"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Posts Tagged ‘Dolph Lundgren’

Universal Soldier (30th Anniversary defrost)

Friday, July 29th, 2022

“Who the hell are these guys?”


When UNIVERSAL SOLDIER arrived on screens on July 10, 1992, it launched Jean-Claude Van Damme to a new level of movie stardom. DOUBLE IMPACT, with its wide release, increased budget and improved acting performance had been a big reach into the mainstream for the star of Cannon fighting tournament movies, but it just wasn’t the big crossover hit he needed. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER was.

Part of the appeal was that it pitted JCVD for the first time against fellow action icon Dolph Lundgren (in his followup to SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO). They tried to play up some sort of rivalry between the actors, even staging an argument and shoving match on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. Produced by Carolco (FIRST BLOOD, TOTAL RECALL, THE PUNISHER, T2), distributed by TriStar Pictures, and featuring the sort of badass metallic title font one should expect from those origins, it was a $95 million hit in theaters, proving that these guys were more than just the stars of videos you rented to watch with your buddies.

I already reviewed this one back in 2008, and it’s a pretty good review, so check it out. But I figured it was worth another look in the context of ’92. It’s an interesting study in summer releases because it’s in that sweet spot between a b-movie and a blockbuster. It was Van Damme’s most expensive movie to that point, but that still meant only 2/3 the budget of LETHAL WEAPON 3, and less than half of BATMAN RETURNS or ALIEN 3. Director Roland Emmerich did not yet have a track record of making blockbusters – this was his second English language movie first Hollywood movie, and follow up to MOON 44 (1990) starring Michael Pare. The success of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER would get Emmerich in the door to do STARGATE which would hook him up to do INDEPENDENCE DAY, which would apparently give him a life long pass to make gigantic, very stupid movies that everybody complains about and swears are worse than the earlier one they like. (read the rest of this shit…)

I MUST BREAK This Podcast

Saturday, June 4th, 2022
I was shamefully unaware of this until recently, but there’s a podcast called I MUST BREAK THIS PODCAST that’s all about the films of Dolph Lundgren. And it’s up to episode #87!? That’s the one where I got to come on and talk about the 2016 film FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD starring Amy Johnston. Dolph plays her dad. I’m glad I had an excuse to watch it again because I remembered it being good but it was still better than I thought it was gonna be.
 
Anyway, I had a fun time talking about it. CHECK IT OUT HERE if you’re interested.

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“Y’know – this is a weird part of town.”

August 23, 1991

SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO is a movie I have long enjoyed (here is a pretty dumb review of it I wrote 13 years ago). It’s a buddy cop movie starring Dolph Lundgren (between COVER UP and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER) and Brandon Lee (between LASER MISSION and RAPID FIRE), so any possible deficiencies are easily overcome by their great charisma and the unrepeatable novelty of their team-up. Watching it in the context of these other ’91 movies it does seem slightly primitive; it’s a Warner Bros. movie, but the budget was $8 million, which is less than DOUBLE IMPACT – or even non-action stuff like DEAD AGAIN, THE COMMITMENTS, BINGO, RETURN TO THE BLUE LAGOON and LIFE STINKS – let alone the new state-of-the-art represented by POINT BREAK and TERMINATOR 2. Fortunately it’s in the capable exploitation hands of director Mark L. Lester (STEEL ARENA, CLASS OF 1984, FIRESTARTER, COMMANDO, CLASS OF 1999), so it has heavy doses of The Good Shit. He always gives you something extra.

Just as MYSTERY DATE has its two leads getting into trouble with gangs in Chinatown, this is about two guys fighting a Yakuza drug ring in L.A.’s Japanese district. In this case that’s in their job description as members of the LAPD Asian Crime Taskforce. Dolph’s Sergeant Chris Kenner gets the kind of introduction all his characters deserve: he single-handedly raids an illegal fighting circuit by climbing through a skylight, swinging into the ring on a rope and saying, “Haven’t I told you this is illegal, and it pisses me off?” Then he’s announced as the new challenger and has to fight the guys in the ring. (read the rest of this shit…)

THE LAST SUMMER OF ’80s ACTION – Prologue / RED SCORPION

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

This year my summer review series will be a little different. I knew I had to write about the 30th anniversary of a certain culturally phenomenal event movie that gave the town of Hollywood an enema, taught us to keep bustin and set us on a path to pretty much our entire current era of entertainment. And when I looked at the other movies that came out that year it reminded me how different summer movies used to be, for better or worse. In those days they were less genre, less special effects, more straight ahead action. And it seems to me the summer of ’89 was a transitional period bridging the prevailing action movements of its decade to those of the next. So I’m going to be taking a look at 1989: The Last Summer of ’80s Action. (title pending)

Note: To help remind you and myself what it was like back then I’ll often be mentioning Billboard‘s #1 single for a particular week. For example, when RED SCORPION came out it was “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals.  But the truth is that’s not what I was listening to at the time. To re-create my summer of ’89 audio experience I’d have to get a portable radio with auto-reverse tape deck and listen to a dub of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back over and over all day every day.

PROLOGUE

The 1980s. A time of sweaty chests and bandoliers. Half a decade after the smash success of JAWS, summer was cemented as the go-to season for mainstream crowd-pleasing movies. For the purposes of this study I’ve chosen to define summer movies as anything released from the beginning of April to the end of August – the months when kids are out of school, with some leeway at the front for Spring releases intended to play well into the summer. (read the rest of this shit…)

Aquaman

Friday, December 28th, 2018

AQUAMAN is about a Superfriend, but it’s much more than a comic book movie. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa, Baywatch) is the son of a lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison, STAR WARS II, THE MARINE 2) and the Queen of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman, BMX BANDITS). After his mom was taken away and possibly killed by her kingdom, Arthur grew up a landlubber, but with some clandestine swim and fight training by the vizier Vulko (Willem Dafoe, SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL). Like Arthur, the movie is a bridge between two worlds, that of an action movie and an epic fantasy. And Momoa, having been so good in BULLET TO THE HEAD and BRAVEN, but more known for Game of Thrones and CONAN THE BARBARIAN, is the perfect actor to do that.

Arthur, a.k.a. The Aquaman is a beer-stein-pounding lout and freelance swimming vigilante living in a small coastal town. In the opening he rescues the crew of a submarine from high-tech pirates – his version of stopping a grocery store or mini-mart robbery. Though he can communicate with fish, he’s your basic rowdy tough guy complete with black duster and slo-mo glory shots accompanied by rockin guitars just this side of “Bad to the Bone.” So he’s resistant to all this heir-to-the-throne-of-Atlantis shit, but by the end he’s given the beast-riding, lightning-throwing, fantasy painting god opportunity that CONAN failed to provide for Momoa. (read the rest of this shit…)

Creed II

Monday, November 26th, 2018

CREED was a perfect movie, a miracle that unexpectedly resurrected the ROCKY series. CREED II, coming from a different director and writers, cannot match it. But it’s a solid continuation of beloved characters from both the original series and the new one that brings them to new places in life, with some boxing, training montages and dramatic music in between. Kinda like ROCKY II.

And of course there are other parallels. Adonis (Michael B. Jordan, RED TAILS) becoming champ, getting married and becoming a father, and also being embarrassed to be seen by the media while coming out of the hospital all beat up. But he doesn’t get a tiger jacket, so it’s not a remake of ROCKY II. Mostly it’s a direct sequel to CREED and ROCKY IV.

Before they ever even announced a CREED II, you and I and everybody else were dreaming of the same thing: a sequel where Adonis meets the man who killed his father in the ring, Ivan Drago, and has to fight his son. It’s one of those things that’s so obvious that they sort of had to do it. If the sequel was about anything else, no matter how exciting, you’d just think “Yeah, but why not Ivan Drago?” (read the rest of this shit…)

Female Fight Squad

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

“Are you mental, brov? She just bashed a man’s skull in. It’s a fuckin devil woman, brov! I don’t want none of it!”

You’ve seen me rave about the martial artist Amy Johnston, her movie LADY BLOODFIGHT, and her supporting role in ACCIDENT MAN. This is her other starring vehicle which going by the order of the IMDb listings, she must’ve filmed shortly before was filmed a while after LADY BLOODFIGHT (both have a 2016 release date). There are many ways it’s not as good as the other movie, which I’ll get into, but I think I loved it almost as much. It has tons of DTV personality and probly the best showcase of Johnston’s acting skills so far.

The DVD I bought calls it FEMALE FIGHT SQUAD, but it seems to have started life as FEMALE FIGHT CLUB. I’m guessing they didn’t want people to go in expecting a FIGHT CLUB remake with Kristen Wiig as Narrator and Melissa McCarthy as Tyler Durden. They’d be disappointed.

The director is Miguel Ferrer (no relation), who has otherwise just done a bunch of shorts. He co-wrote it with Anastazja Davis (DISCONNECTED).

Johnston plays Becca, who’s hit a rough stretch of road. On one hand her dad is Dolph Lundgren – that’s awesome. On the other hand he’s in prison for killing some dudes. We know she’s tough because of a flash-forward to “the final round of the bi-annual free-fighting championships,” where she’s introduced as “a myth, an urban legend, right here before your very own eyes: Bex ‘The Beast’ Holt!” But also we know she’s sweet, because she works at a dog shelter, saving money for her dream of moving to Africa and working for some kind of wildlife preserve there (see: theory of badass juxtaposition). (read the rest of this shit…)

Puncture Wounds

Monday, November 27th, 2017

a.k.a. A CERTAIN JUSTICE

Lately I’ve been talking up Cung Le, the Vietnamese-American MMA legend turned movie martial artist who has had really impressive supporting roles in FIGHTING, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, THE GRANDMASTER, SAVAGE DOG and recently SECURITY. I love his stoic performances, unique sledge hammer fighting style and unusually compact body type, and I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for his work.

So far there are a couple of Le starring vehicles, and if you’re only going to watch one, for God’s sake choose John Hyams’ DRAGON EYES (2012), a sort of loose contemporization of YOJIMBO with Jean-Claude Van Damme in a supporting role. But if you, like me, are also willing to watch a not as good Cung Le vehicle, I offer you PUNCTURE WOUNDS from 2014. (read the rest of this shit…)

Riot

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

tn_riotYou and I, obviously we rented RIOT because Dolph Lundgren is on the cover. But we will quickly learn that this is a Matthew Reese Films presentation starring Matthew Reese as Jack Stone.

As you could guess from his name, Jack Stone was an amazingly awesome and legendary cop before a bank robbery and killing of a fellow officer (seen in fragmented flashbacks) put him behind bars. The guards (who wear full body armor and goalie masks) taunt him and the inmates threaten him, except for one tall shy guy with a mop. That’s William, played by Dolph. He hunches over, winces, mumbles, acts scared. But he immediately looks out for Jack. If Jack gets jumped he’ll leap in and beat up a guy with a mop handle if necessary.

Actually there’s one other guy who likes Jack, in a part I didn’t understand. When Jack’s cellmate (ex-football player Seante Williams) first finds him in the cell he starts threatening him, but then recognizes him and smiles. “Jack, right?” He introduces himself as Silva and gives him his choice of top or bottom bunk! Toward the end of the movie a giant muscular blond, like a new model of Dolph, who has been set up as a major threat, comes to kill Jack, and Silva flies in with a Superman punch and takes care of the guy for him.

I don’t know, maybe Silva’s supposed to be some undercover guy planted there to help him? Might as well be, it seems like everybody else in here is. Jack purposely pleaded guilty to get into the prison where his wife’s killer is. William, we find out, is an FBI agent who has been inside for 6 months to look into corruption at the prison (talk about a shitty gig!) and he also has a partner in there who is also undercover. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blackjack (second review)

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

tn_blackjack“Okay, I understand that, but Jack you need to realize that your sunglasses are the only protection you have from all the white out there.”

woozoneusaBIt wasn’t part of the original plan, but as I was re-watching the American John Woo movies I realized I had to revisit this 1998 USA Networks TV movie (and unfulfilled backdoor pilot), even though I did an okay job reviewing it long ago. I’ve recently had good luck recommending it to a couple people who never heard of it, but I hadn’t seen it myself in 11 years. Fortunately this thing (shot right after FACE/OFF) holds up as an absurd and entertaining Dolph Lundgren vehicle that transcends its cheapo format.

Dolph plays Jack Devlin, a world class bodyguard who seems to work out of Reno. In the opening he agrees to a favor for an old friend who owns a casino and needs him to protect his little girl Casey (Padraigin Murphy) from the mob. She calls him “Uncle Jack,” which I took literally this time, but my research tells me that they’re not actually related.

It goes down kind like in TAKEN, where the kids get to Europe and are immediately kidnapped. Here gunmen arrive about 30 seconds after Jack walks into the house with Casey. He’s checking the rooms upstairs when they come in. (read the rest of this shit…)