Men of War (1994)
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I don't generally make it a point to review Dolph Lundgren films, since they're usually steeped deep into mediocrity, but I gave this one a chance based on some fairly high recommendations. And I have to admit, I'm pleasantly surprised; though not a great movie, Men of War delivers thrilling action amidst a plot that's actually not half-bad by "generic action flick" standards.
Lundgren stars as Nick Gunar, an ex-special forces operative who's given a lucrative job by a corporation looking for someone to do their dirty work. Apparently, the company wants mining rights on a small island inhabited by a village of natives and they think Gunar's the man to convince the villagers to sign the rights over; if the natives don't agree, then Gunar and his men will have to eliminate them. With some reluctance, Gunar agrees to the deal and rounds out the rest of his team with hard-boiled mercenaries (totaling eight in all, including Catherine Bell) looking for a good payday.
But upon their first few days on the island, Gunar and a few of his teammates find themselves quite taken with the natives and their way of life, and are unable to bring themselves to complete the mission. This splits the team in half, with Gunar and his group choosing to defend the island and the rest leaving to join another much larger mercenary group (led by Kevin Tighe and Aussie Trevor Goddard) that's got its eyes set on completing the mission. No points for guessing this is going to lead to all-out war.
The film's premise, though often used time and again in the annals of action cinema, is effective in immediately engaging the viewer. Plot has often been a tricky complication in Lundgren's movies, as they tend to get in the way of the action or there's simply not enough of a hook in the story to hold one's attention. Not so in this case, and while the script isn't particularly complex or convoluted, I found myself quite interested in the natives' plight and the way Gunar and his soldiers respond to the situation.
It's also to no small degree that I even cared about the characters, and in this regard, even the natives aren't short-sighted, as ample screen time is given to both B.D. Wong and Charlotte Lewis. Wong, in particular, is excellent as the translator who helps bridge the cultural gap. As the lead, Lundgren is likable and appealing, displaying a fair amount of the same charisma that made Schwarzenegger a huge star. He's clearly not a good actor, but he has an undeniably strong presence.
The supporting cast immeasurably aids the film, most especially hottie Catherine Bell as one of the ass-kicking mercenaries with a heart of gold. I'm only a little disappointed that she didn't strip down or show any skin, so it seems that gratuitous task was left up to Charlotte Lewis. Also making strong impressions are Tom Wright and Tim Guinee as mercs on Gunar's side and Trevor Goddard as the over-the-top villain.
The action scenes are spectacular and thrilling, even if most of it is held off until the climax. But what a climax! The last half-hour is non-stop mayhem, with shootouts, explosions, knifings, and fisticuffs taking place all over the island. For my money, this is the best B-movie battle since Arnold took on all those Latino soldiers in Commando. Lundgren doesn't really get to show off his martial arts moves until his mano-a-mano battle with Goddard, but it's a damn good showdown that wraps the action up on an exciting note.
Add to that the gorgeous scenery and surprisingly high production values (this certainly has the look and feel of a theatrical release), and I'd have to say Men of War is a winner. It's not innovative or original cinema, but it is a highly entertaining action flick and that's all I ask from a movie starring Dolph Lundgren.
This fast-paced film packs adventures , large-scale blow-up, routine plot , drama , and lots of action for the most part . Based on the interesting screenplay by prestigious John Sayles , a magnificent writer and director . Has some weak moments which break up the continuity of the movie but generally is a good story and well told . It results to be a graphical depiction of a team of professional mercenaries driven by nothing but quest for power and money , being commanded by Dolph Lundgren in one of the best roles . Large support cast formed by various actors who subsequently would get successful careers as Thomas Gibson (Criminal minds) , Catherine Bell(JAG) , Don Harvey , Kevin Thige , Trevor Goddard and several others . Cinematography by Rohn Schmidt is quite nicely , capturing the atmosphere of everywhere , from Thailand to a pretty cool jungle , furthermore some stirring images filmed with camera above the shoulder . Vibrant musical score fitting to action by Gerard Gouriet . The motion picture picture is well realized by Perry Lang who also plays a secondary role . This is his second and last movie -the first was ¨Little Vegas¨- subsequently Lang would direct numerous TV episodes as ¨ Millennium, Charmed, One tree hill , Everwood, Alias, Weeds. .¨
The film was made in the wake of ¨Mercenary sub-genre¨ as the classic ¨Wild Geese¨ by Andrew McLagen with Burton, Moore and Richard Harris and ¨Wild Geese II¨ , plus ¨Dogs of war¨ by John Irvin with Christopher Walken and recently ¨Tears of the sun ¨ with Bruce Willis and Monica Belucci and many others . Rating : 6,5 . Better than average. Well worth watching .
The film looks fantastic. It's beautifully shot by cinematographer Ronn Schmidt while the score from Golden Globe nominee Gerald Gouriet is very good, probably the best in any Lundgren piece. The film was to be directed by John Frankenheimer and as good as that would have been for Dolph's film career, Perry Lang directs proceedings well.
The cast is good with many well known faces and it was key that Dolph's motley crew were all well portrayed. With Tiny Lister, Tim Guinee, Anthony John Denison, Tom Wright and Catherine Bell all good as Dolph's special forces unit. While the Islanders are strongly represented by the gorgeous Charlotte Lewis and show stealer BD Wong as mouthy Islander Po. Also the later Trevor Goddard is superbly over the top and villainous as the deranged Kiefer. Dolph Lundgren is surrounded by some strong actors and he also manages to give probably his best performance, understated and effective.
Although we have seen far better versions of this film, on a technical level it can't be faulted. It's beautifully shot in a glorious location (the same place Di Caprio's Beach was filmed.) and it has a decent budget allowing for a good chunk of action. The film could have done with an action scene in the middle to quicken pace, however the films last half hour is frenetic building up to a down and dirty showdown. Overall a solid action movie and with Dolph's latest film being one of his best and involving him leading a military operation, there seems to be a hint as to his speciality. ***1/2
It's a very predictable "dude goes around recruiting his team, suffers moral crisis, and chooses to oppose his bosses and defend the little people" kind of story. Hmm, I wonder if he's going to win in the end? It's been done a zillion times, even in a throwaway movie like Star Trek: Insurrection.
But Dolph Lundgren's got a rocket launcher. Charlotte Lewis has a great body. And B.D. Wong was hilarious. Bring snacks. Turn off brain. Enjoy.
This movie was fantastic and at the same time pretty disturbing. Men could be very cruel.
The people of this island did not deserve what happened to them.
We as American's came in and destroyed their homeland.
I would have to see this movie again to fully grasp the heartache of the destruction put upon the people of this paradise island.
I mean, of course, they were not perfect, but still, they did not deserve what happened to them and my hat goes out to Dolph L. Very good in this picture.
You have to see it.