Can one man make a difference?
It really is about time I reviewed another Dolph on the site. After all, excepting Schwarzenegger he is easily my favourite action star. There is something about this well-built Swedish brute (meant in the nicest possible way, folks) that keeps me coming back. His physique leads him to action films but I think it's his way of delivering lines that I enjoy so much. He always sounds like he enjoys his work so much. Direct Action is no exception, as the gum-chewing Dolph here again demonstrates.
Dolph Lundgren plays Sgt. Frank Gannon, a veteran member of the Direct Action taskforce - an elite force given special powers to clean up the city; and they have been mightily successful. Crime is at the lowest it has been in a decade. However, these statistics and extra powers have gone to the heads of the team who have taken their elevated stature as an excuse to commit crimes themselves. Profitable crimes, headed up by Captain Stone (Conrad Dunn, Death Warrant, Silent Trigger). All that is except Frank Gannon, who refuses to take any part and Sgt. Ed Grimes (Rothaford Gray, Exit Wounds, Max Payne) his partner who wants to protect his wife and children.
Gannon is assigned a new transfer as his partner, Billie Ross (Polly Shannon, No Contest, The Girl Next Door). When the corrupt Stone can't convince Gannon to take part in the scams he is caught, tasered and lined up to be executed by the other officers on the take. With the help of new partner Ross, picking off his would-be executors at a distance with an assault rifle, the two escape. Stone tries another tactic by implicating them both in the drug ring and issuing and APB for their arrest, for the murder of three police officers. As well as that, Sgt. Grimes' family is kidnapped.
It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to learn that that Direct Action was meant to have been a Steven Seagal film. I'm only speculating here, but the good cop getting to the roots of corruption/mafia/drug syndicate plot is usually Seagal's signature. I am glad to see Dolph doing one of these too as he does a great job as the good cop, breaking in a new partner and taking down the bad cops in his unit. I had been putting off seeing Direct Action as it has a reputation of not being one of his better films. I disagree; this is a solid DTV Dolph on par with Command Performance, Direct Contact and The Mechanik, better than Icarus/The Killing Machine and FAR better than Retrograde and Diamond Dogs (in my opinion the worst of Dolph's DTV output).
Plenty of action to enjoy in this one. Dolph shows off both his hand-to-hand and foot-to-face unarmed combat skills, but also he gets to blast away with a pistol and machine gun frequently. His partner Ross gets many opportunities to wipe out bad guys with an assault rifle, which is pretty amusing to see a girl in full makeup, hair done for a night out and hooped earrings - standard police outfit? - not even break a sweat. Over the ten hours or so that the film takes place we see the relationship between Ross and Gannon establish very quickly and she takes her position as his new partner, covering Gannon's back as many times as he covers hers. He keeps offering her gum throughout the film stating "you don't know what you are missing out on" each time she refuses. She finally relents after being shot at enough.
The best thing about a Dolph action film versus a Seagal action film is that Dolph tends to not use stunt-doubles. Or if he does you at least cannot tell easily. The camera-work on Direct Action was solid and no ridiculous effects and zoomed-too-close action to ruin everything. Part of Dolph's Canadian-based film cycle (like Silent Trigger, Detention, Hidden Agenda) instead of the Bulgarian/Russian/Romanian set-pieces that would dominate his later work, the locations pass easily as the LA it is trying to portray; at least to an outsider such as myself.
This is a solid film with a solid final act and payoff. Gannon stays true to his badge and therefore gets shot at a number of times tracking down Stone and his grunts completing the drug deal with the Asian drug lords. Gannon and Ross show up with extra help from the CIA and after a sweet car chase dispose of them all... except Stone. He goes on to testify that everything is hunky-dory at Direct Action. That is until Gannon shows up in the car park, blows Stone's arse away, and spits his gum on the corpse! Recommended.
Presented in the correct 1.85:1 16:9 ratio, as far as I can tell, the R4 DVD was only made available for rent. The R1 is easy enough to obtain online. The US Blu-ray is solid as well, though Region A locked. Runtime ~90 minutes.
Ex-rental Australian DVD for a couple of bucks.