First Look Pictures // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // June 12th, 2009
They thought he was dead. They were dead wrong.
Dolph Lungren may not have been as big as, say, Arnold or Stallone, but he's kicked enough butt over the years to justify his status as a legendary action hero. He was Ivan Drago, after all. Like so many of his former roundhouse-kicking cohorts, he's in the straight-to-DVD business now, and his latest is a little flick called Direct Contact.
"Lucky" Mike Riggins (Lungren) is an ex-Marine who got caught smuggling weapons in the Balkins. He's spent the last year in a dank, dangerous prison; forgotten by the country he once served. Until now!
He's visited by a CIA agent calling himself Clive Connelly (Michael Paré), who needs Mike to rescue Ana Gale (Gina May), a wealthy American businessman's daughter. Mike has to get the girl from the Russians and return her to the embassy; but first he needs to figure out who he can trust.
Do you like kicking? How about the aimless spraying of machine gun rounds? What about a helpless, squealing, one-dimensional female? If these are the kinds of movies you like, you've got a lot to choose from. Here's one more.
Direct Contact is a vapid, bloody slog through nondescript post-Soviet Russia (is there any other kind, really?). The film has an odd pace, where the mission and subsequent action come first, and the story develops much later. Clive visits Mike in prison, offers him money to rescue this supposedly kidnapped girl, and Mike runs off to get the job done. You don't really need to know much more than that, but things are overly complicated by the screenwriters as they try to fill in all the gaps late in the runtime. No one is who they say they are, and the whole movie devolves into some corporate power play that Dolph -- er, Mike -- could care less about.
He just wants to kick and spray machine gun rounds -- which he does with great aplomb.
These Russian warlords (who strut around in either generic military garb or giant fur coats from a 1974 issue of Vogue) apparently hire the absolute worst henchmen in history. Mike rescues Ana in about ten minutes from this MacGyver-villain-esque military compound and sets course for the embassy. The roads are fraught with peril and blood packets as the Russians give chase and Mike finds out that the girl he rescued wasn't really kidnapped.
The silly plot isn't helped one iota by the freshman theater major acting stinking up every scene. Dolph has never been known for his Shakespearean training, but he's been better than this. Every line has the distinct ring of being phoned in. At least he looks in shape. His sidekick, Ana, is grating and clingy -- until she falls for Mike, and then she becomes just clingy. Just about everyone else in the film is a stereotype with a terribly fake accent.
Lame acting and a bad story would be forgivable if the action was good, right? Sorry, Direct Contact doesn't even have that going for it. The fight scenes are needlessly choppy (do you really need three angles for punch to the gut?) and the shootouts are littered with low-angle, slow motion squib explosions. About the only creative action scene comes in the final showdown at an abandoned embassy building -- I won't give it away, but let's just say "snappy catchphrase + grenade + window = a real mess."
Direct Contact was filmed with 35mm film, which means that it avoided the trap of looking as terrible as other digitally filmed direct-to-DVD releases. Using actual film doesn't mean this thing looks like a Coppola movie. The chase scenes are hopelessly blurry, and I can't tell if it's the DVD transfer's fault or the film itself. The bigger issue, however, is the cinematography: Every scene looks like it's set in thick, hazy fog thanks to terrible lighting and lens glare. Many scenes are completely washed out, with flat colors and dull black levels. At least the sound is decent, despite the cheesy score, and comes in both Dolby Digital surround and stereo tracks.
There aren't any special features on the disc...but the package does feature a seemingly random photo of Dolph holding a shotgun he doesn't use in the movie, and the questionable tagline "They thought he was dead. They were dead wrong." I don't think a single character in this movie ever thought Lucky Mike was dead, they just didn't know who he was.
You can't expect a whole lot from a direct-to-DVD movie, but this one is bad even by genre standards. If you are a devoted Dolph fan, then you'll probably want to check this out. All others should just go back and watch The Punisher -- a direct-to-video movie done right.
Guilty of just about everything.
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #42
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R