Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Mechanik (aka The Russian Specialist)

For those in the barren void of the know, I need to address a few truths. Some of them may or may not relate to the transcendental conundrum that is Dolph Hans Lundgren. But most of them do. Call them ‘home truths’, call them what you will - if these things are not exposed at one point or another they have a tendency to attract mildew. And I’m stuck with the cesspool of responsibility hanging near my internal organs.

Firstly, what is the deal with these vestigial annoyances that plague the tips of our fingers, these so-called nails? I remember not whether I have ever seen that area of Lundgren’s extremity, but it would not shock me to the pit of my spew-bag if it transpired that he had already evolved beyond these superfluous irritations. Secondly, the man once famed for playing red savage to Stallone’s bald eagle patriot, is now nesting in the director’s quadrant. That’s right, to this day Lundgren has directed not one, but a duo of films, the first being 2004’s The Defender, where presumably he played right-back for some English kick-sport team. And shot people.

Following that debut in the chair marked “I am Lundgren, this is my chair, why’d they not bring me back for Universal Soldier 2, I don’t care if my character was dead, I am Lundgren,” he took a much needed rest of two days to ponder what his next filmic outing would be. After a bath in the juice of thirty virgins, the epiphanic hammer smacked him in the jowls and he knew, instinctively, what was to be done. It is a truism to suggest that Lundgren used his eyes to engrave a nearby tree with the synopsis of what was to be his next cinematic bowel-movement, but let it be said anyway. Tautologies aside, that synopsis proliferated in the petri dish of Lundgren’s frontal lobe over another three or four hours before he made the decision to begin shooting later that eve. With the burden of practicality bearing down upon his Swedish schnoz, he opted to tweak his drastic cineaste urgings, and so declared that he’d hold off that visceral impulse for a day or two.

Turned out that that day or two till the commencement of primary shooting was in fact three days. But eventually work began on The Mechanik, as Lundgren entitled it, or The Russian Specialist, as some studio exec entitled it. Of course it’d be wrangling with the chains of the obvious to state in any clear manner that to which I prefer, so I leave it to the oblique reasoning of poetry to delineate any partiality:

The Mechanik, The Mechanik,
Wonders of the soul,
The Mechanik, The Mechanik,
Born of singular virtue.

The Russian Specialist, The Russian Specialist,
Shite title, shite title,
The Russian Specialist, The Russian Specialist,
I waft the putridity of Dean Cain’s reincarnated nappy-mess in your direction, cunt.

So anyway, the film spent a couple of minutes with a screenwriter, and a moment or two with a storyboard artist, and was then thrust into production by the mighty force of Lundgren’s nipples. Like much of the low-budget fodder raising their heads recently, the production makes use of the generous infrastructure of Bulgaria, this time acting as an urban and rural Russia.

Let me pick out a few specks of detail from the synopsis (well look at that, these fingernails actually did turn out to be useful). Lundgren is a former Spetnaz – to me, you and Charlie Sheen, that is a Russian Special Forces peon – whose good lady wife and son are butchered by a nasty Mafioso. Lundgren then kills some of his henchmen, only to be on the receiving battering of an end in the form of a battering dished out by the bad guy trying to form an end to all this mindless battering.

But Lundgren survives a bullet to the chops and winds up servicing Volvos down the road from a Starbucks. His secret arabesques around his wounded personality, and eventually he is approached by some Bourgeois hussy offering him some capital gains to rescue her kidnapped daughter. Course he’s too busy oiling the wheels of the auto industry to be doing much with that, and anyway, he’s Dolph Lundgren, what can she offer him that he doesn’t already hold deep in his glove-compartment of a quintessence? Well unfortunately, despite what lies in that holdall of being situated in his chest, there is something he lacks – the necessary immigration papers that grant him slightly less discrimination than he’d otherwise get in his country of choice. So off he goes to the former-Bolshevik stronghold. Once there, he shoots people, and saves the girl, and shoots people, and has a Sonatine-esque recess on a pastoral landscape painting, and shoots people. As you can see, the variation of themes here is astounding.

Eventually Lundgren belches a vengeance - the simplicity of which would have Chan Wook Park choking on his squid - and blows the cerebral matter of the bad guy all over the place, rather akin to accepted notions of the big bang. I’ll assume that our messianic director is making a intentional statement here; to paraphrase his visual utterance: Lundgren began the totality of existence back in the day, probably around 1987, by the impact of bullet on flesh, or, on the larger metaphysical level, the impact of Lundgren’s purity - his noumenal spirit - on the dark matter of nothingness. But that’s just my interpretation.

The Mechanik circulates the stylistic traits like a moth around the saturated glow of a Tony Scott movie. And proceedings do proceed on a dolly of stylisation; Lundgren’s no fool, not that anyone would make such an accusation, but nevertheless do note his master’s degree from the University of Sydney. That’s right. The cinematography here floats around like a truncated Narc, or a vasectomized Usual Suspects; plenty of colourisation, and oodles of grit flung in the white of your eyes. Thanks Dolph.

I’ve long assumed Lundgren a bollard on the balustrade of temporarily, and the proof rips through his pixelated scrag in this film. His use of slow-motion on screen might seem to the casual observer to be post-production editing marvels, but to those who might take a interest veering on keen, they would know that Lundgren has actually slowed down time for those shots. He has harnessed the temporal flow of the continuum, lassoed the palpitating neck of time’s very contemptuous sprint around us, and tamed its wild pulsations with an upbeat squint in his eyes.

His eyes, like paper cuts in the papier-mache of his face, are in a continuous struggle with the surrounding musculature. Maybe I’m just being flippant and insolent, and it turns out that he does in fact grasp the Sun no more than a few inches from his head. I wouldn’t be surprised. Perhaps it’s a mixture of that, and Father Time’s pernicious belt-whips, that has turned Lundgren’s once-handsome complexion into the topography of an old boot, or the twisted physiognomy of Eric Roberts on a bad day. Nah scratch that, on a good day. Things aren’t that bad, Jesus Christ.

The Mechanik is topped off with a cameo from one of the guys who enjoyed reading Milton with Van Damme in last year’s In Hell. Plus plenty of scantily unclad ladies; some even coked off their faces watching the Criterion DVD of The Silence whilst a thuggish art-house critic reads them the Dogme manifesto in eight different languages.

Sadly, in spite of much effort, Lundgren fails to jump that chasm straddling action monotony and action hilarity all too often in this film. The dullard buzzards circle overhead regularly as the lads drive around for a while, then stop for a while, then drive some more. Then some shooting and standing and shooting and etcetera. And witty one-liners? My tear ducts are still replete with what should have been cried out in spasming guffaws much earlier today, such is the vacuous immobility of lack in the quip department.

His advances into the realm of Euro cinema also seem rather premature, but I do foresee the gravestone of Fellini languishing in the rancid urinations of a Lundgren before too long. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a remake of the Italian auteur’s 8 ½ coming soon – but of course it’d be something in the realm of 38 ½ to accommodate Lundgren’s massive presence. And it’d probably be biographic. And it’d probably have less dreams. And it’d probably have Lundgren shoot a few people.


Anonymous Pavel Titov said...

But Lundgren survives a bullet to the chops and winds up servicing Volvos down the road from a Starbucks.

A-not-wide-known-fact: there is no Starbucks in Russia yet.

10:04 pm  
Blogger Aaron Fleming said...

Actually he moved to the US and was living there at the time, something that I probably didn't make clear enough. Thanks for the comment anyway.

10:09 pm  

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