Overview: Jerry Springer stars in this action-packed extravaganza about a special agent racing to unravel a deadly terrorist military international superdeadly conspiracy.
Director: Dolph "Gets Lost In Zoo" Lundgren
The Case For: Hahaha Jerry Springer doesn't star in this thing, come on, get real!
The Case Against: Dolph Lundgren does. Jerry Springer co-stars
I've talked before on these hallowed pages about the many subtle types of Bad Movies. Let me be clear on one point: not all Bad Movies are recommended for general viewing. For example, you may not be aware that there's Basic Crappy and then there's Advanced Crappy. Basic Crappy is rubber dinosaurs, scenes that cut between daytime and evening shots, candy-apple-red blood. And then there's Advanced Crappy, far more difficult to identify, far more challenging to analyze. The Defender, the subject of today's review, is Advanced Crappy.
How to know the Advanced Crappy when you see it? Well, gentle reader, difficult to say. In much the same way that a master chef knows by the merest whiff from a kettle what spices have been applied to the soup, so too does the experienced reviewer know when levels of Advanced Crappy have been attained. While these are skills only achieved through countless hours of regimented training and discipline, I can at least impart some basic tips, since I'm blessed with a movie in The Defender that embodies some of the most easily identifiable traits of the Advanced Crappy movie, such as:
1) Gimmicky shots that while flashy do not advance the movie in any way, shape or form;
2) Mundane shots rendered "edgy" through the liberal use of innovative techniques such as blurring, grain filter, or soft lens;
3) Recognizable actors or actresses that nonetheless do not in and of themselves contribute anything to the film or make it any more watchable than your average infomercial or bowl of gently rotting fruit;
4) Carefully crafted action scenes that are punctuated by "profound" snippets of dialogue, the sort that have you sort of repeat them quietly to yourself before shaking your head as if to dislodge a mite or tick from the inner earlobe;
5) Pleasantly generic action music.
"But Rivetz", you say, "I come across some of this stuff all the time on any number of movies. How can I tell which movies are truly Advanced Crappy?" Patience, young Padawan. All will be revealed.
The Defender is the directorial debut of Dolph Lundgren, who I really didn't know shit about other than the fact that he played He-Man in Masters of the Universe and the gnarly Russian boxer in Rocky IV. Neither of these career highlights are in mortal danger of being supplanted by Lundgren's work behind the camera in The Defender. This is because Lundgren's primary influence as a director appears to have been cutscenes from Ghost Recon and Metal Gear Solid. Most major plot setup and advancement is handled through a nauseating montage of aerial shots of Washington punctuated with only vaguely realistic media "snippets" showing the world at war, the war on terror, politicians making half-hearted comments on the war on terror, etc. I cannot tell you how many times this movie cries out for a "Press *Start* To Continue" subtitle across the bottom.
By the way, in my version of The Defender, I got a subtitle the whole time that read "Bauer/Martinez Productions" (my version was a screener I obtained from the publisher). This was useful because it reminded me the whole time of Jack Bauer ("24"), who would have handled the labyrinthine political subterfuge in The Defender by calling in an air strike and stalking off to his trailer to discuss book rights with his agent. I will also note that the film was produced by well-known studio juggernaut "Defender The Film Productions"; let's all hope that this movie is a minor side project and that we can look forward to the real masterwork, a blockbuster Bruckheimer vehicle in 2009 centered around the popular arcade side-scroller.
Lundgren also stars in The Defender, of course, as Special Agent Lance Rockford, an ex-Marine who fought in the Gulf and now handles key assignments for our government such as opening car doors for officials and trying to look badass with the standard little spiral cord down into his collar. As far as the name "Lance Rockford", I can only assume that other similarly badass hero-type names such as Cliff Meateater and Brad Pectoral have been reserved for future projects such as The Defender II: Dolph Harder.
Having not seen Lundgren anywhere since his dynamic turn as He-Man back in my youth, I can tell you that at age 50 he is without exaggeration phenomenally unappealing as a lead actor. He's about 6'5" which leads to awkward camera angles. These can often be employed to unintentionally hilarious effect (see the outstanding work done to hide poor rapidly-expanding Steven Seagal's double chin in some of his later films), but Lundgren just comes off looking like a fucking freak. One of his teammates, the attractive Kaye (Shakara Ledard), has several scenes early on where she clearly displays strong sexual interest in Lance Rockford; in terms of credibility these scenes are right up there with the moon buggy leaping the canyon in Armageddon. Folks, Skeletor could brainwash She-Ra into a nymphomaniac frenzy and she still wouldn't want anything to do with poor Dolph, who at 50 has the raging sex appeal of a dried apricot floating in a bucket of cows blood.
Of course, Lundgren isn't the only star here; we also have Jerry Springer who is unfortunately completely impossible to watch without thinking of all his dialogue and actions in terms of his talk show. Mercifully, Springer is only granted about five to six minutes of screen time (still enough to garner second billing on the film's DVD cover) but I couldn't watch any of his scenes without silently begging the secretaries and congressmen around him to start rolling around on the floor of the Oval Office pummeling each other as the Secret Service halfheartedly attempts to pull them apart. Oh, by the way, when I said "Oval Office" I should have said, "Dolph's dining room with all the furniture pushed out of the way" I seem to recall the actual Oval Office having a big eagle seal on the floor, to say nothing of a vague oval shape, but that's just my nutty ape brain misfiring again, I'm sure.