rating: 2The Killing Machine begins with Dolph Lundgren telling us in his opening voiceover that Life is about choices, you could say I didnt make a lot of good ones. At first I thought perhaps he had chosen to go down the route of Jean-Claude Van Damme and produce an introspective piece about his own career akin to JCVD but alas no, this movie is just another direct to video throwback to the kind of action films that established Lundgren as a member of the top action heroes during the mid-eighties and early nineties. I have to confess, I was a big fan of Dolph Lundgren in my youth. Some of my favourite action films from that era include Dark Angel about an intergalactic drug dealer, Rocky IV where Sylvester Stallone takes on Lundgrens Russian boxer Ivan Drago and The Punisher an early, and in my opinion, the best screen incarnation of the popular Marvel Comics character. Other notable appearances as a henchman in A View To A Kill, as He-Man in the unsuccessful attempt to bring Masters of the Universe to live action as well as a career high starring alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier all failed to break Lundgren into the big time. Since then Lundgren has wallowed in a succession of direct to video action films unable to make it beyond the small screen. The 52 year old Swede returns to our screens this month in not one but two films. Starring alongside Sylvester Stallone for the second time in his career, Lundgren joins the testosterone-filled cast of The Expendables, his first cinema release in the UK since Johnny Mnemonic in 1995. Also this month from Anchor Bay on DVD and Blu-Ray comes his sixth outing as director and star, action-thriller The Killing Machine. Edward Genn (Lundgren) is a man leading a double life, to his friends and family he is an ordinary man, a divorced father working for an investment company. To others he is known as Icarus, a ruthless hit man and former US sleeper agent once based in Russia. Just as he decides to break away and leave his past behind, his cover is blown and he is forced to face his demons and tell the truth to protect those he cares about most, his ex-wife and daughter. Following opening titles that look a bit like the start of a bad American TV show or dodgy video game, the film begins with Lundgren in bed with a silicone enhanced female young enough to be his daughter, just one of the perks of directing yourself I suppose. The first thing that struck me was how little Lundgren has aged, he has barely changed in the past twenty years, he just moves a little slower, however that does not prevent him from slipping in a few gratuitous topless training montages of himself down the gym. For the most part though he spends his time mumbling his lines while pouting and posturing moodily through his scenes, no real change there either. The voiceover throughout the film is mostly pointless and is full of obvious, clichéd philosophies like his opening statements about the choices made in life. Reportedly shot in just 18 days the limitations such a shooting schedule must have imposed on the finished film is quite evident. The film looks like it was made on the cheap, using video rather than film and many scenes shot unnecessarily with a hand held camera. This is most noticeable in conversational scenes and on more than one occasion left me feeling slightly seasick. Action scenes benefit from the use of hand held camera and are much better suited to this style of filming. The supporting cast is underdeveloped and there is little emotion when key characters are killed off. Both Lundgren and his ex-wifes partners are murdered before their eyes but later that same evening they have both forgotten all about it and end up in bed together. The rest of the characters in the film are made up of identikit Russian and Chinese Mobsters, they literally exist as expendable gun fodder for Lundgren to mow down. The plot is predictable and weak but in a film of this nature is of little importance if it keeps the breaks between action scenes brief. The violence in The Killing Machine is pretty graphic and early scenes of Lundgren executing various mobsters reminded me of the excellent opening scenes in The Punisher. The killings are played with no remorse as you may expect from a professional hit-man and a number of deaths are quite inventive, including death by barbell but not in a way you might expect. The final stalk and shoot scenes increase the body count and should satisfy most fans of eighties action films. It was a real blast from the past to see Dolph Lundgren still making the kind of films I grew up watching over twenty years ago, it is as if time has stood still for the actor. There still seems to be a market for this kind of action film harking back to days gone by when Schwarzenegger and Stallone ruled the genre. Lundgren may not have scaled the same heights of his action colleagues and he may have made a few bad choices along the way but there is no denying that he has had a prolific career that shows no sign of slowing down, he is just no closer to breaking out of video hell with this latest offering.
QualityDespite the films obvious low budget roots the overall quality of the picture is very good for this release. The film is presented with a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 and offers a choice of audio options, DTS HD Master Audio as well as 2.0 Stereo. The animated menus follow the style of the opening titles and as a result look a bit cheap.
ExtrasThe only extra on the preview disc I was provided with gives the bizarre option to watch the film in the original widescreen aspect ratio or full screen, just in case you want a preview of how the film will look on Channel 5 in a few years time. There is no mention of any extras in the press release so it may be that the retail disc is also feature free. The Killing Machine is released on Monday on DVD and Blu-Ray.
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