Mike Riggins (Lundgren) has been languishing away in a Russian prison for many years. So he doesn’t have anything to lose when he’s approached by the CIA to help them save a young woman who has been kidnapped. The government needs Riggins’ special set of skills, namely the ability to cause a lot of carnage in a short amount of time. If he rescues the girl, he gets 20 grand and sprung from prison. Of course, everything is not what it seems to be, and the government really just wants Riggins dead. After about an hour and a half of shooting and mayhem a lot of people end up dead, but Lundgren is still technically alive. I say technically because as far as I can tell Dolph Lundgren has been brain dead since 1985 when his acting career began with A View To A Kill. But, like the energizer bunny he keeps going, and going, and going.
The plot isn’t anything all that imaginative; in fact it’s pretty simple. But the other thing that’s simple is the acting of one Dolph Lundgren. Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. There are apparently international laws on such things, but the Geneva Convention folks have turned the other way as Lundgren continues to subject audiences to what can only be described as cruel and inhuman punishment. I guess as a Constitutional scholar I could make an implied consent argument here, if you’re actually insane enough to pick up one of these films. It’s not like it’s a secret. If you watch these Lundgren films, particularly the direct to video stuff, you already know what you’re getting. I’m sure Lundgren’s folks have been opting for direct to video because too many moviegoers have been throwing stuff at the theater screens. The theory is they are less likely to act violently to their own 2 grand flat screen.
About the best thing this film has going for it is the fact that it was shot on location in Bulgaria, which doubles nicely for Russia. The locations add a sense of authenticity that the rest of the film is simply unable to match. The acting is absolutely horrible. All of the characters are either cardboard cutout clichés or merely canon fodder for Lundgren. He’s starting to show his age a bit and doesn’t quite have the steps he had more than 20 years ago. (Of course, who does?) The editing is also a nightmare. The action appears choppy and the finished print shows some sloppy inattention to detail. At 1:12:00 into the film you can see what appears to be Lundgren’s stunt double standing in frame while Dolph’s character drives off in a truck, with supposedly no one else around. The double just stands there watching the truck drive off. Look, no one cared enough to tend to the details here, so why should you send them your increasingly harder to come by cash?
Direct Contact is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. I question the wisdom of releasing this one in high definition. The nice detail only makes painfully obvious the flaws in the film’s shoot. The bit rate rarely rises above 22 mbps. I’m not sure why, considering there is nothing else on the disc. There is too much inexcusable surface noise. The image is almost always too soft with unforgivable focus problems throughout. I don’t know if someone was going for style here or just didn’t care. It has all the markings of a rushed shoot with little to no quality control. Black levels are horrible. I’ve seen plenty of standard definition DVD’s look better.
The Dolby TrueHD Audio track is another example of inattention to detail. The mix is very erratic. The volume changes so drastically that you end up having to hold on to your remote control. You have a choice here. Keep the explosive volume to an acceptable level and have to crank to hear dialog, or … that’s your choice. Ridiculous for a modern Blu-ray release, direct to video or not.
I’m putting in for hazard pay here. In my zeal to bring you the unmitigated truth, I might very well be taking my life in my hands. Watching this movie makes me realize that Lundgren has a way of tracking down folks who cause him grief. I hear there’s this one guy back in 1992 in Ohio who fell asleep watching Universal Soldier; hey, didn’t we all. Anyway, rumor has it that Dolph tracked him down to a biker bar in Akron and took him out. So, if I end up writing my next review under a different name, you’ll know, “that this is worse than we thought”.