Stone Cold Steve Austin and Dolph Lundgren; it’s a pairing either genius or awful, but one thing’s for sure, it’s a step-up from Austin’s last double act with a former action star, Maximum Conviction, which saw him team with a bloated, over-the-hill Steven Seagal to demeaning ends.
In The Package, Austin plays Tommy Wick, a no-nonsense “fixer” who performs the dirty work of a local crime boss. His latest job involves delivering a package to a man known only as “The German” (Lundgren) in order to clear a steep debt that his brother, Eddie (Lochlyn Munro), owes. Of course, nothing goes as expected, and amid a pile of bodies, Wick and The German find themselves heading on a collision course towards one another.
Though better-assembled than much of its straight-to-video brethren, The Package delivers all of the dull, unimaginative action you should expect from a shoot ‘em up film aiming this low; everything looks too easy and unexciting, and the result is that Austin and Lundgren never really seem even remotely stretched or challenged by the horde of enemies thrown at them.
What surprises, though, is how comfortable Austin in particular seems during the talkier scenes, nicely filling out a suit and sipping on a scotch as he talks to his boss. Still, the ridiculous relationship drama interludes with his ludicrously attractive wife are sure to raise plenty of chuckles, especially the instance in which they share a post-coital dialogue in bed.
Indeed, much of the enjoyment of watching something like this is the unintentional humour that abounds; the laughably low-budget effects (one car crash features a blatant dummy doubling for Austin), and the daft plot beats, namely when Austin steals a motorbike (helmet and all), and Lundgren prepares a healthy fruit smoothie while casually interrogating a dying goon.
What’s less amusing is the crass practice used to sell the film; the implication is that Austin and Lundgren will share the screen either as enemies or adversaries, yet they don’t even meet until the final 20 minutes of the film, and to my count share a whopping 8 minutes of screen time in total.
It’s an obvious cash-saving exercise that transparently tries to give the impression the film is more star-studded than it is (if Austin and Lundgren even qualify as stars anymore). Still, their meeting begets a hilarious plot twist that keeps things talky when they should be getting shooty, even if Lundgren in particular harnesses some pleasantly manic energy.
The two leads hardly embarrass themselves, even if a far more fortuitous buddy action pic should have been possible. Austin and Lundgren fare surprisingly well in the talkier scenes, though the lack of action will test even the most enthusiastic audiences.
The Package is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Monday.
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