"When I say, "Jump!", you say, "How high?" - got it? Got it?! Take it and stick it in your fucking head!"
As Vanessa Williams once sang, I've gone and saved the best for last... At least, in my opinion I have. Hans "Dolph" Lundgren is perhaps the most maligned of my Deadly 3 Killing Machines - his movies are among the worst reviewed ever and he has rarely played in the big leagues in terms of film budget and scale when compared to Van Damme and Seagal. Former sparring partner Stallone (Rocky IV) brought Dolph back in from the cold recesses of DTV film making with The Expendables movies, but by and large he has remained on the straight-to-video scene. There is a fair argument that this is partly due to a poor selection of scripts that came his way, but that would take away the joy of some of the most bonkers, all-out loony actioners that Dolph has brought to audiences - with considerable mono-syllabic style too, if I may add!
I will never forget the joys of first watching Lundgren as one of my all-time childhood gods - He-Man - in Gary Goddard's 1987 toyline adaptation Masters of the Universe. There was my cartoon hero in full flesh-and-blood glory, and Dolph was immense: 6 foot 5 inches of beautiful blond hair, greased torso and mountainous biceps (yes, serious man-crush here)! Here was a living, breathing deity in my young eyes. I had to wait a few years before I could enjoy the rest of Dolph's cinematic adventures as they would prove to be considerably higher in blood-letting and bone-snapping mayhem. But thanks to my trusted VHS player and some liberal-minded relations, I became a staunch defender in Camp Lundgren. This is a man with an IQ close to 160, won a Fulbright Scholarship to M.I.T. and holds a 3rd dan black belt in Kyokushin Karate. A former male model and bouncer who has portrayed everything from the aforementioned superhuman from Eternia, a KGB killing machine with a conscience (Red Scorpion), A Marvel vigilante (The Punisher), a re-animated Vietnam vet super-soldier (Universal Soldier, alongside Van Damme) and a maniacal street-preacher turned deranged hitman (Johnny Mnemonic). These days, he has taken on a jack-of-all-trades approach by taking on the directing, writing and producing roles with every new movie that is released. There is no doubt in my mind that Dolph Lundgren deserves a full re-appraisal of his work, particularly when his films could get onto the cinema screens - and I have selected two of my favourites that showcase the man from Stockholm at his ass-kicking best!
Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
"Hell sucked - We are back!"
Director: Mark L. Lester
Tagline: One's a warrior... One's a wise guy... They're two L.A. cops going after a gang of drug lords. Feet First.
Plot: American cop raised in Japan Chris Kenner teams up with motormouth new partner Johnny Murata to take down the dreaded Yakuza as they plot to take control of the drugs trade. For Kenner, the battle becomes personal as he discovers the Oyabun is none other than the man who murdered his parents...
Mark L. Lester's buddy actioner is a perfect introduction into the mad world of Dolph Lundgren. Despite a poor box office showing upon release and the interference of distributors Warner Brothers to try & re-edit it to feature more of Brandon Lee, this remains a true Dolph picture - showcasing his on-screen charisma (yes, it is there people!) and physical presence to full effect while trading quips with partner Lee and trading blows with just about every Oriental actor working in Hollywood at this time. Lester's previous form (he helmed Commando with Arnie and Class of 1999 - another maligned B-movie ripe for re-appraisal) put Lundgren in trusted hands and the full force of Lundgren (and Lee) are put to satisfying bloody effect. It is no wonder the censors had a hard time with this - people are beheaded, stabbed in almost medical detail, heads are literally blown apart from shotgun blasts... This is a pretty violent movie, even by B movie standards. And then there is the gratuitous female nudity (let's face it, women are mostly objects in these movies - here we have naked girls used as tables to dine off!). But for a red-blooded hetero male, you cannot beat the sight of Tia Carrere in all her glory as she gives Dolph a good going over to the strains of the "Sex-ophone" love music - that should convince anyone who fell in love with Carrere in Wayne's World to grab a copy ASAP! "I'm gonna enjoy being dead for a while."
The sheer scale of ridiculousness is played out in full here - something that defines most of Dolph's early work. In an early scene, we see our hero avoid a speeding car heading straight at him by literally leaping over it! Oh yeah, boy! Our hero has built his own traditional Japanese home in Los Angeles, only for the scumbag Yakuza goons to burn it to the ground (do they know who they're fucking with??!). And when we get to the final titular showdown with head villain Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (one of the meanest bad guys of all time in the B movies), Dolph gets kitted out in full Samurai garb! Even Brandon Lee, despite being the son of the icon Bruce, cannot fail to be impressed by our hero - his admiration of Dolph's "meaty katana" (already mentioned in this article's introduction) is the perfect example of the homoerotic undertones that lay beneath the surface in every Hollywood buddy cop movie! The violence is savage and efficient (little slo-mo time-wasting here, thank you Mr. Van Damme!), the dialogue is snappy and preposterous (Brandon Lee steals most of the great lines in this picture - another harsh reminder of the charismatic talent that was lost to us far too soon) and Dolph displays his chiseled Swedish muscles to glorious, hard-hitting effect. I urge you to grab a copy & watch it - you will not regret it!
END CREDITS POWER BALLAD: None
(Seriously disappointing, considering that David Michael Frank's score that plays over the credits is ripe for some vocal emoting - someone get Peter Cetera on the line!)
Dark Angel / I Come in Peace (1990)
"Fuck you, Space-man!"
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Tagline: He came in search of a drug so rare it could only be found in one place... Man.
Plot: American cop Jack Caine teams up with by-the-book FBI agent Larry Smith to take down a gang of white collar drug lords, only to discover that an alien warrior has landed on Earth to harvest a drug from the brains of humans for consumption on his own planet. For Caine, the battle becomes personal when his partner is murdered...
One of my fondest memories from my childhood was catching a TV spot for Craig R. Baxley's riotous sci-fi action flick just before I went to bed for the night. The images that were conjured up were absolutely mind-blowing - a white-eyed Vigo the Carpathian look-alike shooting CDs at our man Dolph, who retaliates by firing an automatic space-gun and blowing up everything in sight! It was only 30 seconds of violent ecstasy but it lingered long in the mind for many days afterwards - I was absolutely gutted that I couldn't see it back then! In fact, I would have to wait another 20 years before the joys of Dark Angel were finally released on DVD and I grabbed a copy as soon as I could. Without hesitation, this is my all time favorite Dolph Lundgren actioner - bar none. Everything you could ever want in an action movie is here - white collar drug dealers, alien drug dealers, by-the-book partners, alien policemen, a beautiful girlfriend demanding more relationship commitment, a powered hosepipe-thing to pump heroin into homeless people and sexy female mechanics... There is something for everyone to love here! "Now THAT"S a murder weapon!"
Unlike in Showdown...
Dolph is never outshined by his co-stars here. Brian Benben's straight laced partner is just the foil for our hero's alpha male character to butt heads with, while the earth-bound villains the White Boys are just rent-a-baddies to offer mild threat to our hero. But when Matthias Hues' striking alien drug lord descends on to the scene, we truly believe that Dolph may have finally met his match. Baxley's background in stuntwork comes in very handy when it comes to the action scenes, and these are the most explosive yet in my selection. There is an explosion almost every five minutes, be it cars, gas refineries or even intergalactic space-coppers combusting. The guns don't just fire bullets, but WAVES of bullets. Our antagonist fires razor-sharp CD-looking discs at our heroes - a use of music paraphernalia that rivals Shaun of the Dead
's record throwing antics. And Dolph is thrown around the scenes like a patchwork doll by Hues - something considerably difficult to convince when our guy looms so large on screen. There is a considerable amount of humour injected into the script here, as well as a love story element with Betsy Brantley's lovelorn coroner girlfriend - all allowing Dolph to do more than just kick serious ass. But don't you think our boy has grown soft (not likely, given Betsy's smile after a night of passion with Dolph) - Dark Angel
is still a full-on all-action smackdown of the highest order. Don't believe it when the bad guy tells you, "I come in peace"... But believe Dolph when he says, "And you go in pieces, asshole!" Simply one of the very best in B-movie heaven!END CREDITS POWER BALLAD: Touch Me Tonight (Shooting Star)(No this is more like it! A power ballad that has nothing to do with the film - perfection!)
Even more awesome picture!