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COMMAND PERFORMANCE, 2009
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Melissa Ann Smith, Hristo Shopov, Dave Legeno, Zahary Baharov
A Moscow charity concert turns bloody when armed extortionists take the head liner American pop-star Venus and the Russian President with his family hostage. Help is on the way when the drummer of a heavy metal warm-up band, an ex-bad ass biker played by Lundgren, and a young Russian F.S.B. agent team up to fight back. But our two heroes are seriously outnumbered and things aren't as simple as they appear when old ghosts from the Soviet Union appear to haunt the present in this fast paced action piece.
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It’s that time of year again. The time of year when the letterbox flaps, you scamper downstairs and see a package in front of your door. The dog hasn’t eaten it! Excellent! Now to open it with the shaking hands of an excited girl opening her copy of “High School Musical 5: The painful divorce year.” It takes time, but finally you remove the DVD from the box, and chuck it away. Sure it’s trash, and sure it’s littered on your carpet now, but who cares? You’re opening a nugget of gold. No!!!! Shrink wrap! The scourge of any excited fan. 20 minutes later, after you’ve nearly smashed you’re DVD in frustration, you get the shrink wrap off! Then comes opening the case. Suddenly, you’re paranoid…what if they forgot to put the DVD inside? Or worse, put something lame in instead! But no, you open it, and there it is…Command Performance, starring Dolph frickin Lundgren.
Yes, long before Universal Soldier 3 was announced or the monumentally awesome and exciting prospect of Expendables, Dolph announced his “Die Hard at a Rock concert” project. It got a brief surge of internet interest for him. The notion sounded cheesy, but at the same time, awesome. Finally, over a year later, I’ve been delivered the final product. Dolph, starring as Joe the drummer, who must take on Russian terrorists. Will he use a drumstick as a weapon? Wait and see yourself!
Following on from his excellent film, The Mechanik, Dolph has had a string of below par, or troublesome pictures. Command Performance thus comes to light, with the shadow of The Mechanik, leering over it and the monkey of bad films on its back too. Can Dolph hit those heights again? Yes…yes he can! Command Performance delivers! It’s a well made, well paced action flick. There’s a concerted effort to do something good, that’s not only fun, tense, but has a bit of drama thrown in as well. Command Performance is an action fans film. It’s 80’s style action gold. It kicks ass!
Dolph stars as Joe, former bad ass biker, with a shady past, who’s since turned drummer. The film opens on a rock concert in which Joe is playing in the band backing up star turn Venus (Melissa Smith), who’s pretty much a Britney clone. The Russian president and American ambassador are in attendance, meaning that naturally, terrorists will come and start shooting, and hold Presi, hostage. Joe is the reluctant hero, who teams up with an FSB agent to try and bring Kasov (Dave Legano) down. We know from then on what’ll happen. Dolph is gonna open a big old can of KAPOWWW! juice, and make the terrorists drink it down. Much like the Defender, Dolph’s first directing gig, once the terrorists show up, the pace never really lets up. And the film has scatterings of action until the finale. Joe himself is a different character to what Dolph normally plays. He’s not straight laced. He’s not driven by revenge, and he’s not always been on the right side of the law.
The action itself is good. It’s tightly edited, giving it a good pace, and when someone gets shot or killed in close combat, there’s a good delivery of blood to show that they aint gonna be getting back up. The surroundings are tight, claustrophobic, making the action quick, rough, frantic. When Dolph takes someone on in a fight, he goes in fast and hard, using any weapons he can at hands. Dolph’s gone for pretty grounded action. Everything needs a base in reality. Joe’s tough, he can kick ass, but he kicks ass like a biker. The only thing that lets this down, is the budget. After all, this is a Die Hard formula, and it lacks the one big set piece, or a good money shot stunt. Think Bruce jumping off the Nakatomi plaza, or Seagal jumping off a boat in Under Siege. But given more time, and more money, I’m sure some sort of impressive stunt would have been thrown in by Dolph.
The film looks great. Dolph and his DP Marc Windon, have gone for a Bourne/docu kind of vibe. Once the action kicks in, the pace of cutting picks up as well. It gives everything a sense of kinetic energy, without resorting to mindless shaky cam. But more-so, the energy helps hide the small budget. Windon’s lighting is naturalistically stylised I suppose you could say. He’s going for part Bay, part music vid, part Bourne, and it works. It certainly enhances the production value of the film. As for Dolph, his direction gets better every film. The opening of the film really establishes the style of it brilliantly. It’s well shot, and very well edited by veteran cutsman, Peter Hollywood (Adventures of Baron Von Munchhausen, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). Most importantly, he’s got a good sense of cutting action. Elsewhere on the technical aspects, the production design is good, the concert sequences are very well done, and the sound design is top notch, and sound design is very hit and miss in the Nu Image factory.
Dolph gives a good performance as Joe. He’s laid back, cool, and a bit of a kid at heart. But he’s got a bad streak in him, and he has to bring his dark side out when it comes to kicking some A-holes. As Dolph’s FSB tag along Mikhail, Zahary Baharov is good. It’s an important role that demands not sucking, and Baharov is far from sucking. The biggest worry was also the bad guy. Die Hard formula flicks live or die by the bad guy. I worried that Legano could bring down the film single handed, but he’s actually pretty good. He’s a different villain to Gruber (Die Hard), or Stranix (Under Siege), driven by a different goal. He doesn’t wallow in smug, he just gets on with it. And of course, Legano at 6ft 3, and mostly muscle, is heading for a showdown with Dolphy, from the first minute. Which delivers. Sadly Melissa Smith, as pop princess Venus, and love interest to Dolph (despite being half his age…and half his height) is pretty woeful. But given how wafer thin her role is (its hardly a part Meryl Streep would lobby for!).
Overall though, this does not disappoint. It delivers what you want in an action film. It’s well made too. The film probably needs a bit more humour in it, though there are plenty of one-liners and sight gags, but could do with a bit more. I’d like to see Lundgren being given a bigger budget to play with, and see what he can deliver then.