Archive for Dolph Lundgren

The Punisher (1989) Review

Posted in Punisher (1989) with tags , , , , on August 11, 2014 by Last Road Reviews


*** Out of 5

Tagline- Judge. Jury. Executioner. All in a Day’s Work.

Release Date- October 5th, 1989

Running Time- 89-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Boaz Yakin

Director- Mark Goldblatt

Starring- Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeroen Krabbe, Kim Miyori, Nancy Everhard

The Punisher was released theatrically in 1989 in certain countries, but didn’t get a US release until April 25th, 1991 where it went DTV, which was the same fate as the Captain America movie, which like the Punisher had a theatrical release outside the States, but when released in the US went DTV. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that comic themed productions have always been around. The 30s and 40s had Batman and Superman serials, the 60s had the Batman TV show the 70s had the Hulk and short lived Spider-Man. Most productions through the 80s and even the 90s were animated shows. Superman: The Movie, which was released in 1978 was a big success and became a film franchise, but yet film wise there wasn’t much there until Batman in 1989. Though even than it really wasn’t until the 2000s that films based on comic characters became a big time business. The Punisher however has never really been able to find success. This film didn’t do much and while the 2004 version did well it also wasn’t nearly as successful as other comic themed films, but did enough business for a sequel, which never happened and instead another reboot, which failed theatrically. When it comes to these style of films the big 3 characters are Spider-Man, Batman and Superman. However the Punisher comic is long running and that can only happen due to popularity, but yet none of the films made have been a big success and I just can’t see the Fantastic Four being that much more popular as box office wise it was a far bigger hit than any of the Punisher films. I was never an avid comic reader, but from time to time I will pick some up and I’ve always been intrigued by the Punisher also known as Frank Castle. He has no superpowers and is just a regular guy out on a crusade for justice and while most superhero films the characters are actually vigilante’s, the Punisher films are more what I look for in that style of film I guess the Death Wish style though not to compare the two since they are also quite different. But the Punisher films (at least this one) is closer to that style than say Batman.

After the death of his family former cop Frank Castle (Lundgren) also believed to have been killed becomes the Punisher a vigilante hellbent on taking down all crime syndicates.

The screenplay by Boaz Yakin is simply average at best and while there was potential its never fully realized. The plot is fair enough, but Yakin never really elevates it. While we do get into Frank Castle’s backstory in my opinion it does sort of lack the emotional impact needed. It was brief and showed in flashbacks as it was also in Punisher: War Zone and while the origin didn’t work great in that film it flowed a bit better. I don’t think Castle really needed an origin tale, but I just felt as if a little more could have been done. The rest of the characters while decent never really make a huge impact. The script wasn’t bad and had the right ideas, but something just wasn’t fully working.

Director Mark Goldblatt got his start as an editor on the Roger Corman production of Piranha and followed that up with such films as Humanoids from the Deep (also Corman) as well as Halloween II, Terminator, Enter the Ninja and Rambo: First Blood Part II. After the Punisher he would still continue to edit, again working with Cameron on such films as Terminator 2 and True Lies. Goldblatt made his directorial debut with the film Dead Heat in 1988 and the Punisher was his 2nd and last film. Goldblatt never really establishes much of a tone and the production values do look a bit cheap. The pace of the film can be a little sluggish in spots as the film does lack energy and excitement often found in action films also Goldblatt plays it straight with little to no camp value. However the action sequences are solid and fun and Goldblatt’s experience in the action genre does show. While the action scenes aren’t the best I’ve seen they’re effective, but it’s just everything else that sort of leaks. While not poorly made it just suffers from weak production values and when the film is focused more on the story, the Punisher lacks excitement.

Dolph Lundgren while had success in the 80s and early part of the 90s never made it as big as he should have. Films such as I Come in Peace and Showdown in Little Tokyo were terrific and Lundgren has such a great screen presence. With limited dialogue in Rocky IV he was quite imposing and that’s why he made such a great action star. In my opinion this version of the Punisher is the weakest, but Lundgren is terrific if only he had better material. Of all 3 actors to portray Frank Castle from simply an acting side of things I’d have to go with Tom Jane who was excellent, but Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson are more of the traditional action stars. I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite though if I had to pick I might slightly favor Ray Stevenson, but Lundgren, Jane and Stevenson are very evenly matched and each has their strong points and a case can be made for any of them. The rest of the cast with the exception of Louis Gossett Jr who like Lundgren is terrific, but the actors while not bad are a little on the boring side with their performances.

Overall the Punisher is an average film that suffers when there isn’t any action scenes as the writing and directing aren’t strong enough. When there is action it is quite exciting, which does salvage the film and Dolph Lundgren does almost all of his own stunts, which helps make the film more authentic. I did enjoy this film, but throughout I couldn’t help but think how much more this could have been. Lundgren’s great presence also helps the film and while its far from the worst comic adaption I’d place it more middle of the road.






I Come in Peace (1990) Review

Posted in I Come in Peace (Dark Angel) with tags , , , on December 4, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


**** Out of 5

Tagline- It’s Not a Close Encounter. It’s the Last.

Release Date- September 28th, 1990

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Jonathan Tydor and Leonard Mass Jr.

Director- Craig R. Baxley

Starring- Dolph Lundgren, Brian Benben, Betsy Brantley, Matthias Hues, Jay Bilas

Released in 1990 I Come in Peace, which also goes under the title Dark Angel was one of my favorite cult films of the 90s. I remember watching this many times on cable back in the 90s and than it was nearly 20-years until I saw it again when Shout Factory (Scream Factory) released it on blu-ray August 27th, 2013 under its original Dark Angel title. Upon seeing it again I remembered very little, but even after all those years I Come in Peace holds up as a really fun and exciting film with constant action. Originally the budget was to be in the 25-million dollar range, which is still a decent budget, but back when this film was released was a lot bigger. The budget was cut down to about 5-million, but it never hurts the film. This was before CGI and I really miss those days as action films and horror for that matter felt a lot more authentic. When used properly CG can be decent, but more often than not its fake looking. I Come in Peace is a film from a different time and a time I love

The screenplay by Jonathan Tydor and Leonard Mass Jr. is light on plot, but more than makes up for that in excitement. The script never goes into too much detail story wise we have an alien killing people and taking fluid from them to make a stronger drug and there is a subplot with a drug dealer killing Jack Caine’s (Lundgren) partner, but it never really goes anywhere. However the script is again quite exciting and while characters are a bit cliched such as Caine the renegade cop who doesn’t follow the rules and the by the book Agent Smith (Benben), but yet it never hurts the film. The screenplay is just really fun and entertaining and sure the plot is thin, but like I said its more than made up for with fun characters that actually have some depth and plenty of excitement.

I Come in Peace also has one of my favorite one liners of all time. The bad alien says I Come in Peace, which Dolph’s character replies with ‘and you go in pieces, asshole’.

Director Craig R. Baxley got his start directing episodes of the A-Team before making his feature debut in 1988 with Action Jackson. Quite honestly I didn’t care for Action Jackson it was basically like every other action flick out there at the time, but far inferior, but with I Come in Peace, Baxley delivers a truly excellent action movie. The pace of the film is excellent as there aren’t any slow moments and at only 91-minutes the film never gets overly long. Baxley crafts fun and energetic action scenes with a lot of excitement behind all of them. On a low budget I Come in Peace is action packed and can rival any big budget Hollywood film at the time or since. Craig Baxley sets out to make a fun action packed film and he more than succeeds.

As entertaining as the script was and the direction excellent what really elevates this film was Dolph Lundgren and Brian Benben who had great chemistry together. While Dolph had a lot of success in his career I don’t think he became as big a star as deserved. At the time Stallone and Arnold were the biggest action stars and Mel Gibson was getting more and more popular due to Lethal Weapon and than Bruce Willis with Die Hard. Acting wise Gibson & Willis were the best, but Lundgren had a lot of the same attributes as Sly and Arnold. In my opinion I Come in Peace was Lundgren’s best film and Brian Benben is a terrific and underrated actor. Together they work really great and are so fun to watch and they playoff each other so well.

Overall I Come in Peace is such a fun film. It’s got excellent characters and plenty of exciting action scenes. While the film has built up a cult following it deserves a bigger one. I Come in Peace easily rates as one of my favorite action films of the 90s and while the plots do differ this would make a great double feature with John Carpenter’s They Live also available on blu-ray from Shout Factory.

As I mentioned Shout Factory under their Scream Factory label released this on blu-ray under the Dark Angel title. However like most Shout Factory releases it has a reversible cover with the I Come in Peace title. The HD transfer has received a lot of great reviews, but honestly I thought it looked ok, while never poor or anything I’ve seen better. Audio is strong and while not packed with extras the interviews with Craig Baxley, Dolph Lundgren and Brian Benben is terrific. Having only seen this on cable TV I cannot compare the blu-ray to past DVD releases, but I think its a safe bet the Scream Factory release will be a major upgrade over past DVDs.






Rocky IV (1985) Review

Posted in Rocky IV with tags , , , , on November 5, 2013 by Last Road Reviews


**** Out of 5

Tagline- He Could Have Stopped the Fight. He Could Have Saved His Best Friend’s Life. But Now, the Only Thing He Can’t Do is Walk Away

Release Date- November 27th, 1985

Running Time- 90-Minutes

Rating- PG

Writer/Director- Sylvester Stallone

Starring- Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Brigitte Nielsen, Michael Pataki, Dolph Lundgren

Released in 1985 Rocky IV kind of lacks everything that made the original such a truly great film. By this point in the series the Rocky films were a little more Hollywood stylized, which started in Rocky III and even though the odds are stacked against Rocky (Stallone) we all know what the final outcome will be, but with that said Rocky IV is a great film in its own right. It’s not great like the original, but what makes Sly Stallone such a great filmmaker is he knows what his audience wants and with Rocky IV he very much delivers that. Rocky IV is a really quick paced film and its just so entertaining it elevates the film to greatness even if again not great in the traditional sense like the original. In someways starting with the 3rd they sort of became comic book movies in a way. You got the hero and the villain. At this point of the series there really wasn’t much of a story left to tell and while Rocky II and III perhaps weren’t needed they did at least have a point. Even if this film lacks in story again its made up for in pure entertainment. Also by this point the series was even more popular as Rocky III became the highest grossing of the series until Rocky IV, which still remains the highest grossing of the series with an incredible 127-million dollars and remember this was in 1985 so that would be far more today.

The original is by many considered the best of the series and rightfully so, but there are a lot of people who cite Rocky IV as the best and I can sort of see why. To me the original will always be the best, but Rocky IV is a really fun film. I remember seeing this in cinema when I was 5-years old and while my memory is vague I loved it back than and that holds up to this day. I enjoy all the Rocky films on some level and the 3rd would probably be my least favorite. While a fun film it was a little silly at times and while the writing strong it also seemed a little forced. Rocky IV is also a little over the top, but generally flows better. Like the 3rd this was also a product of its time and what’s an 80s film without a montage? Here we get a couple of montages plus the scene with James Brown I’d say at least 12-15-minutes worth of the 90-minute running time is filled with music.

Soviet fighter Ivan Drago (Lundgren) decides to come to America and enter the world of boxing. Apollo (Weathers) retired for 5-years challenges Drago to an exhibition fight. Rocky tries to talk Apollo out of it, but he won’t listen. As the fight starts Apollo looks good, but Drago is too young and powerful for the older Apollo and he soon gets pounded on. Rocky wants to stop the fight, but Apollo refuses and when the 2nd round starts, Drago continues to punish Apollo and with one big blow ends up killing him. Looking to avenge his friend, Rocky sets up a match against Drago, which will be held on Christmas and in Russia.

The screenplay by Stallone pretty much lacks everything that made the original such a great film, but with that said Sly still writes a really fun script. Even though Sly stacks the odds against Rocky we all know what the final outcome will be as by now the underdog story is gone, which is no fault of Sly as a writer, but it does hinder the script just a little bit. There are certain scenes that are perhaps a little over dramatic and even a little sappy, but Sly is such an excellent writer that he’s able to make it work fairly well. Even though this was the 4th part, Stallone actually does continue to develop the characters and while they don’t have the same impact they still have plenty of depth. The writing is quite simple, but works well enough and Sly does deliver some very touching moments between the characters. Like I said compared to the first the screenplay does lack, but Stallone still delivers a well written film with very strong characters and this in part helps make up for the lack of story.

As director Stallone delivers a very fast paced and entertaining film. I think Stallone does far better than he’s given credit for as well. Rocky IV isn’t this deep and complex film like the first two in the series, but it does have a lot more to offer than people realize. I’m a big fan of Stallone as an actor, writer and director and what makes him such a good filmmaker is again he knows what his audience wants and delivers. Honestly had he tried to recreate the original it wouldn’t have worked as well. Instead Sly makes a fun film that is sort of mindless entertainment, but still offers up enough depth to be more than just mindless fun. Rocky IV just sort of flies by and Stallone delivers a well made film that is perhaps more enjoyable than it really should be.

Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago was by far Rocky’s most imposing opponent. Dolph has the look, build and height. Dolph is really great here with only limited dialogue, but his presence is all that was needed. Rocky IV wasn’t his first role, but it is the one that got him noticed and while he enjoyed some success I can’t understand how he wasn’t one of the biggest action stars in Hollywood. I Come in Peace, which also goes under the title Dark Angel is my favorite Dolph film, but Rocky IV is a close second. Like I said he truly has a great onscreen presence and very imposing. And in someways even Drago is sympathetic as he’s just a tool used to defeat the Americans. Stallone is still giving it his all as Rocky, but is going through the motions just a bit this time around. Burt Young as Paulie steals the show with a truly fun performance.

Bill Conti who scored the first 3 didn’t do this film and Vince DiCola takes over. Conti would return for the next two and it is a bit weird watching a Rocky film and not hearing the epic music by Conti, which is every bit as important to the series as Stallone and the rest of the cast. DiCola does use some of Conti’s music with variations and while the score was very good it doesn’t match Conti’s, but DiCola does a fine job. I remember first seeing this and when Hearts in Fire played instead of Gonna Fly Now I was caught totally by surprise and expected another training session. While its very weird not hearing Gonna Fy Now, Hearts on Fire is an excellent song and helps make up for it.

Overall Rocky IV may lack everything that made the original so great, but its just a fun and really fast past film that turns out probably far better than it really should. I guess in someways Rocky IV is a guilty pleasure, but like I said its just a fun film and this elevates the film.






















Red Scorpion (1989) Review

Posted in Red Scorpion with tags , , , on August 5, 2012 by Last Road Reviews


*** Out of 5

Tagline- They Think They Can Control Him, Think Again

Release Date- April 21st, 1989

Running Time- 106-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Arne Olsen

Director- Joseph Zito

Starring- Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T.P. McKenna, Carmen Argenziano and Brion James

Released in 1989 Red Scorpion was directed by Joseph Zito probably best known for his slasher flicks The Prowler and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter with many people hailing The Final Chapter the best of the Friday the 13th movies. Joseph Zito also has worked on such action films as Invasion U.S.A and Missing in Action both starring Chuck Norris and while Zito may not go down as one of the great filmmakers he is though a director that clearly knows what his audience wants and pretty much delivers that in his films. The Prowler in my opinion is an underrated movie that only really gets noticed for Savini’s gore F/X and for good reason, but I think the movie has much more than just that going for it and Invasion U.S.A after a slow start is an excellent action flick.

Red Scorpion is a movie that has potential to be a lot more than it ended up, but as a whole the movie is about average, but still entertaining; Nikolai Rachenko (Lundgren) a KGB agent is sent on a mission to kill the leader of the rebel army, but when the mission fails, Nikolai is than left for dead by his own people, but after an escape he meets back up with the rebel army looking to take down his own people. The screenplay by Arne Olsen is rather subpar at times filled with weak characters that only work due to the casting; the story takes too long to really get going and the first half of the movie has Nikolai on his undercover mission along side the rebels and this eats up a good chunk of the movie and I can’t help, but feel there was too much put on this, which than causes the 2nd half to feel a bit rushed. The change in Nikolai also is underwhelming as since by this time in the movie things need to move forward and instead it just slows things down too much. Overall Olsen writes the standard action flick and while the script has its moments it just to me seems to be filled with too much filler.

Director Joseph Zito does a fairly good job, but the direction is kind of by the books; Red Scorpion is the standard action flick of the 80s, but because its clichéd doesn’t make it bad; the pacing can be a little sluggish at times, but in fairness to Zito he was limited by the script at times, but the action scenes even if standard are fun and exciting. That’s why in the opening of the review I mentioned how Zito is a filmmaker that knows that his audience wants and while with Red Scorpion he may not deliver as much like his past movies, but he still gets the job done. The final 10-minutes with the big battle are really excellent and sort of makes up for the sluggish at times pacing.

The casting for Red Scorpion is what helps elevate the movie and Dolph Lundgren makes for an awesome action here and while he had a lot of success in the 80s and early part of the 90s he never really got the big time success as other action stars and never seemed to get enough respect. Lundgren is very good here and is the ideal action star. M. Emmet Walsh is a riot and his type of character can be very annoying, but rather than be annoying, Walsh makes the character a lot of fun.

Tom Savini who has worked with Zito on the Prowler, The Final Chapter and Invasion U.S.A also does make up F/X for Red Scorpion and while the movie has plenty of action don’t expect the typical Savini gore F/X also the DP on the movie was Joao Fernandez who has worked with Zito several times on his more notable flicks and lastly the score by Jay Chattaway (Maniac, Vigilante) is very well-done and in my opinion Chattaway is a great composer that doesn’t seem to get his credit.

Overall Red Scorpion had the potential to be a lot more than it turned out, but with that said it’s still a fun mindless movie and while some might see this as a propaganda film with the big bad Russians, it was during the height of the cold war the film went into production, but regardless despite the shortcomings, Red Scorpion does make for a fun if not lackluster film.