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THE EXPENDABLES 2 just blew up audiences across the country with its collaboration of the world’s biggest action heroes assembled in one place. And out of all of the Expendables on board, from Sylvester Stallone to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the biggest stand-out to me in terms of performance was the one and only Dolph Lundgren. Coming back as a kinder, gentler, crazier, and funnier Gunner Jensen the second time around put a cheesy smile on my face every time he was on screen, so much so that it made me wish Lundgren had more movies released theatrically. The guy is about as talented as they come, and one of the hardest working dudes in the business: not only does he act, but he also produces, writes, and directs. Looking back at his career in films, one thing is apparent: Dolph Lundgren is f*cking awesome and is still the muscle-bound action hero of his youth.
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Lundgren’s career kick-started in 1985 with A VIEW TO A KILL and more importantly, ROCKY IV. Over the last 27 years, the dude has starred in more than 40 films and it doesn’t look like he’s about to slow down. With that many roles under your belt, not all of them are winners, but there’s one thing that’s apparent to Lundgren: whether or not the film is good, he always delivers a rock solid performance. His best roles/movies range from his pulse-pounding beginning as Ivan Drago in ROCKY IV starring opposite Stallone, as a Russian boxer who kills Carl Weathers in the ring and just about takes Rocky out for good. It’s because of Lundgren’s strong, silent, and menacing performance that makes this ROCKY my favorite of the series. Finally, an opponent who you actually believe could have destroyed Rocky in the ring for good… plus, who will ever forget his most famous line… “I must break you.” Classic!
From there, Lundgren went on to some truly memorable movies, including the first big-screen adaptation of Marvel comic book hero Frank Castle in THE PUNISHER, a film that’s flawed but fun, full of over-the-top action and Lundgren sporting jet-black hair. Even that early in his career, Lundgren excelled at playing the tortured soul hero that he plays so damn well. ARMY OF ONE and RED SCORPION also come to mind as some of his best and most memorable movies, as well as the “so bad it’s good” SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO alongside fellow ass-kicker Brandon Lee. Filled with enough gay innuendos to become a cult classic, it also shows a lighter side of Lundgren that we hadn’t seen before, and (hopefully) a side where he wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself (assuming he was in on all the “unintentional” jokes).
But unlike his fellow action heroes, Lundgren is just as memorable for his villain characters as he is his hero characters, most notably as GR13 in Roland Emmerich’s UNIVERSAL SOLDIER starring opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme. On the one hand he’s a unstoppable killing machine who acts more or less like a TERMINATOR-like robot as the Universal Soldier in question. But on the other hand, he’s a plays a crazed Vietnam Sergeant who has lost his f*cking mind, going on a killing spree of insanity, thus allowing Lundgren to shine as an actor, as his character is both stiff and emotionless as well as totally over-the-top bonkers. And being a hulking mass of muscle helps make him even more menacing and intimidating, especially as he towers over JCVDs small frame.
One last note of greatness: THE PUNISHER. Many agree that Lundgren’s take on Frank Castle is as close to the comics as you can get and is incredibly satisfying as an action-packed movie. He sports the look, he rides a badass Harley, and there’s an impressive body count.
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Just as likely as a plethora of good movies bound to happen with such a robust and staggering filmography, there’s also bound to be a shit-ton of bad movies, and Lundgren is no stranger to making some stinkers. From HE-MAN to JOHNNY MNEMONIC, the guy isn’t immune to starring in a shitty movie, even if the potential of said shitty movie is there. Who didn’t want HE-MAN to be awesome? We all did. But goddamn is that movie lame. Same could also be said about JOHNNY MNEMOIC, as it was a techno-punk action flick starring the great Keanu Reeves. The potential for greatness was there, but alas… it fell short and resulted in a rather unwatchable movie.
Lundgren’s crapfest also continued in his streak of STD flicks, most notably SILENT TRIGGER, PENTATHALON, DIAMOND DOGS, and most recently IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2 (from director Uwe Boll). Whether it’s the lack of direction or overall weak storytelling, when a Lundgren movie is bad… it’s really bad, and Boll’s IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2 is probably up there as his worst. However, I will say this about bad Lundgren movies… he’s generally not bad in them! Sure, the movie may blow ass, but Lundgren usually gives a solid performance each and every time. Maybe you have to be a fan of the guy to really appreciate his work, but I have yet to see a really bad Lundgren performance. He’s that good… even when his movies blow.
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When you dive into a Lundgren vehicle, you know exactly what you’re going to get. He’s the strong silent type, he’s a ladies’ man, he knows how to throw a punch and kick some ass just as well as he knows how to pop a cap in a mother*cker. He has a hard edge about him that makes you take him a whole helluva lot seriouser than his EXPENDABLE colleagues… in fact, he can downright scary when he’s in a bad mood (which he usually is). Hiss blond hair, whether dirty or greasy, whether spiked or surfer-style, is always lookin’ cool… they type of hair every dude which he had if he wasn’t a fife thinking about other dude’s hair.
Lundgren, because of his look and his accent, always plays a European, whether it’s a Swiss or a German, and because of the budgets of many of his films, a lot of them are also shot in Europe, giving them a slightly sophisticated look to them (if a little cheap). On top of all that, Lundgren is always a ladies’ man, maybe more than any other EXPENDABLE actor. When he’s the star of the show, he gets laid like no other. Even in his fifiest movie (SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO) he was gettin’ a ton of action.
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A few years back he released a little movie called COMMAND PERFORMANCE, and while I doubt the majority of people know about this movie, it’s a f*cking fantastic action flick. Think “DIE HARD at a rock concert” and you have this flick. Lundgren, showing off his drumming skills, is in a band playing a huge concert… when the amphitheater gets taken over by terrorists, it’s up to the f*cking drummer to save the day. Awesome action sequences, great one-liners, and Lundgren is tough as nails… a true throwback to the classic ‘80s action movies of yesterday. And to top it all off, Lundgren not only starred in the flick but he WROTE and DIRECTED it as well. It’s the quintessential Lundgren movie in the true sense of the word. If you haven’t checked out COMMAND PERFORMANCE yet, do it now. You won’t be disappointed.
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Like any true STD action star, Lundgren has a ton of stuff coming out over the next year. Besides ONE IN THE CHAMBER (hitting video this week) co-starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., he also has SKIN TRADE and BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, both of which he was involved in the writing process on top of starring. And it doesn’t look like the man will slow down anytime soon in terms of getting work and releasing entertaining action flicks. At the top of his COMING SOON list of projects is a little movie called UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, co-starring fellow Expendables Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins. Out of everything he has lined up right now, this one is at the top of the Most Anticipated list.
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Dolph Lundgren is a man’s man type of action hero. He’s strong, he’s silent, he’s tough as nails, and he doesn’t give a f*ck. While many have written him off as washed-up at this point, the dude is probably still one of the hardest working action stars out there. Writing and directing projects when he can, starring in enough STD flicks to shake a stick at (one even used his name in the title… DOLPH LUNDGREN IS THE KILLING MACHINE), the man is as unstoppable in real life as he is in the movies. His role as Gunner in THE EXPENDABLES 2 stole the show for me (he’s a crazy drunk most of the time and it’s f*cking hilarious), making me a true believer in the fact that we need more Lundgren movies in theaters, not just on video. Give him a leading role in a major blockbuster! He should be making like Stallone and Schwarzenegger at this point and getting bigger projects thrown at him. He’s talented enough, so why the f*ck not?