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To me, The Expendables movies are fantastic. Over-the-top action films in the vein of 1980s classics had all but died out, limited to the archive of that decade’s finest genre movies. Then Stallone came along and said “hrmmph hrm hrm mph mphm hmmmmmm ranmhnhmnh mmmpphhhhh” (Translation: “Fuck it, I’m going to make more ridiculous action films”)

sylvester stallone

“hrmmph hrm hrm mph mphm hmmmmmm ranmhnhmnh mmmpphhhhh”

These films let action fanboys like me re-live our youth, watching Arnie, Willis, Stallone, Noris, and other legendary action stars shot bad guys with big guns, blow up pretty much everything blow-upable, drive vehicles into things and generally cause as much havoc as the budget will allow. But there’s one crucial element missing from these films… they only focus on the good guys.

The 80s action era was the perfect breeding ground for some of cinema’s most dastardly, evil and often ridiculous bad guys, mega-villains and henchmen.

Bolo Yeung Double Impact Bloodsport Enter the dragonBolo Yeung: this guy is my favourite baddie ever. He’s menacing, he’s ruthless, never plays fair, and best of all, he has a huge physical presence and one of those faces that he can make look so, so evil.

Alan Rickman Hans Gruber Die HardAlan Rickman: respected thesp and hands down one of the best actors still around, yet was he ever really as good (or memorable) as the German terrorist Hans Gruber?

Mr Joshua Gary Busey Lethal WeaponGary Busey: that rubber face, that crazy blonde ‘haircut’, that shit-eating grin, those wildly colourful shirts… Gary Busey was born to play bad-guys.

Ivan Drago Dolph Lundgren Rocky 4Dolph Lundgren: sure, he’s OK as a good guy in the films at the moment – but he’s got a face that looks like he’s been pillaging random Asian villages for the past 30 years.

Clarence Boddicker Kurtwood Smith Robocop Kurtwood Smith: pretty much famous for playing the nasty and crazy Clarence Boddicker in Robocop, but what a villain he was. Outrageous, and would love to even see a glimmer of something like this again.

Vernon Wells Bennett commandoVernon Wells: again, a one-trick pony, but Bennett from Commando is the ultimate in camp-classic baddie – a ridiculously out-of-shape guy with a chainmail vest that was supposed to be John Matrix’s equal! LOLZ!

So far, as someone who still gets warm, nostalgic and starstruck seeing the biggest names in action cinema literally coming out of retirement, the only way that this franchise could be any better would be with a stronger emphasis on the bad guys.

Nicolas Cage, Jackie Chan, Mickey Rourke all confirmed, and Statham, Eastwood, Snipes, Harrison Ford & Mel Gibson all rumoured to be in talks, the cast is looking stellar – throw in a couple of the guys mentioned above and it could become the greatest movie of all time!

Expendables Review

Expendables 2 Review

Casino Jack: the rise and fall of top Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, after his increasingly flaky attempts at influencing politicians lead to some ugly outcomes. It’s quite an interesting story, that’s part drama and part comedy / political satire. The film’s at it’s best when it’s dramatic: both Spacey and Pepper are red-hot, top-drawer, scene stealingly good. The comedy moments cover everything, from solid gags and witty lines all the way down the scale to unnecessary quirk – most annoyingly, Spacey‘s cinephile character bursts in to (some pretty good) cinematic impressions in every second scene. The direction matches what’s on screen, ranging from sensible handling of the dramatic moments, through to playful snappy quick-cuts and comedy timing. While the tone leaps all over the entire spectrum, there’s enough good performances, and moments of drama / satire to keep this watchable and entertaining. Not least, the film’s good for bringing Jack Abramoff, and his insane life story to your attention.

Score: 6.5/10

The Expendables 2: when they’re ambushed during a simple job the team have to avenge a fallen comrade… and shoot the crap out of anything that gets in their way. First off, the costume department deserve a medal; these guys are going in to action with cardigans, wooly jumpers, trench coats, French berets, designer jeans, cashmere scarves – they’re the most metrosexual mercenaries on the planet! The action is a whole other level of ace… blood, guts, explosions, limbs flying, heads exploding, bullet-riddled bodies dropping everywhere – only downside is that everything from the weapons to entire set pieces feel like copy/paste jobs from recent Call of Duty games. The majority of the runtime is like eating a cheese sandwich, made with cheesy bread whilst drinking mozzarella brine, but in a totally knowing, tongue in cheek fashion – like Willis and Arnie mocking each others characters and catchphrases. Lundgren should be singled out as a great sport, being the butt of almost every scene & joke. My only real petty concern is that there’s only one big/famous baddie – and considering some of the iconic action villains over the years, it’s the only thing they could really have done with upping. Having a real director makes such a big difference – everything is improved, although the comic timing is so far out that it’s embarrassing to watch (but does help add to the cheese-effect). The Expendables is essentially the male equivalent of Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve – an ensemble of big names that puts an entire demographic’s bums on seats, and where everything else is secondary. In saying that, there’s still something inherently satisfying and watchable about seeing Willis / Arnie / Norris and co firing big guns at things. Expendables 2 is a highly enjoyable Action/Comedy romp – it’ll be difficult to top.

Score: 9/10

A View To A Kill: After recovering a unique computer chip from a dead 003 in the USSR, Bond traces it back to Zorin industries, and soon discovers that Mad Max Zorin plans to flood silicon valley and monopolise the computer microchip market.

Recent studies blame 007 for global warming!

The film opens with a Zorin disclaimer, the first time this has been done, and strange given the number of characters ‘borrowed’, based or impersonated from the real world through the years. It also opens with one of the best theme songs: Duran Duran’s a View to a Kill. This is an unrivaled 1980s pop song!

The method of transportation that best suits the complex life of a modern villain

It’s usually crazy science and physics that push the James Bond plots forward (lasers, death rays, nukes…) but this film’s all about super-crazy geology, which for some reason feels harder to debunk – it could be more ridiculous than pew pew laser fights in space but who knows?!?

Moneypenny's last outing too - she got drunk at the races! Good on her.

As with any Bond film, A View To A Kill plays to the trends of the era, taking place in Silicon Valley, we have some new-age computers, and it’s essentially about one man becoming the king of microchips. Finally moving on from the ridiculous tone of the 70s movies this feels like a true stepping stone on to the darker Bond vibe; with people being killed right, left, centre, and literally getting machine gunned down in their dozens!

A cheeky sparring session with May Day and Zorin

In saying that, there’s still time to make the police look like buffoons in a token ‘wreck a police car’ scene on the raising bridge. The  renault cut-down-car-chase through Paris feels like Moore putting his final stamp on the film before he leaves. You kind of get the feeling that this was more of a goodbye Roger party at time, with everyone turning up and having a laugh on set.

Heads up!

Zorin/Walken is great as a bad guy – first out and out “genetic experiment” baddie and looks intense and insane throughout – usually laughing and at his happiest when he’s inflicting fear, desperation and murder on someone! Not many of the scenes or action set pieces are overly memorable; however, the appearance of Zoro now and then is really when this one comes to life.

Score: 5.5/10

The sound of retirement beckoning Roger

TOP TRUMPS
Villain:
Zorin – rogue KGB agent, computer chip cartel, nasty man with a nasty plan! 8
Henchmen: Grace Jones and her black arse. Scarface chap – lame. 6
Bond Girl: Jenny Flex & Stacey Sutton. Classic 80s Golden Girl look. 8
Action: Snow chase / Paris cut-down-car chase / horse race / Cty hall / Firetruck chase / Mine / Golden gate 8

So long Roger... you horny ol' dawg!

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The Expendables: A band of gruff mercenaries feel up to the task of overthrowing a corrupt Latin-American dictator. First thing’s first: this film has the action cast to end all casts – while it’s not 100% perfect, you just don’t see this many huge names in a film these days. It’s hard to describe but seeing star after star after star is spectacle in itself. Then there’s the action, which is awesome – and although CGI heavy, it’s great fun watching henchmen get mauled by fists, blades, bullets, fire and grenades; watching anything and everything get blown up; watching all the standout musclemen fight each other; and watching set piece after set piece. Little else is particularly noteworthy, but little else matters in a film like this; the script’s terrible laughable, the plot is contrived beyond belief, the acting’s utterly forgettable (everyone’s on auto-pilot) and even the ‘hot chick’ was a bit of a dog. Essentially a B-movie with an A-star cast and massive budget, this isn’t a homage to 1980s blockbuster action films, this is a 1980s blockbuster action film. It’s also an action film for action fans, and it does the big scenes way better than anything else I’ve seen recently. I laughed, I cringed, and I shouted ‘Holy Shit’ (usually while clutching a limb that’d just been snapped on screen) about 20 times. What can I say? I’m a sucker for big names, big guns, big explosions and big set pieces. Roll on the Expendables 2!

Score: 8/10