One offshoot of my plunge into DTV action cinema by way of Steven Seagal, is that I've also rediscovered how terrific Dolph Lundgren is. I have pretty fond memories of his stuff from the late 80's and early 90's, and have been very impressed with his DTV efforts (particularly his directorial job on Missionary Man). A week or so back I got around to watching the latest Dolph release called Retrograde, a sci-fi/time travel thriller in which Dolph goes back to the past to stop a deadly virus outbreak. The film is often referred to as the "lost" Dolph Lundgren film as it was actually made in 2004, but for various reasons had yet to land here in the States. Having now seen the final product I can say it is no mystery as to why it took so long, this one is a pretty weak effort.
I won't spend a lot of time on the plot here, as it's nothing you haven't seen before. The film opens in the future (the year 2209 to be exact) and Earth is dying from a plague released in the present day by an Arctic expedition that uncovered some deadly meteorites buried in the ice. So Dolph and an elite team travel back to prevent the discovery. Unfortunately 75% of Dolph's crew are evil and hijack the ship for some sort of get rich quick scheme that never really makes sense. So the ship crashes, Dolph alone escapes, and the race is on between Dolph and the evil crew members to reach the doomed expedition to realize their independent goals.
Now granted that's a retread of any number of sci-fi films of the past, but I'm a sucker for Arctic sci-fi (especially when it is reminiscent of The Thing). The problem is this film is just plain boring. Firstly, Dolph is actually in this very little. In fact it reminded me a lot of Seagal's recent work in Against the Dark. Dolph gets injured early on and spends the bulk of the time in the expedition's sick bay. He then wakes up toward the end for some poorly staged shootouts. The second problem with this is that the acting is just horrendous (with the exception of Dolph). It's like everyone is reading their lines off cue cards that are just outside of the shot. Honestly, outside of poorly dubbed foreign imports, this is perhaps the worst acting I've ever seen in a film of this standard. Of course stuff like Manos: The Hands of Fate has worse performances, but you expect that. And these guys aren't even amateurs. You have other recognizable folks like Gary Daniels (Fist of the North Star, Steven Seagal's Submerged) who inexplicably don't seem to know what they're doing as well. Finally, the production values on this are wildly hit and miss. You have some great Arctic photography intermingled with horrible CGI and space weaponry that looks like it arrived from the fall Nerf collection . . . really amateur hour.
This is the first time in watching DTV Lundgren that he has shown up in something that echoes the madness of DTV Seagal. Prior to this everything I'd seen him in was competent and entertaining (just lower budgeted than his big screen days). I can't really fault Dolph here though as he does a fine job when he's around, but the rest of this mess just brings everything crashing down. It was all I could do not to hit the fast forward button on this one. If you're a Dolph devotee or a DTV die hard you'll need to check it out, but otherwise stay far away. This is not for the layperson. Instead go rent Showdown In Little Tokyo and you'll feel much, much better : )