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Cover-Up

tn_coverupex3-dolphYou know, if I find some funk record I never heard of I look at the year, if it came out between 1970 and 1976 then I get higher hopes. ’77 and later is risky. This is a similar concept. There’s still a few Dolph Lundgren pictures I haven’t seen, but I figured COVER-UP was the most promising one because of where it came in his filmography: 1991, that glorious time between the late ’80s and mid-’90s when American action movies were reaching their peak fitness levels, their maximum potential. Dolph did THE PUNISHER and I COME IN PEACE, then this, then SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.

Well, turns out there’s a reason why you hear those ones mentioned occasionally and this one never. It’s not that memorable. But it has moments. I like moments.

It’s directed by Manny Coto (DR. GIGGLES, STAR KID) who is now mainly known as a writer and producer on 24. This was probly pretty good practice for that. Writer William Tannen is usually a director, he did HERO AND THE TERROR.

Dolph plays Mike Anderson, American foreign affairs reporter covering an attack on a U.S. Navy base in Jerusalem. He runs into his ex-girlfriend Susan (Lisa Berkely). They yell at each other but agree to have dinner later. He wants her back, and she doesn’t tell him right away that she’s engaged to marry his old best friend from his military days, “Coop” (John Finn, CLIFFHANGER, CARLITO’S WAY, TURBULENCE).

mp_coverupAnderson is one of these intrepid reporters, the ones with the intrepidness, so he doesn’t believe the official story about what happened. Perhaps this is because he sees the CIA’s Lou Jackson (Dolph’s PUNISHER co-star Louis Gossett Jr.) snooping around, and he thinks that guy is a fucking asshole. They’ve had run-ins in the past. Jackson kicked him out of Rome when he was onto a big story a year ago, and he threatens to do it again as he’s getting to close too the truth about this new terrorist group Black October, who we see murdering some guys in a hotel room using a powerful nerve gas. Looks painful.

Anderson is meeting with Coop, getting some tips, when Coop gets nailed in a car bombing. This part is well timed, I actually didn’t expect it, so hopefully some asshole in a review won’t spoil it for you before you see it. If so please realize that this is a 23 year old obscure movie that I’m pretty sure you weren’t planning to see before he or she brought the topic up.

Anyway, shit gets paranoid. We see Jackson telling Susan she needs to get Anderson to “open up,” and she seems like she’s trying to get back together with him. Is she sincere or is she undercover? Who can we trust? He figures out his phone is tapped, that he’s being followed, and then a guy on a roof tries to shoot him. (Sorry, random homeless guy who was trying to talk to him at that moment. Tough break, bud.)

Although they mention his military background they don’t make Anderson into a gun or karate expert. He can brawl, but seems pretty undisciplined, not that far off from the regular guy that other actors would be when playing a reporter. Of course, being Dolph has a size advantage, so that helps. When he gets attacked and strangled in a hotel room it’s a real good violent scuffle scene, some elbows and kicks but mostly a wriggling-around-knocking-over-furniture type of fight just like anybody would have. But because of his master’s degree in chemical engineering he knows to spray Right Guard in the guy’s eyes.

Plotwise this one leans a little more toward the suspense thriller than the action movie. The biggest action sequence is probly the opening attack on the base, at which point Dolph’s character isn’t even in the country. But he does get into a pretty big car chase, with shots fired and an exploding vehicle and what not. And a bad guy attacks him with a sword, and there’s a climax where Dolph gets pretty physical in his attempt to stop a major terrorist attack. And a couple impressive stunts now that I think about it. Vic Armstrong (later director of JOSHUA TREE/ARMY OF ONE) actually gets a Stunt Coordinator/2nd Unit Director opening credit. You don’t see that every day.

When a movie like this is not exactly great in the filmatistic or actioning departments what it really needs is just some weird, odd touches that make it a unique and beautiful snowflake. And this has a couple of those that I would like to point out.

First of all, this part where he meets with Coop. Coop has a beer. Anderson has… a dessert.

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At first it seems like it might be some cake or a little dish of ice cream or something. Then you see it:

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That’s how you know Dolph is acting. We know from his Maximum Potential workout video that he’s not into eating sweets. I especially like that there’s no comment about him eating a giant dish of ice cream for lunch, no joke made about it, just this one shot.

Then, from the next cut we learn that he went home and passed out drinking airplane bottles of Smirnoff and Kahlua and smoking cigars.

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Another funny thing is how oblivious he is to the fact that Susan is trying to get him in bed. It starts when her fiancee is still alive, when she surprises Anderson in his hotel room while he’s showering. She acts very innocent and like they’re just friends but then she makes this face:

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Later he’s so onto his big scoop that he completely ignores what she’s doing behind him:

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She has to do the ol’ “Do you have any conditioner? Will you get it for me?” maneuver, pull him into the shower and start ripping off his clothes and sliding down his belly before he finally gets it.

An interesting touch in the sex scene: as she orgasms she pulls the shower curtain down, so there’s a shot of the rings popping off one by one, just like in PSYCHO. Then it cuts to them laying in bed, all wet, and there’s a thunderstorm outside. Like a horror movie. But the meaning is ambiguous. Could be “don’t trust this one, Mike.” But from the look on her face it could also be “What kind of a monster have I become?”

Anyway, in another scene there’s a random hotel employee who lays on a bed and pulls the top of her dress down her shoulder while he’s investigating a murder scene, and he doesn’t react to that either. Maybe women throw themselves at him so much that he’s become immune to it.

Another weird moment is in one of those scenes where somebody appears behind him as a surprise. But instead of having the character say “Hello Mike” or whatever there’s is a shot of a paper airplane landing on the ground and then he turns around to see where it came from and there’s a gun pointed at him. Now when going back through the movie to get screen grabs I discovered a not clearly shot, not significant as far as I can tell part where a paper airplane was thrown earlier, so I guess that’s supposed to be a trademark of this character for some reason. But before noticing that I was convinced they just couldn’t get the actor in for looping and they said “I don’t know, how ’bout an insert shot of… a paper airplane? Would that make sense?”

Okay, maybe that one’s not that exciting. Here’s a good one: Dolph punching a woman in the face.

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Don’t worry, she just shot him! I really think he was gonna be a gentleman before that happened.

When you eventually find out what the secret conspiracy is it’s got a little tinge of prophecy to it. SPOILER a particularly hawkish faction of the U.S. military uses a made up story about weapons of mass destruction to try to start a war with Iraq and with the Arab world at large. Of course, they actually try to use the WMDs for an attack that they’re gonna blame on Iraq, so it’s not really the same as what happened in real life. Not that far off though. If a b-action movie is kinda right about the world it deserves credit for that. Good job Dolph.

 

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 at 11:26 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “Cover-Up”

  1. You’re not kidding about this one not being memorable. I am 99% sure I’ve seen this movie and I remember 0% about it, even with your review to refresh my memory.

  2. I remember every time I wanted to rent this it was never at the store for some reason. So it’s funny to hear it’s not memorable because so many people insisted in always renting it out at my local shop so I figured it must’ve really resonated with people somehow. A shame to hear to cause I always wanted to see it based off the strength of the THE PUNISHER reunion promised by the video cover.

  3. I’m weirdly in tune with Maggie on this one… I’m sure I’ve seen this, or part of it, somewhere before, but I’m damned if I can remember a thing about it.

    I’m still looking for that elusive Dolph actioner where he actually gets to use some of those smarts that he’s known for. It always seemed hugely ironic to me that the star of the movie that really put a stamp on the end of the eighties’ “big dumb actioner” phase, and jump-started the “leaner, more intelligent actioner”, was the guy who played Ted “Theodore” Logan. I think Dolph would’ve fitted better into the post-“Speed” era than he did in the eighties one.

  4. At least he got to use his drumming skills in COMMAND PERFORMANCE.

    I’ve had this one for a while and never got around to watching it. Now I know why.

    Hey, anybody see the recent PUNCTURE WOUNDS with Dolph and Cung Le? It’s streaming on Netflix. It didn’t look that promising, but Dolph seems to be better at these team-up movies than the other Expendables, and I liked Le in DRAGON EYES, so why not? The filmatism was a bit suspect (very drab and pseudo-documentary, but not post-action), the fights were nothing special, and it opened with voiceover narration (always a red flag) but I think it pulled it off in the end. The script went places you wouldn’t expect, and there was more emphasis on character than you’d think. There’s a pretty cool “How badass is this guy?” scene, a variation on ROLLING THUNDER’s “I’ll get my gear” scene, a Vinnie Jones cameo, and STEP UP 2’s Briana Evigan’s sideboob. All in all worth checking out, I’d say.

  5. Sideboob is the new boobs.

    DTV used to benefit from boobs and rather pleasant butt-shots like the one above. See also the shower scene/butt-shot in THE STEPFATHER.

    Boobs, where have you gone?

    Come back.

    I miss you.

  6. Boobs are on the internet now, Darren. Or so I’ve heard.

  7. Is there any other memorable food bits Dolph has had? I remember that scene from THE PACKAGE where he explains how to make a perfect smoothie to the guy he’s torturing.

  8. Again, this is one I’ve definitely seen, and have next to no memory of. I vaguely remember bits like the nerve gas scene (which was pretty nasty) and some moments from the finale, but pretty much nothing else. It’s a total dud of a thriller.

  9. I’m sorry but I have to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to say, peep my new anime Nicolas Cage gravatar dudes, I figured that would be more appropriate for this sight

    here’s the full image by the way (it’s supposed to be Cage from MATCHSTICK MEN) http://artbooksnat.tumblr.com/image/90556129650

  10. I rented this way back in the early 90’s as well and came away disappointed. Thanks to Vern for doing this review though, most of what he mentioned are the parts I remembered. I might appreciate it now but back then I was hoping for a more “typical” action movie, not Dolph as a sort-of regular guy in a conspiracy thriller with some action in it. That ending was a bit abrupt, as I recall, and I wondered as to Dolph’s fate.

  11. The boob-tube is where it’s at for me, Maggie.

    I haven’t seen COVER-UP, but I’m slowly working my way through Dolph’s solo efforts. So far I’ve seen MISSIONARY MAN, which wasn’t bad, and I saw SHOWDOWN IN TOKYO ages ago. I don’t feel as compelled to watch his stuff as I do the big guns like Sly and JCVD. I mean, he’s got presence, probly based on his physicality, and he’s a good looking dude and all(no homo), but I can’t remember ever thinking he had a great deal of charisma or personality. Maybe I need to see more of his stuff to get an informed opinion. I got MEN OF WAR and BLACKJACK at home. I hear good things about BLACKJACK.

  12. Remember Dolph did not wish to stick to action and wanted to become a more eclectic actor, so this was his step up to work on a more “serious” thriller and a contemporary and “intellectual” character who doesn’t have to fight or take out a machine gun every five minutes (he actually doesn’t hold a gun or actual weapon in the entire movie which is very rare in his filmography).

    It has flaws but I have much fondness for it because it’s a totally different beast and a gem on its own: by its particular atmosphere, its unusualy exotic score, and particularly the final 10 mins climax ending (shot during the real easter procession in Jerusalem, which caused people and cops to think Dolph was wounded) which has a very likable mystic and melancholic feel to it, enhanced by the downbeat ending and end credits cue.

    Btw Darren, make sure to watch MEN OF WAR it’s by far one of Dolph’s very best films. BLACKJACK is ok… for a late 90s TV pilot.

  13. This is one of the few Dolph movies I didn’t get hold of after you guys gave me some Lundgren pointers. And I must say that the knocking over furniture scene has made me wanting to see it. Vern, do you think an actor’s size is essential to a furniture knocking scene?

  14. Thank for the shove Jox, I’ll check it out

  15. I really dig Dolph as a performer at this point in his career and his personal life is probably more interesting then many of the characters he has played, but growing up I avoided most solo Dolph projects like the plague. I am sure there are some good ones but I was always suspect of Dolph’s solo films from this era. To me he was the face of bad/cheap DTV and B grade films from the late 80’s to early 90’s. His success in his first screen role in ROCKY 4 made him an overnight star and a bankable face to feature on a movie poster, but there is a real learning on the job quality to many of Dolph’s early performances and even he will admit he wasn’t ready for the spotlight thrust on him after his initial success. That is not to say Dolph is bad in his early films. I actually think he does an admirable job considering he is learning as he goes. However, it was not just the craft of screen acting Dolph was new to, the workings of the film industry were also new to him. At the time Dolph’s choices in film roles looked desperate to me, but in retrospect they were probably just naive. Here is young guy that becomes a movie star overnight and all the sudden he has offers from multiple studios for starring roles with a lot of money on the table, and he wasn’t savvy enough to recognize what projects & roles would be best for his career and which could damage his brand and rising stardom. Someone needs to make a detailed documentary on the life and career of Dolph and I bet it would make him a bigger star than any film role he has ever had.

  16. Darren, I think BLACKJACK was the one that turned me into a real Dolph fan. It’s completely absurd and strange and he’s very charismatic in it. Up until that point I mostly knew him as meatheads in movies like ROCKY IV and RED SCORPION. MEN OF WAR is pretty good too.

  17. Absurd and strange is a good enough launching pad for me. I think I’ll be shut in for a Dolphathon this weekend, cheers Vern.

  18. Charles, you’re absolutely right.

    I’ll tell you there’s not a documentary but another big project in the works about Dolph’s career, but it’s not gonna be ready to launch before a few years probably…

  19. SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO will always remain one of the best movie going experiences of my life. There were a few firsts for me with that one.

    I even learned something about mixed race babies when I went to see that one. At that point in time interracial relationships weren’t quite as common as they are today especially if you grew up in the hood like I did. I still remember the naiveness of 8 year old Broddie going “but he looks white” when my older cousin told me “you know that’s Bruce Lee’s son?”

    But on top of all that it also showed me that Dolph was capable of having a sense of humor & genuine charisma instead of always coming across as one dimensional as he did in something like RED SCORPION.

  20. Jox, a book?

  21. Broddie, I am trying to rack my brain and remember if I ever saw a Dolph feature where he wasn’t the baddie or second fiddle in a theater during its original theatrical run and the only one I can remember is MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.

  22. I wish I had gotten to see MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE on the big screen. Sadly people didn’t start taking me to the cinema till 1989 (KICKBOXER and THE FLY II being the first 2 movies I ever saw on a big screen). So I only got to see LITTLE TOKYO, I COME IN PEACE and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.

  23. For a moment I was thinking MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE might also be the only Cannon film I saw in the theater, but I remember seeing SUPERMAN 4 in the theater so there is at least one other Cannon film I saw theatrically.

    I saw UNIVERSAL SOLDIER theatrically but I have only seen LITTLE TOKYO & I COME IN PEACE on cable/VHS/DVD/Blu.

  24. If anyone finds themselves in the Houston area on September 13th one of our local Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas is hosting a Dolph Lundgren mystery double feature in 35mm(I know I’ll be there):
    http://drafthouse.com/movies/a-dolph-in-tale-a-dolph-lundgren-double-feature//houston

    I admire Lundgren’s industrious nature but I haven’t been all that impressed by his more recent output. Actually, some of them look like he’s just hanging back in cushy supporting roles and letting the Steve Austin and Scott Adkins types do the heavy lifting. No, I still prefer his 20th century catalog when he was both prolific and ambitious. I’m not going to die on a hill for THE PEACEKEEPER or Isaac Florentine’s BRIDGE OF DRAGONS but they’re still pretty damn entertaining films.

  25. Al T, he took his recent supporting roles mostly because of his recent divorce that forced him to take those (sometimes he also had something different to play acting wise like in SMALL APARTMENTS, THE PACKAGE or STASH HOUSE and he wanted to work on his acting chops post-EXPENDABLES).

    But look out for his dear project SKIN TRADE coming next year, he’s been holding out this baby for 8 years until he could make it properly and just produced it (and wrote it) with Tony Jaa, Ron Perlman, Michael Jai White, Peter Weller and Celina Jade! It’s gonna be more in the vein of THE MECHANIK with much much more action (and drama since it tackles human trafficking).

  26. I saw I COME IN PEACE in the theater so I’m pretty sure I win this Dolph Off.

  27. So did I and Benben was so likeable that I actually got into DREAM ON as a kid. The old movie and TV clips helped as well.

  28. I saw I COME IN PEACE in theaters as well(the second time 2 years ago), I consider it my civic duty as a Houstonian. Even before that though I saw A VIEW TO A KILL and ROCKY IV theatrically. Of course nobody knew of Dolph in VIEW but he made a huge impact on my 6 year old self as Ivan Drago. Been a fan ever since.

  29. “So did I and Benben was so likeable that I actually got into DREAM ON as a kid. The old movie and TV clips helped as well.”

    did the boobs also help?

  30. My Own Private Dolphathon was a raging success, thanks Jox and Vern. I enjoyed both BLACKJACK and MEN OF WAR

  31. MOW was better than I expected. I liked Dolph’s acting in the scene when the nerdy guys who hired him to do the mission were telling him the truth about the bird shit, they were basically calling him an idiot and condescending to him, and the look on his face as he’s trying to process the truth like “keep going you dweebs, I’m this close to fucking you up, but I’m trying to deal with the bird shit revelation.”

    I also liked the guy who played Keefer, the late Trevor Goddard, who I learned is British, but in the movie has an Aussie accent and acts like Vernon Wells in ROAD WARRIOR. I also learned he died at the age of 40, and had a dog named Perry. Wonder if he named it after the MOW director Perry Lang?

    Also liked the opening scenes in wintery Chicago at the beginning of MOW with Dolph on the street in an overcoat drinking from a hip-flask. Reminded me of THE DOGS OF WAR, how you see Chris Walken at home as a civilian, yet he’s a trained mercenary in his spare time.

    I’m still trying to process what I saw in BLACKJACK. Holy shit. It’s some kind of bizarre action masterpiece. I’ll have to give this one more thought before I can comment.

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