i’ve been looking forward to command performance for a while, even more so after learning that it’s die-hard-at-a-rock-concert in russia with dolph lundgren as the drummer.
what i didn’t know was that this is dolph’s fifth movie as both star and director. he also gets a screenplay credit. i’ve avoided the other ones simply because they either take place at desert-like location or has some kind of military element. one of my worries before the movie was that he’s playing a russian once again. but the movie makes quite the effort to remind us that he’s american.
things doesn’t look too promising in the opening scenes either. there are numerous flashbacks and expositions about the different groups of characters. most of them aren’t really necessary or affects the movie in any way. do we really need to meet the band that dolph’s band is replacing? we also learn that this is apparently a benefit concert named “no poverty rocks.” i’m not sure why it has to be a benefit concert, instead of just a regular concert with the headliner and an opening act.
dolph’s rock band is opening for american pop tart venus, played by melissa smith/molinaro (honey 2). apparently she was handpicked by the russian president because his daughters are fans of hers. smith/molinaro should be no stranger to the pop scene, since she’s been in both reality shows making the band and pussycat dolls: search for the next doll. the movie also shows us another opening act but again, unnecessary.
after 20 minutes of mostly pointless expositions, the terrorists finally take over the arena, while dolph is smoking a joint in the bathroom. from that point on, the movie is actually better than i expected for a dolph lundgren dtv movie. it’s not unintentionally funny or deadly serious -> boring as most dtv action movies i’ve seen. i mean, dolph lundgren plays an american drummer for a rock band, playing in a russian benefit concert.
the action scenes are pretty gritty and brutal throughout (blood aplenty with various objects going through heads). but you can tell what’s going on for most of the action scenes. there are some unnecessary shaky cam/too close zooms but not as bad as it was in the expendables. it’s what vern would call post-action. although there’s not avid farts (also a term coined by vern, i think).
i also love the fact that dolph’s character refused to use guns throughout most of the movie. yes, unfortunately we get yet another unnecessary flashback showing us why. the gunless drummer in turn brings us some pretty inventive use of guitar, amps, drumsticks. i actually wish the movie had stay with this theme. but i guess most people want to see dolph fight. and i think they may be disappointed with the movie. even though dolph’s drummer learn to fight due to being in a motorcycle gang, the fights overall doesn’t seem choreographed at all.
i also think dolph is smart, both as a screenwriter and director, to create this role for himself. i don’t think many producers would cast him to play a drummer in a rock band in a die hard-ish movie. they like him to play roles like cyborgs, aliens, vaguely europeans, russians, villains, or all of the above. judging from command performance, dolph for the first time, probably since rocky iv, gets to show him as an actor, rather than just a muscleman in boring low budget movies. he’s immensely likable, and less mumbly and stiff as most movies starring jcvd, stallone, or seagal. from this new funnyordie video, maybe he’s always had a sense of humor that he doesn’t get to show in his movies.
the movie also surprised me with it’s commentary on the state of the music industry. it kind of pokes fun at the techno pop crap that’s on every now compilation cds or clubs that people like tucker max or ambercrombitch frequents. this aspect probably won’t be dated for a while. it speaks more about the sad state of popular music than the script being sharp. i thought the movie might have been making fun of madonna when we see venus on stage. (or you can make your own connections, anyone from madonna to britney spears to black eyed peas to kesha to lady gaga.) turns out they were, at least according to wikipedia, the venus plot is inspired by madonna performing for russian president putin.
command performance never gets boring, it’s just never quite tense and you never feel like you are there as in die hard. they just seem to run into bad guys randomly and you’re never in doubt what the outcome will be. dolph’s acting and the non-action scenes are actually what pleasantly surprise me the most. i like it about as much as sudden death. it’s kind of like sudden death without the laughable parts. one more draft and a bit polishing, it could have been good. with expectations and budget in mind, i think i enjoy it just a tiny bit more than the expendables. as a whole it’s kind of weird that a die hard-ish movie has more interesting side dishes than the main die hard-ish elements.
i don’t usually criticize acting in movies casue most actors are at worst adequate playing their parts, but in command performance, the only thing i would complain about is that i wish they got an actual actress to play the pop tart. i mean, even fergie was good enough in nine.
the pitch: die hard at a rock concert
bruno, the mcclane surrogate: dolph plays joe the drummer, in die hard with a vengeance mode. dolph actually knows how to drum in real life.
the gruber factor: dave legeno as oleg kazov, who’s pretty menacing as an action movie bad guy but that’s about it. he’s neither funny nor clever like hans gruber. i think he was trying to disguise himself as an ice cream man but the movie never say for sure. do terrorists keep ice cream on hand for their evil plots?
the hans objective: it’s fairly obvious that oleg’s motive is personal. the movie not quite successfully tries to make us think otherwise.
wrong place at the wrong time: though everyone’s trapped in the arena (at least the ones who live) cause there are bombs at every door, supposedly, dolph is actually at the right place at the right time since he’s there on time to play a show. he was smoking a joint in the bathroom when shit starts getting real.
the help: not any outside help, though dolph does have first a russian presidential security leader and then the russian president himself as the sidekick.
the family element: the russian president’s daughters are fans of pop tart venus (melissa smith/molinaro). one of the russian president’s daughters is played by dolph’s daughter ida.
bonfire of the weaponry: knives, machine guns, pistols, drum stick, guitar, amp, steel pipe.
last man standing: there is kind of a one on one at the end between dolph and legeno. though it seems more like luck than brute force or wit.
unbearables: there’s a strong resemblance to sudden death, the jcvd die-hard-at-a-hockey-game movie. dolph has a few one liners, most of them work. dolph is in the bathroom a la mcclane. there’s a reporter who’s supposed to be unlikable but her character never got develop. dolph’s hero seems about as energized as mcclane in die hard with a vengeance. he has an honorable backstory similar to bruce in the last boy scout. dolph improvises weapons like mcclane. the bad guys are in white coats like in die hard 2. kazov takes a family member hostage in the climax, and straps bombs on the hostage like the end of speed 1. oleg also comes back to life after you think he’s already dead. dolph also ges an eyebrow cut after the final fight. dolph lundgren’s real first name is hans.