flicks: Dolph Lundgren II

He’s back and he’s looking for revenge!

For everyone out there who just can’t get enough of that sweet Dolph Lundgren action, here’s another "Three Flicks" spotlighting three more of Dolph’s movies. Just like the other installments of "Three Flicks", I’ve randomly selected three movies that I’ve never seen by an actor to see if I can find any connective tissue tying them together and measure how they hold up against one another.

I recently discovered that when you enter some of the names of these movies into Google, you not only get information about the films themselves but a healthy dose of cynicism along with it. Turns out, there’s some people out there running my man down, saying things like “he’s too old” and “he makes too many movies.” One site I made the mistake of visiting actually compared him to Steven Seagal, saying that he was cranking out a bunch of crap that wasn’t worth anyone’s time.

One needs to be careful about what they say regarding Dolph Lundgren. At 55 years old, his 6 foot 5 inch frame is still stacked with muscle and he’s still got the agility and the moves. He still does most of his own stunts, and he still writes, directs, and stars in whatever he wants to. Dolph Lundgren is not someone I would want on my bad side. In fact, in a time where Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Van Damme are all still making movies, Dolph seems to be the reigning international King of the '80s Action-Star Mountain.

Let’s see how this batch of three flicks compares to the last one.
Silent Trigger (1996)

The first movie we’re looking at is also the worst. The only really good thing Silent Trigger has going for it is that it stars Dolph Lundgren. The first strike against it is that it’s directed by Russell Mulcahy of Highlander I and II fame/infamy. I have quite a love/hate relationship with the Highlander franchise, and I’ll definitely be writing about it at some point.

Like so many other action movie directors over the years, Mulcahy cut his teeth on music videos. This means that there are lots of industrial buildings and hanging curtains, as well as strategically placed blue lights in otherwise darkened rooms. His roots show, because the opening credits are set to a song full of Gregorian chants. It’s like a bad Enigma video…in other words, an Enigma video. Gregorian chants were all the rage in 1996, so I’m trying to cut the movie a little slack in that area, but it hasn’t aged well.
Then the movie starts and Dolph (in this movie he’s named Waxman, but he’s always Dolph to me) is perched high on a building with a sniper rifle. There are a lot of doves, slow motion, and tilted camera angles because Mulcahy really wants us to take him seriously and show that he’s got style.

Then, boom! Within the first three minutes we’re in a flashback. NOT GOOD. Build some narrative before you send me off into a flashback. Let me get to know the character first. Mulcahy is not interested in any of that, he wants to show that he’s got ideas. They’re bad, but they’re ideas. As soon as we cut back to the present day, there’s a helicopter attacking Dolph on his high vantage point, which leads to some crappy special effects and some low-budget pyro. There are some seriously weird editing choices, too.

Most of the movie takes place in a big ol’ building, a lot like the Nakatomi building from the first Die Hard. In fact, I’m SURE that was an inspiration. It seems like they found a good location and wrote a movie around that. The rest of the film takes place in this dark skyscraper at night. Cue the blue lights and wind machines.

The semi-recognizable Gina Bellman (she’s from the TV show Coupling) shows up as another sniper to help Lundgren take out a target in this building. She shows up doing a tough-girl routine, which gets old pretty quick. More alarming, however, is Christopher Heyerdahl as a security guard who seems intent on raping her for the entire movie. Seriously, the entire movie he’s after her to rape her. Because that’s a thing? Is this Villain-Writing 101? Need a bad guy but don’t have time for pesky character development? RAPE! Like Colt .45, it works every time.

If you can’t tell, I did not like Silent Trigger. It does seem like the kind of thing I’ll revisit every five years or so, just because of the star. But Russell Mulcahy did not make a quality film that delivers on anything that I want to see from a Dolph Lundgren action movie. It feels dated, corny, and very, very cheap. It was shot in Montreal, Quebec with a budget of nine million dollars. I think most of that went to curtains and blue lights. It also makes Canada feel like a really lonely place in the way that only cheap movies and television shows can. Have you ever watched old episodes of Forever Knight? It makes you want to call someone in your family and tell them that you love them.

Direct Action (2004)

Direct Action from 2004 is not to be confused with another Lundgren flick, Direct Contact, from 2009. I guess he likes making movies with “Direct” in the title. This film is directed by Sidney J. Furie, who we can hold responsible for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Iron Eagle and its sequel. But I’ll tip my hand a little: I liked this one.
During the opening credits we get some information about the Direct Action Unit (DAU), which is a special unit that focuses on street crime like drugs and prostitution. To work in the DAU, you have to have ten years of normal police experience. Lundgren is a superstar of the DAU, with 15 years of experience on the unit, the highest arrest record on the force, and the most unconventional methods. He’s a loose cannon!

The opening credits are intercut with images from the movie we’re about to watch: things blowing up, Dolph shooting guns, things blowing up, Dolph fist fighting, things blowing up, and Dolph using a knife. I think it’s a very poor choice. Don’t show me the best parts of the movie I’m about to watch within the first couple of minutes.

After the credits, Dolph ends up at a bar answering a report of a disturbance along with his female rookie partner. A fight breaks out, of course, and Dolph ends up taking out the entire bar of bad guys, including one dude wearing a Punisher shirt. I’m not sure if that was an intentional nod to Dolph’s 1989 take on the comic character, but if it was, I appreciate it.

In spite of his renegade methods, he’s the most honest cop on the entire Direct Action Unit, which is rotten from the bottom all the way to the top with the chief. The other cops treat him like Serpico, threatening him and telling him that he better become a team player or something bad will happen to him.

That something eventually happens when he agrees to testify at 5 o’clock against some of his fellow cops. He’s captured on the side of the road, beaten, and seems to be nearly killed. Luckily he escapes, but he kills his captors in self-defense. Now the entire force is looking for him, saying that he’s a cop killer.

The real (Direct) action doesn’t come until about 45 minutes into the movie. But when that action finally hits, it’s very satisfying and continues for the last half of the movie. With the bulk of the plot out of the way, we can get on with the business of Dolph running, sneaking, shooting and stabbing his way to clearing his name.

There is quite a bit of action, but it’s definitely on a budget. I couldn’t find a number for how much this movie cost to make, but it was not much. And once again, we’re filming in Canada, this time in Ontario. This does not make me feel better about Canadian location filming. The entire movie is set against the backdrop of gray skies, big factory buildings, industrial plants, and old red brick buildings. I know there are very beautiful parts of Canada, but they must cost a ton of money to film in. I enjoyed this movie. Even when the plot and the filming don’t always stack up to major motion pictures, Dolph always brings his A-game. I’ve decided he’s the Tom Cruise of B-movies. He will give everything to make a movie as good as possible.

Diamond Dogs (2007)

Dolph is an ex-Green Beret who saw the death of his entire team. He has now retreated to inner Mongolia and taken up jobs in security to make ends meet. He also participates in the occasional prizefight to bring in extra money. He intended to stay in Mongolia for six months, but it’s been six years.
The movie leads off with Dolph in a mixed style fight against a gigantic Mongolian. It’s so great to see him doing what got him here in the first place, which is one-on-one competitive fighting. This entire movie has quite a few scenes that feel like a throwback to '80s action movies, which I welcome. The fight ends with Dolph being arrested and being told that he owes the equivalent of 20,000 dollars for all the trouble he’s continued to cause over the last few years. He’s given four weeks to pay his fines or he’s going to prison. MONGOLIAN prison.

It’s about this time that a pony-tailed sleaze bag finds him and offers to pay him a hefty sum of money if he will participate in an expedition that’s being put together. Dolph is expected to act as an interpreter, security and local guide for the team, and in return he will receive enough money to clear his name with the authorities. What Ponytail is looking for is an ancient Buddhist artifact, called the Tangka, which has been lost since 1935 and which is covered with diamonds that are valued at 50 million dollars. It may also have mystical powers.

But things can’t be as simple as that, so there’s a rival team also looking for the Tangka. They try to bribe Dolph into betraying his team and giving it to them at double his price, but being the man of integrity that he is, Dolph says no.

Also on board the expedition is actress Yu Nan, who we more recently saw in another Dolph Lundgren movie, The Expendables 2.

That’s essentially the entire plot; the rest is just action and the quest for the artifact. I really enjoyed this one because of the successful blending of so many different elements: hand to hand combat and competitive ring fighting, military action, mysticism, and the overall adventure quest that those elements are a part of.

The final confrontation takes place in what appears to be an abandoned monastery or temple. It really works for me. This film shot in Mongolia for three months and the production value that the locations added to the film cannot be underestimated. This movie feels exotic and authentic at the same time. There’s well-paced action and an interesting plot that doesn’t quite get used to its full potential. In fact, the movie sets things up perfectly for either a sequel or an entire series of films with this character, but given that this was six years ago, it’s doubtful we’ll ever see anything else from it. And perhaps that’s for the best, because I’d much rather a movie leave me wanting more than to overstay it’s welcome.

A side note about Diamond Dogs: it seems that the hired and credited director of the movie, Shimon Dotan, had some sort of difficulty after the first few days of shooting so Dolph took over full directorial duties. He does not get credit in the movie, but he does have credit for the movie on the internet. It leads to all sorts of questions about what problems these must have been, but it also shows once again how competent and awesome the D-Man is.

That’s another "Three Flicks" down for Dolph Lundgren. I could do this forever, because his movies are so plentiful, yet always so different. I truly do not understand the near-constant criticism and hatred that he gets on the internet. All of these movies have an IMDB score of 4 or 5 out of 10, which is very harsh. Some of the reviews even say that these movies are unwatchable, and of course, “the worst movie ever made.” Rubbish. I would give even the worst of these, Silent Trigger 6 out of 10. In school that would barely be a passing grade, but it just squeaks by. But then again, I am not a typical movie audience, nor do we seem to be a typical movie crowd. You could do a lot worse than any of these three flicks.


  1. Nice write up Heath, I am shamefully behind on my Dolph watching (although I did do Red Scorpion for Junesploitation) but he's always come off very interesting, this is a random thought but I think I might like to see him team up or be the villain against Liam Neeson in Taken 3.

    1. I'd totally watch that. I've decided I'll watch Dolph Lundgren in ANY role. I don't care if he's The Cat In The Hat or if he's cleaning up the streets. In fact, I nominate him to take over the role of The Doctor after Matt Smith's departure from Doctor Who. I don't think anyone has ever roundhouse kicked a Dalek before.

  2. You’re totally right about Silent Trigger. It’s been years since I watched it but the main things I remember are a lot of it taking place in the dark, the creepy security guard and not a right lot happening for long stretches. Gina Bellman looks fantastic, but her character has absolutely nothing to her.

    Have you ever seen Men of War? It used to be a staple of late night TV in the UK in the late 90s and I always really enjoyed it, but looking around there don’t appear to be many positive comments about it online. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on it.

    1. I haven't seen Men Of War, but it's on my list. It's part of a three disc set that I have my eye on, which also contains (the set, not my eye) Blackjack and Hidden Assassin. The lack of positive comments on the internet doesn't sway me as to the quality. Apparently people on the internet hate Dolph Lundgren. Well, apparently people on the internet hate EVERYTHING. Your recommendation means more than the opinion of someone named WinturIsCumming1992 any day of the week. I'll try to include Men of War for volume III of this Dolph Lundgren Three Flicks. Now I want to see if more than I did.

  3. That's great, I look forward the next installment.

    Blackjack is another one I watched loads a few years back, and remember being really fun. I've never seen Hidden Assassin, but looking it up it seems pretty cool.Ted Kotcheff has a few duds on his CV, but the man can make a good action flick.

  4. I kind of like the idea of a villain hell-bent on raping someone, but only if it's a male villain trying to rape the male hero. Like, I will probably never bother watching A Good Day to Die Hard but if the next sequel is all about Bruce Willis trying not to get raped, I'm in.

    "I'm coming for your sweet ass, McClane!"

    "What the fuck are you talking about, scumbag?"

    "I'm going to find you McClane, and then I'm going to hold you down and there's going to be some sweet bum sex, whether you like it or not!"

    "Well, I won't like it."

    "That's kind of the point."

    "I'm too old for this shit!"

    "Wrong franchise, McClane."

    Tell me you aren't already in line to see THAT movie!

    I'm glad you're giving ole Dolph the coverage he deserves - I haven't seen a ton of his movies (none of these) but I always find him interesting to watch. In fact, I'm going to go to some of Canada's bleaker areas right now and see if I can find him!