Do you remember the first time Dolph Lundgren really made an impression on you in a film? Most likely it was in Rocky IV. And even though he was co-starring as the evil sumbitch who killed Apollo Creed, if you were a guy, you probably thought to yourself, "Wow, now that's a man"--in a very non-homoerotic way, or course. And then you thought, "Man, this guy has got what it takes to be a kickass action hero." Then came Red Scorpion, and you thought, "Maybe I spoke too soon." But then came Universal Soldier, and you thought, "See, I knew this guy had something in him." But then came everything after that, leading up to Missionary Man, and all you could do is sit there with your head in your hands and mumble, "Dolph, why do you keep letting me down this way?"
Lundgren, who also directed, produced and co-wrote, stars in this low-rent, disappointing rip-off that borrows heavily from Billy Jack, High Plains Drifter, and Django the Bastard, but somehow, miraculously, still manages to be a bad film. Set on a Native American Indian reservation, where a nefarious gang of sadistic palefaces rule through vice, corruption and violence, the hackneyed fun begins when mysterious stranger Ryder (Lundgren) rolls into town on his motorcycle, moseys into a local tavern, orders a shot of tequila and begins to read from the Bible. That's how we know this guy is some sort of enigmatic badass--he drinks tequila straight (no salt, no lime) and he reads the Bible. Having made the sort of lasting impression that only happens in really small towns and really bad movies, Ryder comes to the rescue of the local dope fiend, who is being beaten by the thugs employed by Reno (Matthew Tompkins), the sinister bad guy who rules with an iron fist. For those unfamiliar with the way these things work, this leads to tension and conflict between Ryder, who is town for the funeral of someone killed by Reno's men, and Reno himself, who wants to open a casino on the reservation, and flood the streets with cocaine. The tension steadily builds, with Ryder issuing some sort-of beatdown that thankfully arrives whenever the film becomes unbearably boring, until everything culminates with a not-so-epic showdown between our hero and gang of ultra evil bikers.
Missionary Man is one of those films that is bad on so many levels it becomes a heated race to know where to start ripping this thing apart. What it comes down to is this: if you were to remove all of the scenes that were boring, riddled with clichés, terribly acted, horribly written, or just all-around bad from the film's 93-minute running time, you would be left with something that had between three and five minutes of footage that didn't completely suck. But with a ratio like that, it's not even worth it to watch this film with the fast-forward button engaged.
The important thing to keep in mind is that I actually enjoy low-budget action films of questionable quality. I've watched my fair share of films with Steven Segal and Jean Claude Van Damme. Hell, I've ever seen a Jeff Speakman movie or two, and shrugged my shoulders and said, "It could have been worse." But there's no question about the quality of Missionary Man--it sucks from start to finish. The only way this crap could have been worse would be if it was longer. And while I really liked him in Universal Soldier and I Come in Peace, and cut him some slack for a lot of the other garbage he's been in, I've got to point my finger at Dolph and say, "Mr. Lundgren, as producer, director, co-writer and star of Missionary Man, you really took a dump in the middle of the dance floor, and now the party is over."
Missionary Man is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The movie itself is poorly lit, and the colors are washed out (I suspect one was a creative style choice, and the other was not), and the transfer is a bit grainy. On top of all that, the film print is not that clean, with specks, traces of dirt and a few stray hairs in the gate.
Missionary Man is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The audio mix and the sound levels are probably what deserves the most positive praise, except the sound quality makes it possible to hear the dialog more clearly, and that's not really a good thing.
An alternate opening sequence and one deleted scene are all you have to endure, unless of course you decide to view the entire film as a series of deleted scenes that have been strung together to make a film that's not worth watching. There are also a bunch of trailers for films like Zombie Strippers, Black Water, Resident Evil: Extinction and several others. Normally, I don't consider trailers to be bonus features, but considering the fact that they are all more entertaining than Missionary Man, you gotta take what you can get.
Mr. Lundgren, please don't be upset with me for hating your movie--after all, you're the one who made it. And don't be upset with me for telling people to avoid Missionary Man like it was a movie starring Don "the Dragon" Wilson. And don't be upset with me for saying that I know you are capable of something better than this. Next time, please feel free to contact me, and I can write a script for you. And while I'm at it, I can direct it as well. And then all of your fans will once again be able to look at you and say, "Wow, now that's a man"--in a very non-homoerotic way, of course.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]