Director: Bruce Malmuth
Screenplay: William Stadiem, Gary T. McDonald , Gary DeVore
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, David Soul, Renée Coleman, Roger E. Mosley
Producer: Martin E. Caan
Running Time: 96 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
Anchor Bay kill two birds with one stone with the release of the Dolph Lundgren vehicle Pentathlon. Alongside Hijacked (which I reviewed recently) and a Chuck Norris double bill of A Force of One and The Octagon (reviews coming soon), Pentathlon is being released on Blu-Ray and DVD to tie in with the forthcoming release of The Expendables 2. Then on top of this, the film, which is set in the world of athletics, is clearly relevant to the Olympic Games 2012 which are launched today in London.
East German pentathlete Eric Brogar (Lundgren) is trained by a tyrannical coach, Heinrich Mueller (David Soul), who will stop at nothing to make sure that the East Germans prove their superiority over the rest of the world. After winning Olympic Gold in Seoul, Eric finally decides to break free from the evil clutches of Mueller and escapes to the West to be with American athlete Julia Davis (Renée Coleman). Unfortunately he gets shot along the way as Mueller won’t let his prize get away that easily.
We skip forward a couple of years and Eric is down and out. His relationship with Julia has gone sour, he’s become an alcoholic, his injury has ruined his career and the fall of the Berlin Wall makes him regret his hasty decision to leave the country. Luckily, after taking a job flipping burgers, his employer John Creese (Roger E. Mosley) discovers Eric’s talents and convinces him to get his life back on track, literally as well as figuratively by training him up for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Atlanta. Mueller, meanwhile, has been driven underground with the newly reformed Germany putting fascists like him out of action and now he works with a group of neo-Nazis intent on putting a stop to this unity and freedom. This mission brings him to L.A. where he wants to put an explosive stop to a German speaker at a peace rally. Of course, while he is there he discovers Eric’s bid to enter the Games for team USA and adds personal revenge to his list of evil deeds during his Stateside visit.
So Chariots of Fire this ain’t. Pentathlon is an odd film which is the last title you’d expect to get picked up for a modern Blu-Ray re-release. It’s not your usual straight to video 90’s action movie, but it’s also not the classy thriller it probably wants to be either. Bizarrely though, I think that’s why I found myself enjoying the film. It’s by no means what most would consider a ‘good’ film, but somewhere between the ludicrous plot, my retro action nostalgia and the enjoyably hammy performances of Soul and Mosley I found myself drawn to its nonsense. Considering its silly premise though, the film takes itself very seriously. There are very few wisecracks (other than Mosley who acts as light comic relief) and more time is spent on the drama than on the action. Usually this is a recipe for disaster in a film like this, but again, I think I just enjoyed watching the po-faced way this strange sports-action-thriller went about its business.
To be fair the drama isn’t awful. It’s loaded with cheese of course and although some of the performances are fun to watch, they’re hardly subtle. Lundgren isn’t a great actor, but I always found him to be a stronger performer than most of his contemporaries such as Van Damme, Seagal and Norris. He just about carries off the lead role here, helped by the fact that he easily passes for a star athlete with his powerful yet natural looking physique (his body doesn’t have the same freakish look that Schwarzenegger’s had). Of course, when I say the drama is OK, you still can’t take it all that seriously when you’ve got a neo-Nazi athletics instructor planning to fire a rocket launcher at a speaker at a peace rally.
So, if you’re a fan of cheesy 80’s/90’s action curios you’ll probably find yourself buying into this film like I did, but if your mind ever stops to think about what you’re watching you will see it for the ridiculous trash that it is.
Pentathlon is out on 30th July on DVD and Blu-Ray, released by Anchor Bay. I got sent the Blu-Ray and the picture and sound quality are decent although I got some digital grain problems in patches of flat bright colour, especially the sky, although this was only obviously apparent when viewing on a HD projector, so it could have been an issue with my equipment or blowing it up to such a size.
There are no special features on the disc unfortunately.