tn_pentathloncountdownlogoIn the 1994 sports ‘n action drama PENTATHLON, Mr. Dolph Lundgren plays Eric Brogar, an East German athlete trained since childhood to be the ultimate pentathlon competitor. David Soul (Hutch from ‘Starsky & Hutch’!) plays the authoritarian (later revealed to be Neo-Nazi) coach Heinrich Müller, who slaps little Eric around and drills him to believe that if he trips on a rock or something he’s “failed the German Democratic Republic,” as well as himself and all his friends. I mean, this coach is such an asshole that you know he’s not even gonna be the kind of asshole that turns out to be lovable at the end like James Earl Jones in BEST OF THE BEST.

mp_pentathlonBy the time of the ’88 Olympics in Seoul, it’s clear that Eric is itching for a little of the ol’ freedom. He gets a crush on an American Olympian (Renee Coleman), manages to score a Team USA windbreaker, and teaches himself to say “Hey dude, what’s shakin’, man?” so he can sneak into their compound. He seems like a big silly goofball, but the fuckin Stazi who keep an eye on him aren’t laughing. Müller turns blatantly racist, freaking out on an African-American athlete for no reason and saying “You will speak when you are spoken to!” He also says “You embody the purity and the power of Germany!” and “I am your future, Eric!” which means he himself embodies the purity and power of Germany. He takes winning very seriously, but Eric takes fairness very seriously, and refuses to take steroids to win.

Eric wins the gold anyway, then excuses himself to the shitter. That would explain why he ran so fast in the race if he had to take a dump real bad, but that’s not it. The bathroom is his excuse to slip into the USA uniform and make a run for it. It would be better if he made a run, swim, horse ride, shoot and swordfight for it, but I’ll take what I can get. To me his plan comes off like a youthful prank, but the Stazi disagree and actually fire bullets at him. He gets the American bus to pick him up and for some reason the driver is willing to drag the guy who’s chasing him. You’d think that would turn into an international incident.

Well, Eric successfully defects to the States, and that oughta be the happy ending to the story of Olympic gold medalist Eric Brogar and his asshole coach Heinrich Müller. But those two have been through too much together. They’re connected now. Back in Germany, a destitute Müller shows up at Eric’s dad’s house, steals a photo of Eric and beats the dad (to death?). In Los Angeles we find Eric drunk and depressed in a bar, watching the wall come down on the news and turning violent against the American bar patrons who don’t understand what it means to him. Just his shitty luck that he lost everything to defect and could’ve just stuck it out a little longer.

He’s flipping burgers in a little diner, working for an older guy named Creese (Roger Mosley), who regrets even hiring Eric until he teaches him to smile and laugh. About damn time too, the guy was getting insufferable, and had a bad habit of completely ignoring people who say “How ya doin’?” or “good morning” or “buenos dias” to him. But when Creese finds out about Eric’s Olympic past he decides to help him get back into shape, teaching him not to smoke while jogging, etc.

Of course Müller shows up again and gets a big idea for a Neo-Nazi attack on some kind of Holocaust memorial rally and making Eric take the fall for it, so there is fighting and what not.

This is a pretty cool action premise, because as it explains in text at the beginning the pentathlon was designed to use the skills that a soldier needs. So of course in battling Müller and his men Eric ends up using his running, his shooting and his sword skills. I don’t think he swims or rides a horse though, which is wasted potential, but otherwise this is a very satisfying movie.

It also takes advantage of Dolph’s qualities, because as a huge, muscular, blond, square-jawed super hero it makes perfect sense that he’d be some Nazi asshole’s ideal specimen. He even says, “the idea of the superman was born in Germany” (when explaining why he plans to jump out a window). It’s not one of his monosyllabic meathead characters, he gets to use his humor. He does start out with broken English and fake German accent, but switches to regular Dolph when he becomes American.

PENTATHLON is the last movie by director Bruce Malmuth, who had previously done NIGHTHAWKS with Stallone and of course HARD TO KILL with Seagal. According to his IMDb biography, Malmuth was “a single parent who raised his son from the age of six” and was passionate about doing workshops at orphanages and stuff like that, believing “it is easier to build a child than to repair a man.” In my Seagalogical studies I thought this life experience might’ve influenced the relationship between Mason Storm’s son and his adopted father, and I definitely think it influenced PENTATHLON, which Malmuth is credited as writing along with William Stadiem, Gary T. McDonald and Gary DeVore (RAW DEAL).

There’s some cool action here and there, but not a huge amount of it. In that department it’s only average for an action movie of 1994. But in my opinion the relationships and several other unusual touches make PENTATHLON stand out as something special. Eric is this German Superman with three different proud papas trying to claim him as their son. There’s his real father, a good man but he was taken away like a little buddha or a jedi padawan. There’s his Nazi coach who mentally and phsyically abuses him his whole life, but clearly has a “that’s my boy!” pride for Eric. And there’s Creese, the anti-Müller, a humble working man who not coincidentally is of one of the races that Müller is bigoted against.

At the end, after Müller has escaped capture, common sense would tell him to go back to Germany and lay low. Instead he shows up at Eric’s next pentathlon wearing a filthy Adidas jacket with no shirt underneath, trying to disguise himself with sunglasses. He’s there to assassinate Eric as he crosses the finish line, but I swear he’s also there to see his boy win the race. Even as he points the gun the look on his face isn’t anger or hatred, I think it’s pride and love:


But of course Eric turns the tables and Müller’s the one who gets shot. And the movie ends on Eric’s face. Fittingly his look isn’t love. I think it’s something more like indifference:


And there are plenty of other nice splashes of flavor. During the traditional alley-mugging incident the lead creep is for some reason climbing on a wall monkey-style. There’s a reverse Radio Raheem incident where a white villain blasts a boombox (and does a hilarious dance) in a black-owned establishment. When the Nazis beat up one of Creese’s old buddies one of them angrily yells, “You fuckin killed Germans!?,” so the old man must be a WWII vet. Doesn’t make you sympathize with these assholes, but makes them a little more human.

I like that the lead villain is ultimately pathetic. In his big moment when he tries to broadcast a taped speech he loses the signal in the control room and nervously freaks out, not sure if his plan is working or not.

And unless I misunderstood something there’s a real clever moment when the Nazis are sneaking into the rally disguised as a TV crew. A cop on security detail is hassling them about their equipment. When asked they open a case, clearly showing their rocket launcher. “See? Microphone,” one of them says, and the cop just lets it pass. It’s weird but I believe it. He doesn’t really know what he’s looking at.

I swear there’s almost a subtext going on with the footwear, too. The Germans all wear Adidas shoes and clothes. Adidas is a German company, and in fact its founder Adi Dassler was a member of the Nazi party (although unlike Müller he didn’t support Hitler, was cleared of any wrongdoing and proven to have sheltered potential victims and soldiers from the war). When Creese takes Eric under his wing he buys them both brand new Asics and they put them on together. But Asics is a Japanese company. I wish it was Converse or something so it would be more symbolic of Eric becoming an American.

(fuckin Nazis get the better shoes, though.)

Man, it kind of blows my mind that Starsky went on to direct THE RUNNING MAN and Hutch went on to play a Nazi trying to shoot Dolph Lundgren out of fatherly love. You know what they say: it’s a world of laughter, a world of tears.

Anyway, PENTATHLON is a real good one, very unique and easily one of Dolph’s best. I highly recommend it, although it doesn’t have a region 1 DVD.



This entry was posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2010 at 2:38 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Sport. 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.

47 Responses to “Pentathlon”

  1. Funny you find this one pretty good (love your sense of humor and reviews but we definitely don’t see movies the same way, rarely share the same tastes or criteria)!

    PENTATHLON was a good project for Dolph and kind of a departure from less grounded in reality characters. But unfortunately the film didn’t get half the budget Dolph was promised and the directing is very flat (not mentioning the awful score) and full of awkward moments (awkward would best sum up the film). So while there’s some interesting moments, this has to be one of Dolph’s worst overall.

  2. Jox, you must have a Google alert for Dolph!

    Since we got the expert here could you share with us what you consider Dolph’s best movies? I think my personal favorite is still BLACKJACK, definitely an unusual choice. And of course his supporting role in UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION. The worst one I’ve tried to watch was probly RETROGRADE (another Gary Daniels joint) which I gave up on after maybe a half hour.

  3. I laughed loud at “Heinrich Müller”. Because that’s exactly that kind of German (Nazi-) Name that only Hollywood can come up with. Not saying that it’s a totally unrealistic name, but it’s as cliched as something like “Angus McCoy” for Scots.
    It’s still hilarious to hear names like this from time to time. Does he speak German in this movie? If so, I really have to track it down! I’m sure it’s the typical nonsensical gibberish that I love so much!

  4. does the cover strangely remind anyone else of Watchmen?

  5. Hmm , that sounds interesting.

    By the way, there was an interesting article on the Dassler Brothers and their factory in world war 2 in the german “spiegel” a while back.

    Here is the english version if someone is interested:


  6. It seems that you have reviewed only two of Lundgren’s movies. What’s with the lack of love to the Dolph?

  7. My bad man. I didnt use the search tool as a normal person, i see that in fact there´s a lot of love for Dolph on this site.

  8. Although there is still no review of Masters Of The Universe (which I haven’t seen since something like 15 years anyway).

  9. I must admit I do agree with Vern that Dolph when not playing a cyborg can sport a good charisma and sense of jock humor to him. Best cases I’ve seen so far would be SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO and I COME IN PEACE.

  10. Yeah RETROGRADE is on my bottom list as well (along with the likes of AGENT RED, THE MINION etc).

    BLACKJACK was indeed the best thing Dolph in the late nineties and even though I feel there’s quite a few things against it (manly being made as a pilot for a TV series), it is still a great effort almost a departure from his usual roles, thanks to John Woo who wanted to bring out another side of the giant Swedish.

    UNISOL REGENERATION is indeed one of the best movies he’s been in and has him give a brilliant performance. So is the original.

    Now in terms of performances I’d also give “Dolph Awards” to JOHNNY MNEMONIC (thought butchered and better in the longer and darker Japanese version) and two smaller and unknown films that are JILL RIPS (retitled “Jill The Ripper” in the US) and THE INQUIRY (retitled “The Final Inquiry” in the US). THE INQUIRY might be a failure as a film overall despite a decent budget, ambitions and cast (F. Murray Abraham, Ornella Mutti, Max von Sydow among others), but Dolph’s role as a barbarian bodyguard actually gives the chance to show a good range of emotions and a funny side while being almost silent, focusing his performance on his eyes primarily. Now JILL RIPS is one that is really underrated and that I personally consider among Dolph’s best, not just for his acting but for being pretty much an art-house thriller, that I’d shamelessly recommend to people who don’t get into the action genre much. The fact that it’s so poorly regarded is probably due to the facts that it’s not a Dolph action fest and moreover that it tackles the kinky territories of S&M, making the whole piece an odd experience. (and for those interested out there, the Anthony Hickox audio commentary is one of the best I’ve ever heard).

    It’s hard for me to classify and rate films, so I’ll throw in a few other titles that for me are the most enjoyables and makes you think “wow this one is way above all the other Lundgren flicks”:
    SILENT TRIGGER (Russell Mulcahy) another slick and unusual almost art-house action piece
    THE DEFENDER not deep but Dolph’s directorial debut filled with an energy we’ve rarely seen and a DTV that looks 3 times more expensive that it was (could throw COMMAND PERFORMANCE and ICARUS (to be released in the US as The Killing Machine) with it, even MISSIONARY MAN despite it’s cheapness and flaws)

    But the two winners, from a critical standpoint, must be MEN OF WAR and THE MECHANIK (The Russian Specialist), if someone demanding had to only see two DL movies in his life that would have to be those two.

    (Disclaimer: I already hear some of you shoot out for RED SCORPION, THE PUNISHER, DARK ANGEL (I Come In Peace), SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO or even JOSHUA TREE (Army Of One), while I grew up with those cult classics which are still in my heart, I can’t “objectively” and from a serious critical standpoint go to anyone and defend those as being Dolph’s best overall, while MEN OF WAR for instance stands a notch or two higher)

  11. P.S. I hope you guys enjoy the D man in THE EXPENDABLES, I think Sly tapped into his various sides (a bit like the first UNISOL or JM) by making him menacing, crazy and unpredictable while being funny. If they do make a sequel I hope he gets a larger part.

  12. I can’t believe they didn’t include all the events in the action, he shoots some guys from horseback then runs out of ammo and decapitates one with a sword. One guy jumps out of the way into a pool or lake and Dolph dives in and drowns the dude Navy Seals style, it writes itself. I mean the dude can multitask http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMDXLrTs6Lo

  13. JOHNNY MNEMONIC is a pretty retarded movie but I love Dolph’s character in it.

  14. Jox, I’m gonna speak for my fellow patrons of the badass arts and ask you to please not say another word about THE EXPENDABLES. This movie is the event of the decade for a lot of us and I think I speak for us all when I say that we’d really like to go into it as fresh and spoiler-free as humanly possible. It’s awesome that you saw it and liked it and, as a long-time practitioner of the ancient art of Lungrenics, I know you mean well, but now we know that Dolph survives the movie, which was far from a forgone conclusion. Believe me, we’ll be discussing the shit out of it in a little over a week, so I hope you can wait that long.

  15. Griff: That’s exactly what I was going to post. Looks like a lost origin/prequel chapter cover for Hooded Justice or something.

  16. I saw The Expendables, too.

    Turns out, they’re in purgatory the whole time (spoiler). Weird, huh, Jox?

  17. And I can’t believe Jet Li was internal affairs (spoiler).

  18. And the old lady said it would happen?!!

  19. Thanks for the write-up, Jox. I actually have been planning to see SILENT TRIGGER for a long time because of Mulcahy, and had even been looking at JILL THE RIPPER just because it seems like a weird one. I agree with you on MEN OF WAR, so I’ll have to check out THE MECHANIK.

  20. Men of War is good stuff. OLEG!

  21. Jox – you are to Lundgren what Vern is to Seagal. :) I will be checking out some of your films.

    And despite your dismissal of this one, I gotta say that Vern makes it sound fantastic, and I’m still not quite over my lovefest for the last Dolph movie that I saw on account of a Vern review (Universal Soldier: Regeneration, if it’s not obvious enough).

    I’m pretty sure I saw both “Blackjack” and “Silent Trigger” a long, long time ago on TV at some point, but I can’t remember too much about them. I’ll have to look them up.

  22. Ok not fantastic – interesting. Bad choice of words.

  23. btw, for you Dolph fans you may want to check out MAXIMUM DOLPH http://www.everythingisterrible.com/2009/10/maximum-dolph.html

  24. Jox, did you just spoil part of the Expendables?

  25. I always shoot out The Punisher, Universal Soldier 1 (3 is damn good), Showdown In Little Tokyo, I Come In Peace,Men Of War, Blackjack, Bridge Of Dragons and The Russian Specialist (Mechanik) as personal favorites. I also liked Silent Trigger, The Peacekeeper and I even sort of liked Command Performance. I speak of these as ones that are better than Pentathlon. I reviewed Pentathlon and didn’t much care for it, but then again I’m not a fan of Army Of One which is a favorite among Dolph fans.

    In anycase Retrograde, Last Warrior, Agent Red, Red Scorpion, Sweepers, Detention, Storm Catcher, Masters Of The Universe and The Minion are all disasterous movies. I would add Pentahtlon but I think the reason why Vern liked it, is that he likes the odd touches while I was disappointed with the lack of action. I mean I find the whole idea of an ex-olympic athlete vs Neo-Nazis meets Fatal Attraction to be a weird enough premise to be irresistable but the problem is that there wasn’t enough action and it didn’t have enough David Soul as the villain.

    In anycase Vern is a big fan of Dolph as I read over his reviews I notice favorable reviews for The Punisher, I Come In Peace, Showdown In Little Tokyo, Universal Soldier, Army Of One, Men Of War, Blackjack, Bridge Of Dragons, Missionary Man and Universal Soldier Regeneration. (I read this site a lot and have discussed such a lot with Vern) So there’s no doubt he will enjoy Silent Trigger.

    In fact I think Hidden Assassin will be up his alley as well.

  26. I think my favourite Dolph is The Punisher. His worst movie is Red Scorpion, a very bad film and pro-Apartheid propaganda.

  27. Oops have I inadvertently gave away a spoiler on TE? I sincerely apologize guys it’s not in my usual habits, that one must have slipped out, that one not my intention! ;)

    Paul, thanks for saying that, I’ve been actually working on a few things including a book on Dolph, his career and adventures in the screen trade, which has been taken longer than planned but will hopefully pay off.

    Vern, I think you have an awesome double feature with SILENT TRIGGER (would gladly send you a 2.35 widescreen version since the R1 is pan & scanned) and THE MECHANIK. Hope you have a blast (literally) with these two and JILL RIPS will intrigue you as well I hope.

    HIDDEN ASSASSIN aka THE SHOOTER originally, has some interesting stuff, another projects where Dolph tried to pair action with more substance, character development and ensemble piece with a good European cast and RAMBO director Ted Kotcheff, the result felt a little flat though. Nice attempt though.

  28. Jareth Cutestory

    August 6th, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Hidden Assassins are so much better than those Very Visible Assassins. Or the Loitering In Plain Sight Assassins.

  29. Red Scorpion is interesting as being one of two Jack Abromoff productions (the other being Red Scorpion 2) http://www.ifc.com/blogs/indie-eye/2010/05/red-dragon.php

  30. Got some good stories about the making of RED SCORPION in this article:
    Would be great to make a documentary about this production alone!

  31. Thirding the Watchmen confusion

  32. Jareth – heee. Although I would watch “Loitering in plain sight assassins”. It wouldn’t be hard, because, you know, they’re in plain sight…

  33. This is a strange discussion to me. Dolph’s performance in Rocky IV is so iconic to my generation (in Sweden) that I still routinely find people around me quoting things like “I must break you”, or “if he dies, he dies” in all sorts of strange situations. It is without any doubt Dolph’s masterpiece so far.

    Not that the rest isn’t great. Everytime he’s a villain he’s great (Universal Soldier, Johnny M.). I would go as far as considering myself a real fan of Dolph. I have missed some recent films (although I enjoyed a snowball fight he did for the Swedish Eurovision song contest), but I have bought and managed to largely enjoy stuff like Agent Red, which I noticed getting hacked on above. And I also endured Retrograde, even if it was on principle. Men of war, Joshua Tree, Showdown are all great. I saw Black Jack too long ago to remember if it’s even better. But no way do any of them touch Ivan Drago.

  34. I remember watching Rocky 4 on TNT at my grandma’s house late one night once as a kid

    yeah, I was pretty blown away

  35. cosmosmariner1979

    August 8th, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I am not Swedish, but I totally agree with doktor rock. I’m in my early 30’s, and my husband and I quote Ivan Drago at least every other day for one reason or another. I know that negates the entire filmography of Dolph, but when you can play a character that vivid and awesome and people still think about it over 20 years after you played that character? That’s something I think most actors would welcome.

    Also, I absolutely cannot wait to see THE EXPENDABLES. It looks like the most entertaining movie of the year thus far.

  36. I’m pretty much delirious with anticipation for EXPENDABLES. It’s like eight Christmases all happening at the same time.

  37. btw Vern is never gonna get a movie watched featuring all those guys at this rate

  38. Well, I’m not going to go into “Expendables” looking for much more than a fun homage to eighties action movies. If it manages that, I’ll be happy. It’s a great idea – so many action stars in one movie – provided that they all get a chance to shine.

  39. Looking forward to EXPENDABLES too, though I really don’t get why Couture is getting hyped up with the rest of these guys(I’d say the same about Crews, but at least I’ve actually seem him in other stuff and enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t the action genre). To me, Jet Li is a bigger deal than Couture, and thankfully that’s reflected by the advertising I’m seeing in the UK with Stallone, Statham and Li featured on a billboard near where I live. Not that I have anything against Couture, but I don’t think being a reasonably famous UFC star entitles you to the honour of Surname Only Trailer Identification.

  40. Stu – why in the world, in any part of the world, would Couture be get a higher byline than Jet Li?

    The stars would be Sly (once perhaps the world’s biggest action star, made a strong comeback in recent years), Statham (world’s biggest B-action star), Li (proven International action star), and Rourke (recent career resurrection, Oscar nod, IRON MAN 2).

    The rest, well they’re gravy.

    Couture is mentioned because he’s…ok was…a major UFC superstar. Legit tough guy, I mean he can only help legitimize the roster.

    For that matter, you could argue the same for Steve Austin. What shit has he done outside the WWE ring to justify that name mentioned in trailers? THE CONDEMNED bombed and it fucking sucked. Does anybody even remember that LONGEST YARD remake?

    But hey, he’s Stone Cold and that’s the bottom line cause he said so. *Glass Break*

  41. I like Stone Cold as an actor, but he hasn’t been utilized properly. THE CONDEMNED was so flat and unfocused that he didn’t even register, and THE STRANGER, besides butchering the Camus novel, was just way overcomplicated in both script and direction. He’s a blue-collar kind of guy who can believably play both humble and take-no-shit, so he needs to be in the kind of movie where he plays a guy who just got out of prison and just wants to settle down with his pretty wife and daughter, but these greedy rich motherfuckers just won’t let him so he’s got to break out the whomping action. Now that you mention it, he would have been the better wrestler to remake WALKING TALL.

  42. RRA- I wasn’t saying Couture was getting billed higher than Li, but some of the promotion I’ve seen seems to put him on the same level with the rest of the guys. As far as I’m concerned he should have an “and” or “with” billing, but he seems to get put in the middle of the roll call, with “Couture” treated with the same reverence as “Stallone” or “Li” or “Willis”. And Dolph fight aside, what else does Li do in the movie? He seems to be the butt of jokes about his height, and there’s even a scene in the movie where he’s complaining about it and saying he deserves to be paid more because he has to travel further and fight harder than everyone else in the team. Though they’re probably just doing that so his (assumed) victory over Lundgren counts more.
    As for Austin, the problem seems that no character he’s been given as an actor is anywhere near as cool as the one he played for years in WWE, which was basically just an exaggerated version of his own self which allowed for a lot of improvisation and personal touches/freedom. Similarly The Rock’s charisma from WWE hasn’t carried over that much either and none of the characters he’s portrayed so far have been as charismatic as his wrestling one. Most of the characters he has portrayed seem like many other people could have played them. There’s not been anything specifically created for him to do yet(his half-black, half-samoan heritage for instance is a very unique background that hasn’t been a big aspect of his roles at all).

  43. Stu – You know its amazing how even in this day and age when every guy on the Internet (like me) seem to think they know everything there is to know about movies, even no matter how smart or how seasoned people can be…

    We for some dumb reason still insist on the mantra that the Trailer is the movie.

  44. Mr. Majestyk – Amazing how WWE could fuck up something seemingly simple not to fuck up like THE CONDEMNED. Its like the CFL to the RUNNING MAN’s NFL.

    I remember visibly having to fight the urge to vomit when the movie took a swerve and Austin went from badass convict to framed or undercover or whatever the fuck that bullshit was with his wife or something. WWE if you thought you were trying to make him more sympathetic, well that backfired.

    Which reminds me, same bullshit that the lame DEATH RACE remake pulled. Why can’t we have a badass convict protagonist without having to excuse this or that and some trivial nonsense?

    I mean Stu is right about Mr. Austin. And its like either he or his people or filmmakers in general just don’t get why he was fucking popular in the first place. And I think WWE had that same problem with Mr. John Cena on the awful THE MARINE, but maybe they might have figured it out by 12 ROUNDS. Still forgettable DIE HARD 3 clone, but hey its progress.

    In contrast, John Carpenter mother fucking knew why “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was awesome.

  45. “it figures it’d be something like this”

  46. “This one, on the other hand. Real fucking ugly.”

    I could spend hours doing this…

  47. We had over one million spectators in Mogador since October
    4, 2007 and are delighted but we believe that it ‘a good time to announce the end of the show,” said Sandrine Mouras, CEO of Stage Entertainment France, the show’s producer. On the other hand, when you play music for a big audience, it is vital that you cater for everyone’s tastes. Keep listening to your collection of songs for heart stomping music.

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