Welcome to the island of California.
Dolph Lundgren stars in a post-apocalyptic straight to video release. Who would've thunk it? Well, I would've, for starters. Dolph seems locked into a death spiral of ever-worse action flicks suffering from an extreme case of bad writing. Even on my lower expectations scale for straight to cable stuff, this is one bad movie. Dolph is the best part of it, if that tells you anything. From a director who did some of the Van Damme films, this is another cheesy sci-fi wannabe in search of a script. Artisan released the DVD with all the bells and whistles the film deserved, which isn't much.
Facts of the Case
Dolph plays Nick Preston, a plays-by-his-own-rules army officer consigned to an equipment graveyard posting in the Mojave desert. He barely arrives when a massive earthquake (supposedly 9.5 on the Richter scale) breaks off the western side of the San Andreas Fault and turns it into an island overlooking the shores of Arizona Bay. That would be bad enough, but Nick quickly realizes that the stars aren't in the right places, and the world must have undergone an axis shift, making the entire planet as cut off and on their own as he is. With the help of a few survivors and the military junk pile at their disposal, they have to take on a prison full of convicts who now run the place.
Any of this sound familiar? I think I've seen this movie several times, though with different names and titles. I'm not against post-apocalyptic settings, far from it. I just need more coherence, writing, and acting than we get here. That isn't to say it's all bad, because The Last Warrior has a decent moment or two. Dolph Lundgren isn't a terrible actor. He isn't great, but his performance was better than I would have expected from Jean Claude Van Damme, or Steven Seagal for that matter. He may someday rise up to the lofty cable-movie rank held by Michael Dudikoff if he keeps it up. Dolph provides a voice-over narration that sometimes helps with understanding the character. The villain is reasonably well played as well, which is key to any action picture.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, that leaves everything else in the not-so-good category. The story is unbelievable, not because such an earthquake couldn't happen, but it is so ludicrously told and manufactured. Dialogue ranges from decent to really bad, mostly bad. The action set pieces aren't thrilling enough to cover the deficiencies. There were moments that gave me hope, but that was a fleeting thing gone before the film was over.
Artisan often takes films like this and gives them a home on DVD, and I've generally been kind to them, since I don't expect much from this straight to video fare. They usually do a decent job with anamorphic transfers and good sound, but there isn't much to recommend the film in the technical areas either. Firstly, this is a pan-and-scan only release. I realize it was done for television, but why not just make it a full frame open matte to begin with, instead of "formatting to fit your TV"? That said, the picture looks very good, if you don't mind your movies sliced, diced, and chopped. Image quality is very clear, detailed, and the various earth tones are well rendered. The sound is only adequate at best, with clear dialogue but none of the punch, presence, or aggressive mix we've come to expect out of mindless action flicks. The 2.0 track is underwhelming, confined to the center channel for much of the picture. You can hear it, but you won't be showing off the disc as a demo. The extra content is more than I expected for such a poor film; consisting of production notes, cast and crew bios, and a trailer (inexplicably the trailer is in 1.85:1 widescreen, unlike the film).
Dolph fanatics might want this movie in their collection, but I can't see anyone else ponying up hard cash. A mindless rental at best, I'd still say give it a pass.
Guilty of passing off more trash, even for the straight to video action crowd. With all the good scripts floating around, why is it so many films end up looking like somebody's brother in law cranked this one out in two days? Sentence is suspended, because I don't want to deal with this one any longer than I have to.
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Scales of Justice
• Production Notes
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