Men of War (1994) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Dolph Lundgren has retired from his former life as a mercenary soldier, but
... guess what ......?
... you get a perfect score if you guessed that he is lured into "one last job". The ol' "one last job" gimmick must be the single most used cliché in the history of films.
Dolph has been chosen to head up a mercenary band whose job it is to get the tribal elders of some obscure Pacific Island to sign over mineral rights to the usual greedy corporate scumbags, under penalty of being toasted. Dolph and his men think that the corporate greed must be about jade, and some other mercenaries who track them seem to agree, but it turns out that it's really about nitrate, extracted from millions of years of deposits of bird shit and bat shit.
That revelation is too much for Dolph. He was willing to kill thousands of peaceful unarmed indigenous people and their barefoot children for jade, but he decides that he can't kill them all over birdshit. So he and a few of his mercenaries turn against the corporate scumbags, and send the other mercenaries back empty-handed. Unfortunately, the remainder of the force returns to take over the island anyway, accompanied by the other independent mercenaries who had been following them, plus an army of about 200 Asian guys with automatic weapons, and Kevin Tighe. This sets up a major war which pits the force described above against Lundgren, four of his troopers who chose to fight with him, and the unarmed barefoot natives, mostly women and kids and elders.
Guess who wins?
At one point, Kevin Tighe was killed by a direct hit from a rocket launcher shot from five feet away. Talk about overkill. The director actually showed the corpse. Let's just say that he would not be able to make into a "regular" basket at Kentucky Fried Humans. Of course, the only reason Tighe died from the wopund is that he's a pussy. The head psycho baddie survives a direct hit from a rocket launcher, which carried him far out to sea. He not only managed not only to survive the hit, but then also managed in that condition to swim out to the corporate boat in the open sea. That's one tough cookie. In the next scene, he looked really messed up, with a big festering wound on one side of his skull, but was meaner and stronger than ever.
In the film's climax, Dolph Lundgren and Psycho Bad Guy fall through the ground and into a burial cave that belongs to the "old ones" - the warlike former inhabitants of the island. Although the place hasn't been used or visited in centuries, it is filled with lit candles and torches! Those are some long-burning suckers.
Some of the comments at IMDb try to contend that this is a brainy action flick because John Sayles wrote it, but they are being swayed by his name. For whatever involvement he had with this, Sayles should flog himself for about a month with those whips that medieval monks used to use, and he should figure out a way to disavow all connection with this movie, perhaps by establishing an alibi that demonstrates conclusively that he was being held prisoner in Tajikistan while this was being written by an imposter. I don't believe Sayles had any significant involvement, because the script is just plain dumb, and Sayles is not a stupid man, but there is one remote possibility.
This film could be interpreted two different ways. It's either dumber than a box of rocks, or sheer genius if it was written tongue-in-cheek. There are some other clues that the film was not meant to be taken seriously. The natives were sometimes quite funny, for example. At one point the mercenaries ate a native feast, something they conceived to be a bonding ritual. Lundgren asked the translator, "Aren't you going to have any?". The native replied, "Are you kidding? We don't eat that shit. National Geographic fell for the same trick!" Given that Sayles is a very smart man and that the script has a lot of the same earmarks as Road House, or Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (wildly over-the-top action, silly dialogue, people almost uninjured by obviously fatal wounds, etc.), I'd say there's a pretty good chance that this is meant to be parody/comedy, and in that case it includes more than a hint of genius!
No matter whether the comedy is intentional, you'll probably have to admit that this film, like Road House, is really fun to watch. One IMDb commenter got it exactly right:
Dolph Lundgren is a former soldier of fortune, lured out of retirement because a former commanding officer wants him to take a job. We find out why later. He is to form a team, go to a South Sea Island, and convince the natives to cooperate with two US capitalists. In what, Dolph is not told. He and his team surmise that the treasure must be jade.
The team assembled, they make an R&R stop before heading to the island, and end up adding Catherine Bell to the team, after one of the oddest fist fights in film history. After a bar brawl, the man in charge, who happens to be an old enemy of Lundgren, shows up and intends to throw them all in jail for five years. Dolph entices him to fight one-on-one. He agrees, but explains a special rule. Every time Dolph hits him, he kills one of his men.
Once on the island, they don't find the hostiles they were expecting, but rather a gentle people, including B. D. Wong, who was hilarious, and Charlotte Lewis, daughter of a European pilot who crashed there and never left. The playful natives elect not to accept the capitalists' offer. Dolph meets his bosses on the ship, and discovers that they are not after jade at all, but bird and bat shit, the mining of which will destroy the island forever. He decides he is on the side of the natives, especially when he finds that his old commanding officer owns a third of the mining company. He gives his troops a choice. Some stay, some leave, but those who leave return with an invading army to take the island.
If you believe everything I could find written about Men of War, is either Dolph Lundren's best film ever, with great action, a fantastic cast, wonderful photography and an intelligent script, or a mindless, implausible, lackluster actioner. Critics were quick to denigrate this film, but a legion of viewers have left mostly positive comments. Thailand played the part of a South Sea Island, and did a wonderful job. I ended up on the side of those who think this is one of Dolph's best films. Granted, that is not a very high bar to clear:
Dolph showed more range than usual, the supporting cast was fun, there was a strong love story, there were plenty of bad guys, and not all of the twists and turns were obvious.
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