Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Defender


Directed by: Dolph Lundgren
Written by: Douglas W. Miller
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Shakara Ledard & Jerry Springer

Action star Dolph Lundgren’s directorial debut is a pleasant surprise and shows the Swedish oak has learned a thing or two about making action pictures after starring in them for so long. The Defender is nothing new in terms of set up, as Dolph leads a team of hi-tech bodyguards to watch over the President’s National Security Advisor as she attends an important meeting in Romania. Of course things go wrong quickly and the team are left stranded inside an empty hotel battling off swarms of elite soldiers who want them dead. It seems there is some kind of coo taking place to overthrow the President of the United States (Springer). But can Lundgren and his team make it out and save the Prez? Well I’m sure you can guess the outcome but The Defender provides a fun action ride nonetheless with a few twists and turns along the way.

Lundgren manages the double role of starring and directing remarkably well. He has shown his skill as director in later films (Missionary Man) but this was his first time out and shows he knows what to do when making an action picture. In fact, he does a better job than some of the directors he has worked with. The film is polished looking, nicely put together and features loads of gun blazing action. But it’s Lundgren’s attention to the build up and characters that elevates The Defender above the usual direct-to-DVD action movies. The Defender builds up nicely for half an hour or so before the siege element of the film kicks in. We get to know his team and they are a little more fleshed out than the usual cardboard characters. We actually care about what happens to them as they fight for their lives. There is a nice scene that shows the team all a little bored as they stand around waiting for the officials they are guarding to finish their “chat”. And Jerry Springer as the President of the United States? Well, he isn’t too bad. By no means is he an actor but in this day and age a former talk show host becoming the President doesn’t seem like such an unlikelihood. Plus Lundgren teamed up with another talk show host, Montel Williams, for The Peacekeeper, so why not Springer as well?

The action is competently handled and satisfyingly ballistic with Lundgren and his team making their way through the labyrinth hotel and its underground tunnels defending themselves from wave after wave of heavily armed soldiers. Firepower is dispensed, the gunplay well handled and the action never dipping once the siege gets under way. Lundgren seems to be carving out a nice new action niche for himself now that he is directing. His movies are getting better and he seems happy to accept he is an action star and is trying to do the best he can within the genre. The Defender is better than anything Segal has put out in the last five years and along with likes of Missionary Man and The Mechanik, shows Lundgren is on the up and can still cut it in the action stakes.

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