The Punisher (1989)

The Punisher (1989)-* * * *

Directed by: Mark Goldblatt

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., and Jeroen Krabbe

Following the basic thread of the Marvel comics “anti-hero”, the 1989 Punisher film recounts the now well-known tale of cop Frank Castle (Lundgren), a decent man whose family is murdered by Mafiosi. So being the radically awesome dude he is, not only does he get revenge on the scumbags that killed his family, he discovers that vengeance-based hatred of evildoers is like Lay’s potato chips: you can’t murder just one. So he goes to live in the sewer system and dedicates his life to exterminating bad guys, mainly Mafia types.

 As the tale plays out, we see a gradually developing mob war between the Yakuza, led by the frightening Lady Tanaka (Miyori), and the Franco family of Italian gangsters, led by Gianni Franco (Krabbe). As their war for turf and money and such escalates, the Punisher is there too, picking them off like so many cockroaches. 

When the children of the Italian Mafiosi are kidnapped and imprisoned, it’s up to the Punisher to save them, showing he has a human side and isn’t a remorseless killing machine. In an interesting plot occurrence, Castle must actually team up with his despised enemy Franco in order to rescue Franco’s son Tommy (Rooney).  Meanwhile, grizzled cop Jake Berkowitz (Gossett) has been following Castle’s “career” for years and has teamed up with a new partner, Leary (Everhard), intent on finding him. Can the Punisher get any more awesome?

Lundgren was the perfect choice to play The Punisher. Especially when you add the black hair and stubble, his square jaw and outfit, he looks like a comic character (He was also perfectly cast as He-Man for Masters of the Universe, 1987). Speaking of which, the body count in this movie is ridiculously high. Between this, Invasion USA (1985) and No Dead Heroes (1986), the earth has been severely depopulated. But despite the dark tone, this is the type of movie where you cheer every time a baddie bites the big one. The antagonists are made to hiss and boo at, and all the many henchmen are bumped off in a variety of different ways and in different locations, so the copious murders never get boring. Sure, there are countless deaths, but they’re FUN deaths.  Castle is even “credited” with killing 125 people before the movie even starts.

There are some classic bits, such as the obligatory torture scene, and the drug deal at the docks we’ve seen many times, but the idea of Mafia vs. Yakuza vs. The Punisher is just too cool. And the movie, thankfully, lives up to that cool idea. We get “motorcycle cam” of Castle riding around on his chopper, and even the bad guys have a nifty hideout worthy of any James Bond film. Of course, we’d be remiss if we left out the wacky sidekick. This time around it’s Shake (Otto), a drunken former actor that rhymes most of his lines. The equivalent character is the one “Newman” played in Punisher: War Zone (2008).

Louis Gossett Jr. always brings the goods and here is no exception. He and Dolph must be buddies, as they teamed up again for Cover-Up (1991)...perhaps Gossett wasn’t available for The Peacekeeper (1997) so they somehow rounded up Montel Williams to fill his seat. But the heavyweight Gossett can’t be easily replaced. For the main baddie they scored a classy actor in Jeroen Krabbe, who, if anything, seems even more evil in his stonewashed jean jacket.

On the technical end, this is a New World film, shot mainly in Australia. It was directed by Mark Goldblatt, the man responsible for Dead Heat (1988), the love it-or-hate-it Treat Williams vehicle (we love it). Now for the important part: the U.S. VHS is cut, shorn of many violent bits. If you’re going to buy this film, and we recommend you do, you have to get the 2-Disc Austrian DVD on the XT Video label. It comes in a hardshell box, and contains the uncut film on one disc, and the “workprint” on the other, along with some extras. Even though we had previously seen the VHS, to re-watch it on this DVD was a revelation. For a movie that revolves around violence so strongly, it would be crazy to see any other version.

To quote Exodus, it’s “good friendly violent fun” so add the (XT Video) DVD to your collection today!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


I Come In Peace (1990)

I Come In Peace (1990)-* * *1\2

AKA: Dark Angel

Directed by: Craig R. Baxley

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Jesse Vint, Michael J. Pollard, and Matthias Hues

Jack Caine (Lundgren) is a Houston cop on the edge. When his partner is killed by sinister drug lord Victor Manning (Howard), Caine wants revenge. But his new partner is by-the-book, straitlaced Special Agent Smith (Benben). As you might expect, the unkempt, roguish Caine doesn’t get along at first with the fastidious Smith, but they forge an uneasy alliance. Mainly because, in addition to the drug war they’re fighting with shady underworld types, an evil alien (Hues) with super-strength is ravaging the city. He’s murdering earthlings because human endorphins are needed to make a valuable drug on the planet he comes from. A “good alien” is chasing him down as well. On top of all this, Caine is trying to repair his relationship with ex-girlfriend/coroner Diane (Brantley).

I Come in Peace is a very entertaining movie, mainly because the plot actually contains some very interesting ideas. It’s all done with a lot of good energy, and like director Baxley’s other films Action Jackson (1988) and Stone Cold (1991), it is well-written, containing some memorable lines.

It was also a rare chance to see Matthias Hues in the movie theater. Hues is a bad guy in just about every movie he’s ever been in, and perhaps the ultimate face-off is Dolph Lundgren and Matthias Hues. This is the only movie they’ve appeared in together to date. It’s certainly a treat to see them together, especially in the final battle (which naturally occurs in an abandoned factory). 

Hues later played a similar role in Digital Man (1995), but I Come In Peace is a far superior movie. He only says one line, but he growls a lot. Speaking of action heroes, Brian Benben plays the humorous counterweight to all this, and if this movie was made today, the role would probably be played by Rob Schneider. About the “good alien”, the role could also have been played by Michael Ironside.

Hues’ weapon of choice are Phantasm-like flying CD’s, and there is other cool, high-tech weaponry as well. The main force of goons in the film are guys in suits inexplicably named “The White Boys”. The name certainly inspires fear on the streets, and it’s a lot of fun watching the other characters in the movie talk about them with a straight face.

There are plenty of impressive stunts, blow-ups and special effects, and it’s all done with style. It also has plenty of great music (the song choices of bands such as XYZ and Shooting Star add a lot), and the excellent Jan Hammer score holds it all together. It’s truly a shame no soundtrack has been released on CD.

For classic early-90’s fun starring two genre heavyweights - with a twist - you can’t top I Come In Peace.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Men Of War (1994)

Men Of War (1994)-* *1\2

Directed by: Perry Lang

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Charlotte Lewis, B.D. Wong, Tommy "Tiny" Zeus Lister, Kevin Tighe, Thomas Gibson, Catherine Bell, Tim Guinee, and Trevor Goddard

Nick Gunar (Lundgren) is a down-and-out former mercenary who is tired of the life. While weary, he yearns to get back to his family, so he accepts a job to go to a small island in the South China Sea and extract the resources it contains (and just wait until you find out what those resources are). He assembles a team of his former buddies to accomplish this task. Once on the island, his group begins to splinter. Some believe the island should be spared because inhabitants like Po (Wong) and Loki (Lewis) would have their lives destroyed, and others simply want to plunder. Adding to all this is super-evil bad guy Keefer (Goddard), Gunar’s - and everyone else’s - arch-nemesis. Naturally, Gunar and Loki fall in love so they fight to save the island...but THEN what will happen?

Men of War sports a high-quality look and feel thanks to excellent cinematography that captures the beauty of the local indigenous culture. Add to that a very strong supporting cast (Including Tiny “Zeus” Lister, Kevin Tighe and Thomas Gibson, among others) and a script co-written by none other than John Sayles, you get some symbols of quality. That being said, this movie is very much like McBain (1991) in many regards - the female member of the team really brings that comparison into perspective (Catherine Bell does an admirable job and its nice to see a female character getting into the action with the guys and not being another reporter).

Of course, Dolph is named Gunar (with one N, apparently). And rather than being yet another Russian character, here he’s known as “Nick the Swede”, which actually pays tribute to his true nationality. Dolph puts in a strong performance and has a cool hat. Charlotte Lewis is always welcome, but why is she playing a girl of Thai descent? Trevor Goddard makes an excellent baddie and you really hate him. So his job was done well.

This is what you’d call a classic “Assemble-a-team” movie - a common theme in action films perhaps best exemplified by Kill Squad (1982). There’s even a scene or two of Punchfighting as Dolph assembles his team. But even though the aforementioned John Sayles was onboard, this movie becomes a fairly standard jungle/exploding hut/exploding guard tower movie. Also it suffers from the common ailment of needing more action right before the climax. But there are some scenes of humor to leaven it all out like the cinematic fried dough that it is.

Shot in Krabl and Phang Nga, Thailand, Men of War has a lot going for it, but despite all its pluses, it just barely won us over.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Agent Red (2000)

Agent Red (2000)-*

Directed by: Damian Lee (and an uncredited Jim Wynorski)

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Allan Kolman, Melini Paul, and Randolph Mantooth

Apparently there’s a deadly “bio-weapon” out there called Agent Red which, if released to the public, would kill many people horribly. Captain Matt Hendricks (Dolph) is assigned to go aboard a submarine and pick it up, to deliver it back to the U.S. Government. Helping him out is potential love interest Dr. Linda Christian (Paul). When the sub is hijacked by some evil Russians who want the Agent Red, Hendricks and Linda must fight them and get the Agent Red back safely. What will happen, and will anyone care?

Agent Red should be shown in film schools as a perfect example of how NOT to make a movie. All this supposed “movie” consists of is a disjointed mishmash of stock footage from a bunch of different sources. Playing “spot the stock footage” isn’t really the same thing as enjoying a movie. It’s just insulting to audiences. It assumes they are just idiots who don’t know anything. Working off of this absurd premise, Damian Lee once again proves he’s a hack, and Jim Wynorski had to come in and reshoot much of the footage. Again, not a great sign.

As if suffering through yet another junky submarine slog wasn’t enough, this movie is talky, yet without any character development. It’s the worst of all worlds. It’s impossible to care about the proceedings. Even Dolph can’t save this trainwreck (sub-wreck?) of a movie. Really the only people that would be watching this are Dolph fans to begin with, and this is just a slap in their faces. Most of this isn’t really Dolph’s fault. It’s Lee and producer Andrew Stevens. What were they thinking? Did they honestly believe anyone in the world would actually like this crud?

There’s not even really any action to speak of, maybe a few brief fights, shootings, and some stock-footage explosions. This barely qualifies. But it does have every cliche imaginable, including the “wacky taxi driver”, naturally named Ziggy  (Allan Kolman). Is this movie Counter Measures (1999)? Is it Storm Catcher (1999)? Who can tell? Even though Dolph’s name here is Hendricks, in the stock footage “he” wears a suit with the name tag “Holloway”. Did no one notice this during (what passed for) the editing process?

Agent Red is what happens when footage is cobbled together, and a presumed movie is assembled, but without any surprises or intelligence. The presence of Dolph prevents this from being a zero star movie, but in all other aspects, it really is.

Assembling footage is not the same thing as making a movie, which the horrendousness of Agent Red amply proves.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Silent Trigger (1996)

Silent Trigger (1996)-* *1\2

Directed by: Russell Mulcahy

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Gina Bellman, and Conrad Dunn

Waxman (Dolph) is an ex-Special Forces soldier, and expert marksman. Sometimes his emotions get in the way of his targets and will end up in a crisis of conscience. Now holed up in an unfinished skyscraper with his female assistant, Clegg (also known as Spotter - Waxman is also known by Shooter in some sources) (Bellman) - Waxman and Clegg must execute their new assignment, as well as survive the night in a creepy building with bad guys after them. Will they make it?

Well, the movie certainly lives up to its name, as Dolph doesn’t really say that much here. Apart from that, this was the beginning of a phase of more serious-minded films from Dolph, leading up to Hidden Assassin (1995). In Silent Trigger, however, there’s a lot of set-up in the plot (perhaps too much), but what’s good about this movie is that it is at least trying to be different. What helps that are the stylistic flourishes by Russell Mulcahy that provide atmosphere and interesting shots, camerawork and set design.

On the flipside of that, however, the fact that the movie takes place in one location (except for Dolph’s flashbacks/memories) impedes the movie, even though the set is impressive. Additionally, many scenes needed more light and were too dark to see. And there needed to be more goons for Waxman and Clegg to dispatch. So in summation, we liked what was there, so we wanted to see more of it: more locations, lights and baddies. That would have helped this movie a lot.

On the bad news front, there is some really stupid and unnecessary (well, it’s always unnecessary) CGI at times. And it’s 1996 CGI at that. The inanity of these few moments shouldn’t put you off seeing this movie, we just like to point out when this happens as a warning to potential viewers, and take the opportunity to say how much we hate CGI. There’s also the classic “one really, really annoying character” cliche we see often. But the violent bits that are in the movie are great, and that keeps the viewers’ interest.

Also it should be pointed out that Dolph has an extremely large, complicated gun. When he’s assembling it, it reminded us of the scene in Spaceballs (1987) where the ship keeps going and going and going. This thing is a monstrosity, but it does some serious damage.

Shot in Montreal (it has a very Canadian feel), Silent Trigger is worth seeing but it’s not the best Dolph vehicle out there.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Red Scorpion (1988)

Red Scorpion (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Joseph Zito

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmett Walsh, Al White,  and Brion James

Lt. Nikolai Rachenko is a Russian Special Forces soldier assigned to go undercover in Africa to root out an anti-communist leader, Kallunda (White) - don’t forget, Rachenko’s superiors are all commies. While in the midst of this deep cover, Rachenko becomes sympathetic to the anti-communist cause and realizes he has been manipulated by the higher-ups. So he goes on an explosion-packed killing spree, shooting and, when need be, dismembering his enemies (hey, it was an emergency). Rachenko may seem like a man of stone, but it’s clear he yearns to be free. Along the way he meets an obnoxious American journalist, Dewey Ferguson (Walsh) and an elderly African tribesman shows Rachenko his human side.

With a movie starring Dolph Lundgren, directed by Joseph Zito (forever in the hall of fame for Invasion USA, 1985 alone), and produced by Jack Abramoff (rumor has it his “evil hat” was an uncredited co-producer), you’d think the results would be just a bit more impressive. Not that Red Scorpion is bad at all - but it’s too long and the middle section drags. Perhaps that’s just to lull us before the big final battle, but it’s quite a lull. There’s no reason for this film to be 100 minutes. With the pedigree involved in the movie’s production, it’s not unreasonable to expect more.

The film has some really high-quality, impressive explosions. The team that worked on the pyrotechnics should be applauded. And of course, the hero gets tortured (there are some really impressive effects there too), but there are some nice underlying plot ideas in addition to the many “blow-ups”:  1. Think for yourself, 2. Communism sucks, 3. A friendship can exist between a geriatric African bushman and a blonde, Swedish hulk even if they don’t speak the same language 4. The intrigue of “who are the real enemies?”, and of course, playing the same, repetitive Little Richard songs over and over again will remind everyone of America’s greatness and freedom.

Interestingly enough, the one American character, Dewey, is obnoxious and unlikable throughout most of the film. If this movie is just a propaganda piece for the U.S., they aren’t helping their case by portraying Americans that way. But we do learn the secret of the “Red Scorpion” tattoo - later seen as the only, tenuous (at best) link between this film and its sequel. But there are actual scorpions in the movie that crawl on Dolph’s body. Whether they are “Red”, i.e., commies sent by his superiors, remains unknown.

There were a lot of anti-communist 80’s action movies, but this one has Dolph Lundgren, and apparently the filmmakers were so impressed with their explosions, rightfully I might add, that during the end credits, there are continuous explosion sounds. You don’t see them, you just hear them. While you may know what to expect with Red Scorpion, its messages help it stand out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Sweepers (1998)

Sweepers (1998)-* *1\2

Directed by: Keoni Waxman

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Payne, Ian Roberts, and Claire Stansfield

In this Nu-Image production, Dolph plays Christian “Ace” Erickson, an adventurous former U.S. Special Forces soldier who has found his calling in life as a member of the Humanitarian Order of Chivalry, a group that goes to war-ravaged countries beset by land mines and removes the offending mines. While on assignment in Angola, his young son is blown up by a mine. Distraught, Erickson becomes a drunk and abandons his mine-finding ideals. He resorts to punchfighting in the local watering holes for cash.

When a new, American-made super-mine, the “A-6 Butterfly” is unleashed on the populace, it’s up to Erickson and Michelle Flynn (Stansfield) to stop the madness and unravel the government conspiracy behind these deadly items, spearheaded by Dr. Cecil Hopper (Payne).  Will they succeed?

 A Dolph Lundgren movie about land mines kills two birds with one stone. Firstly, it allows the viewer plenty of blow-ups with an actual reason behind them, and secondly, it’s a fairly original idea, especially for low-budget action movies. 

Think about it: the issue of mines in these third-world countries is a real, pressing problem. It’s a human issue many people care about.  So when you add Dolph, who about 2/3 of the way through the film transforms into “Indiana Dolph”, complete with fedora-like hat and leather bomber jacket, it makes for a nice night for DTV fans.

Dolph ventured back to Africa after his time there filming Red Scorpion (1988), and the rural locations and indigenous music make for a different sort of backdrop to the action. A lot of the action is fairly implausible, but when Dolph dons his “adventure hat” and is chomping on his cigar, who can argue? Especially since he seems a bit more animated this time around, which is always nice to see. Of course, the antithesis to his “adventure hat” is the “evil hat” of nemesis Yager (Roberts). This isn’t to be confused with the G.K. Chesterton-quoting baddie Hopper. 

In their off time, the Sweepers (you didn’t think this was a movie where Dolph plays an undercover school janitor, did you?) (because that would be awesome) play what can only be described as “mine games”, competitive events where they try not to step on mines. I wonder if this is accurate to how actual humanitarians behave? But then again it probably gets boring when you’re out in the country and your mine-hunting is done for the day, especially for a man of action like Erickson.

So despite some of its sillier plot flaws, thanks to its important message and its difference in the world of DTV action, don’t be afraid to go on a “Mine Walk” with Ace and the gang.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Diamond Dogs (2007)

Diamond Dogs (2007)-* * *

Directed by: Shimon Dotan

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Nan Yu, and William Shriver

Xander Ronson (Dolph) is an American ex-Green Beret laying low in Inner Mongolia, of all places. He’s deeply in debt, and fights in...wait for it...illegal underground Punchfighting matches to make ends meet. Brought before a judge, it is determined he must finally pay all his debts or go to prison. Luckily - or perhaps not - this is just when snobbish jerkbag Chambers (Shriver) offers Ronson a lucrative job. He hires him to act as security as he travels with his team to go deep into uncharted territory to find something called the Tangka - a Buddhist tapestry said to be cursed. With few options at hand, Ronson reluctantly accepts. 

The beautiful Anika (Yu) is the stepdaughter to chambers, and following her is likely what truly entices Ronson. In addition to trying to get the Tangka and all the pitfalls they encounter along the way, another team of baddies is chasing them, and these guys will stop at nothing to get it. Who will end up with this sacred artifact? (Meaning the Tangka, not a DVD of Diamond Dogs).

At the outset when we see Dolph somewhat down on his luck, and Punchfighting in another land, it immediately brings to mind Sweepers (1998), where similar things go on. Dolph, with his shaved head, looks especially grizzled here, and that’s to his credit - he does a nice acting job, and with little flash. There’s plenty of violence on show, leading the viewer to conclude this is a worthy Dolph adventure story, more or less.

While this “Saturday afternoon adventure” falls somewhere between big-budget opuses like the Indiana Jones series and Direct-To-Video items like Skeleton Coast (1988) or Laser Mission (1989), it’s reasonably well-made and has some impressive locations. It should also be noted that there’s a reference to the Stallone classic Over the Top (1987) hidden in the movie somewhere. See if you can find it.

Shriver, in his first credited movie role, plays the obnoxious, hate-able baddie whose hairstyle isn’t just a ponytail - that wouldn’t be irritating enough - it’s actually some sort of ponytail bun, also does a noteworthy acting job, assuming his personality isn’t really like that in real life. Ronson shows amazing patience with him - this movie would get five stars if after the thousandth snide, catty remark Chambers makes, Dolph just punches through his face, but alas, it’s not to be. In a big budget version, we felt Kevin Spacey could have played Chambers.

Although the film is called Diamond Dogs, neither diamonds, dogs, nor David Bowie are anywhere in sight. Interestingly, it can be surmised that the writers of the film are glam rock fans, judging by the title and the choice to name Dolph’s character Ronson, presumably after Mick Ronson, who among other career achievements played with David Bowie. And seeing as there were supposedly production problems on this film, and a presumed sequel got axed, Bowie can never make a cameo in the future.

Despite pockets of dullness that spring up throughout the film, Diamond Dogs is a decent Dolph outing. It won’t blow your socks away, but for a later Dolph it’s a good one-time watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bridge Of Dragons (1999)

Bridge Of Dragons (1999)-* * *

Directed by: Issac Florentine

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Valerie Chow and Gary Hudson

At some time in the distant past, or perhaps the remote future, the dastardly General Ruechang (Tagawa) rules the land. His dictator-like tactics have begun to stir a popular revolt. But before Ruechang can have total authority, he intends to marry Princess Halo (Chow). Halo doesn’t want to be anywhere near him, so in her off time she puts on a mask and competes in stickfighting matches with the burly guys of the local village. One of those guys is Warchild (Lundgren), a member of Ruechang’s retinue. When the Princess runs away, Warchild is assigned to find her and bring her back. Naturally, they fall in love and begin to fight against Ruechang’s evil empire.

There’s a lot to like about Bridge of Dragons. It’s a throwback to the classic post-apocalyptic films we all love from the 80’s. But it has the well-choreographed fights and constant violent action that director Isaac Florentine is known for. Besides the VHS-era post-nuke flicks, a diverse array of influences make up the style of Bridge of Dragons: For one, it’s hard to ignore the influence of the video game Street Fighter. Ruechang is M. Bison, Warchild is Guile and Princess Halo is Chun Li. Then we have the relationship between Halo and her governess, Lily (Kendall). Any student of 9th grade English can see this was highly influenced by Romeo and Juliet. And towards the end there’s a scene reminiscent of The Graduate (1967).

So, to recap, cross Italian post-apocalyptic thrillers, Street Fighter, Shakespeare, and The Graduate, set it in a fairy-tale-like land and load it up with action and stunts and Dolph Lundgren, and there you have it. Does this sound weird? Well, it is somewhat odd, but it’s entertaining and not boring. So that’s important.

Tagawa returns as yet another baddie, facing off against Lundgren once again (he was also the antagonist of Showdown in Little Tokyo, 1991). You gotta love his “666” logo on his buildings and vehicles. But this time he, and all the other characters, are in a more tongue-in-cheek world, with really wacky sound effects and some silly humor. Bridge of Dragons recalls Raiders of the Sun (1992), in the fact that the hero and the girl are on the run, they fight the baddies together, it’s post-apocalyptic, or at least futuristic, and the element of rebels and revolution is introduced amongst all the shooting and blow-ups. One is the Richard Norton take, the other the Dolph Lundgren take on a similar situation.

Like the film of the aforementioned Street Fighter (1994), it all ends in a freeze frame. But don’t you think Dolph makes a better Guile than Van Damme? Street Fighter aside, Bridge of Dragons is classic late-90’s Lundgren with a few unorthodox twists.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Killing Machine (2010)

The Killing Machine (2010)-* * *

AKA: Icarus 

Directed by: Dolph Lundgren

Starring: Dolph Lundgren and Bo Svenson 

"No One Is Safe."

Edward Genn (Lundgren) is a family man and loving husband and father - but he’s also a secret assassin trained in the former Soviet Union and working for the Russian Mob. His code name is Icarus. After certain events go sideways, all manner of bad guys - goons, hired killers, Russian mob, other mobs, etc. are after him. All Genn wants to do is protect his family. But he’ll have to face the demons of his past first, personified by the evil gangster Vadim (Svenson). Will his double life come crashing down?

It’s very cool to see Dolph as a hitman and he looks quite dapper in his suits and ties here. As seems to be the trend of late, some scenes are underlit and too dark to see, but what we did see, we liked very much. Except for the film quality and the soundtrack, this film could have been made in the 80’s, which is definitely a good thing in our book. Dolph, as star and director, obviously knows what his fans want, and he delivers yet again. It helps that the writer, Raul Inglis, is also the uncredited writer on White Tiger (1996) as well as the writer of Breach of Trust (1995).

 There’s plenty of action, good violence, and Bo Svenson as well. He doesn’t show up until the very last portion of the film, but it was cool to see Dolph and Bo together, especially in a showdown as mortal enemies. Interestingly, the plot of “guy was a hitman and now has a wife and daughter who are now in danger because of his past life and he now must use his violent training to protect them” was also used for Hitman’s Run (1999). Thankfully, neither Esteban Powell, nor any other annoying sidekick is on display. As said earlier, Dolph knows what his fans want. Annoying sidekicks are not one of them.

So thanks to the action, violence, presence of two of our favorite stars (Dolph and Bo) and the undemanding running time of 88 minutes, not to mention the 80’s throwback feel and Dolph’s direction, The Killing Machine is a solid winner.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Hidden Agenda (2001)

Hidden Agenda (2001)-* *

Directed by: Marc S. Grenier

Starring: Dolph Lundgren and Maxim Roy

Dolph plays ex-FBI agent Jason Price, a man who runs some kind of witness protection program. When a ruthless assassin called “The Cleaner” is bumping off supposedly protected people, Price must slowly unravel a complex series of lies, deceits, betrayals and double-crossings.

What happened with this film is - it’s mid-period Dolph and got lost in the video store shuffle. It’s in some kind of nether world between his classic 80’s and even 90’s outings and his current renaissance. It’s hard to imagine someone in ‘01, while perusing their local video store, not just giving the cover a cursory glance and then moving on. But we can see why Dolph took the role. It’s different. He probably yearns to play reasonably non-meathead-y roles like this. In Hidden Agenda, he’s smart, he’s good with computers, and in his cover as a suave restauranteur, we see his classy side. We applaud this change of pace, but that’s not enough to make the movie GOOD, unfortunately.

Despite the film’s strengths, when the film begins, the audience is treated to a jumble of names and situations, as if the filmmakers assume we already know what’s going on. So after some more muddled plot developments and frustrating computer gobbledygook, the movie is halfway over and we’re not hooked in and involved with the plot. Even Dolph seems bored a lot of the time. Add to that some confusing and characterless “intrigue” and the end product is what best can be described as an arrested development in the Dolph canon. Yes, there are some nice changes of pace, but at what cost?

Plus there are some annoying editing tricks and techno music during the scant fight scenes. The problem is, this film doesn’t EARN the tricks. It seems like a cover-up for a lack of something. And therein lies the crux of the matter: The filmmakers should have cut a lot of the fat and talkiness and stripped down the film to a race-against-time battle between Price and The Cleaner. Assuming it was done correctly, this would have given the film the turbocharge it needed to be successful. Sadly, instead, with the technology on display (Icarus and Daedalus?) it’s like watching a dramatization of an episode of “90’s Tech” on the History Channel.

We see what the filmmakers were trying to do...had this film come out in the theater it would have starred Matt Damon (doubtlessly wearing glasses) and been a slick Hollywood thriller like Paycheck (2003) or Hackers (1995). So imagine that formula applied to a Canada-shot DTV product with Dolph Lundgren and there you have it.

In the case of Hidden Agenda, different does not necessarily mean better for Dolph fans.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Hidden Assassin (1995)

Hidden Assassin (1995)-* * *

AKA: The Shooter

Directed by: Ted Kotcheff

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Maruschka Detmers, Assumpta Serna, Gavin O'Herlihy, and John Ashton

When the Cuban ambassador to the U.N. is assassinated by a sniper, U.S. Marshal Michael Dane (Dolph) travels to Prague to apprehend the suspect. As it turns out, the suspect is Simone Rosset (Detmers), and the relationship between Dane and Rosset becomes complicated. Naturally, there is a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top - and Dane must fight hard to get to the truth. Being a stranger in a strange land, will he succeed?

Hidden Assassin - not to be confused with Silent Trigger (1996), or Hidden Agenda (2001) for that matter (although Silent Trigger has a similar plot that involves male and female snipers who are conflicted about their actions) - was made during the period in Dolph’s career where he was trying to be more serious, and was appearing in films with a darker and more somber tone. Whether intentionally or not on his part when he was choosing his roles, these 90’s Dolphs are different from his 80’s heyday.

What follows is more intrigue than out-and-out action, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a different animal from, say, The Punisher (1989). Here Dolph is put into some interesting scenarios - from a smooth, wine-tasting gentleman, to an action hero not afraid to get hurt and be covered in blood (interestingly, his white T-shirt with the bloodstain will remind you of Andrew W.K.). He even wears an interesting Franz Kafka shirt at one point. The Prague locations are a highlight of the movie. The cinematography is top-notch, and thanks to the interesting setting and good production values, as well as the big-sounding score, Hidden Assassin seems to be going for a classier vibe.

Detmers recalls a more-sane Sean Young in her prime, and as far as casting goes,  in lesser (?) hands, Dolph’s role could have been played - should the dire need arise - by Frank Zagarino (similar hair). His sidekick could have been played by Dennis Franz. What’s going on with Dennis Franz? We haven’t heard too much from him lately.

Hidden Assassin is probably one of the better 90’s Dolphs, thanks to the quality of the technical aspects of the film, but had this movie been made in the 80’s, it would have been a more full-throttle action film, and that would have been nice to see.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Missionary Man (2007)

Missionary Man (2007)-* *

Directed by: Dolph Lundgren

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Matthew Tompkins, and John Enos III

Ryder (Dolph) is a mysterious man on a motorcycle who rides into a dusty ol’ southwestern town. Knowing only that he always carries his bible around, and that he likes tequila, be befriends a family of Native Americans, but makes enemies with the local (and prerequisite) evil land baron, Reno (Tompkins), and his goons. Reno even tries to get some bikers to take Ryder down, led by the charismatic Jarfe (Enos III). Reno wants to take the land from the Indians (if you can still call them that?) and build his own casino. But Ryder doesn’t approve of his ruthless, murdering tactics, so he deals with them the only way they understand: with some shotgun justice! Will Ryder rip the bolo ties off this new crop of middle-aged punks?

The idea of Dolph as a preacher on a motorcycle who comes to clean up a town sounds good on paper. And in some ways it does work. But this rehashed plot is nothing new, and it lacks a certain verve. Taking liberally from Pale Rider (1985), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Billy Jack (1971) and Walking Tall, 1973 (to name a few obvious examples), thanks to some boring, talky bits and some weak, jerky, short fight scenes, a lot was left to be desired from these “Dolphings With Wolves”.

We don’t want to go too hard here, as there are some cool parts herein. John Enos III of Bullet (1996) and Stealth Fighter (1999) fame unquestionably steals the movie as Jarfe. He only shows up towards the end, but he should have been the main villain instead of Reno. As stated earlier, Missionary Man boasts a cool concept, but it’s just so derivative, it becomes hard to be invested. To overcome this, there should have been more excitement and edge. The movie needed a literal and figurative punch-up.

And it doesn’t hurt that the colors on the DVD are all weird. Supposedly there were some technical issues that weren’t resolved in time, so the movie has a washed-out, grainy look that doesn’t do it any favors. But if you always wanted to see Dolph instead of Lamas in an episode of “Renegade”, here you go. Plus Lamas’ name in “Renegade” is Reno Raines, and the baddie here is named Reno. Coincidence?

But there’s no denying Dolph is cool, and his CSI-like trading of his sunglasses for granny-style reading glasses is a nice touch. But his coolness alone isn’t enough to overcome the flaws of Missionary Man. The bottom line is the Missionary Man concept should have gotten a better execution.

Yes, it’s run-of-the-mill plotwise, but there are some definite standout moments. It’s tough, but we just can’t put our full blessing behind Missionary Man.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Direct Contact (2009)

Direct Contact (2009)-* * *

Directed by: Danny Lerner

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Gina May, Bashar Rahal, and Michael Paré

Mike Riggins (Dolph) is rotting away in a Balkans prison for supposedly smuggling weapons. Thankfully he can defend himself against his jailhouse assailants. When Clive Connelly (Pare), a government bigshot, comes to Mike and offers him a total of 200,000 dollars if he can find the kidnapped Ana Gale (May) and bring her back home, Mike agrees. But as it turns out, all is not as it seems, and thanks to some twists and turns, we see there is a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Will Mike and Ana make it to safety?

In one of the better Nu-Image movies we’ve seen of late, Direct Contact delivers the Dolph you want. Sure, as we’ve discussed before, he elevates all movies he’s in. His presence means a lot, but here it’s just enjoyable to watch him beat, shoot, pistol-whip and blow up everybody in sight. Even the squibs are entertaining, as baddies die unnecessarily bloody deaths, sometimes to humorous effect.

However, it’s not all good news, as some lame green screen and CGI effects hurt the movie. These things are just annoyances, nothing more, and it’s puzzling why some filmmakers believe they are important to the movie. There’s even some ridiculous sped-up chase footage where it seems like the “Yakety Sax” should be playing on the soundtrack. Somehow, the doofuses at Nu-Image don’t seem to realize this is DOLPH LUNDGREN, not Benny Hill. But we suppose it’s forgivable, because Direct Contact is an entertaining, if not that original, production where Dolph meets another titan of the genre: Michael Pare.

 Pare puts in a good performance and it’s cool to see this “clash of the titans” as he faces off with Dolph. He doesn’t seem to phone in his role, and that’s certainly a good thing. Also it should be noted that there is a baddie in the movie named Drago (Rahal). He’s such an ethnic stereotype, he gives Balki of Perfect Strangers fame a bad name. Perhaps they couldn’t get Bronson Pinchot. That aside, in a “meta” move, it’s Drago vs. Drago! Was this done on purpose, or are there no more generic Eastern-European names left to use? (To answer our own question, judging by the end credits of most DTV productions nowadays, which read like the Bulgarian phone book, no.)

Also, even though it has been mentioned before, we can’t not bring up the scene where a character actually says, “What if he goes AOL?” How this passed the director, the actor himself, the editing process, and any step in between without any notice and ended up in the final film is anybody’s guess. But to answer the man’s question, he’ll get mail, news, messenger, and plenty of extras for only $9.99 a month. Someone find Mike Riggins!

So aside from the aforementioned technical hiccups, Direct Contact (not to be confused with Direct Action, 2004), provides a solid night of Dolph fun.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett