Men of War (1995)
Men of War (1995)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: December 19th, 1995 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Perry Lang Actors: Dolph Lundgren, Charlotte Lewis, BD Wong, Anthony John Denison, Tim Guinee, Don Harvey, Tiny “Zeus” Lister, Tom Wright, Catherine Bell, Trevor Goddard, Kevin Tighe

 


 

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wedish mercenary Nicholas Gunar (Dolph Lundgren) practically lives on the streets now, using alcohol as comfort from the cold and in place of real food. His reprehensible past haunts him to such a degree that he’s unable to reintegrate into society. And though he has no interest in revisiting his old profession, a recommendation by trainer and longtime friend Colonel Merrick (Kevin Tighe) is enough to coerce him into reassembling his old crew.

Traveling from Chicago to New York to San Diego and even to Bangkok, Gunar recruits all the men from his special forces team for a “pushover of an operation, with no casualties,” arranged by a couple of cocky businessmen (one of whom is Thomas Gibson of “Criminal Minds” fame). Their mission is to journey to a tiny island in the South China Sea, where nitrogen and jade mining rights need to be acquired (for the company NitroMine). Gunar and his squadron are employed to lean on the locals to convince them to sign a contract. It sounds simple enough, and the location promises to be a warm, tropical paradise, full of willing prostitutes.

Of course, it’s not long before their booze-soaked revelry transforms into a massive bar fight, which is broken up by the self-proclaimed Minister of Defense, Keefer (Trevor Goddard), a vicious soldier-of-fortune who just so happens to know Gunar. Although he was probably instructed to do so, Goddard exaggerates and overacts his part to such an extreme that it’s difficult not only to take him seriously, but also to merely watch him. He’s not sarcastic enough to be funny, and he’s not sincerely evil enough to be frightful. Sadly, this primary villain is mostly just pitiful.

To change up the masculine (though ethnically diverse) platoon of musclebound warriors is Catherine Bell as Grace, though she too is a tough, capable killer. These troops are largely unfeeling juggernauts, cracking a few jokes but rarely generating genuine emotions, which makes it quite the challenge to view them as heroes. Nevertheless, when the belligerent locals whom Gunar is supposed to pressure turn out to be peaceful, poor fishermen, primed for a merciless massacring, it’s up to these men of war to defend the defenseless.

The plot doesn’t feel original at all, yet it lends its premise to both “Solo” and “Soldier” and possibly a great number of other generic action pictures (including, in part, “The Expendables”). But it’s not actually the storytelling that is so problematic; it’s the pacing. For a mindless blow-’em-up thriller, “Men of War” spends a lot of time having its characters party, learn the traditions of the natives, romance one another, and bicker over partnerships or money or motives. There’s even time for a sex scene.

Despite the mining company pointlessly wanting signed documents (from village elders who don’t understand English and who certainly have no specific authority over the territory), which makes little sense without a recognized government (the miners are corrupt opportunists, after all), the stage is set for a war-paint-adorned, bullet-riddled, explosive-heavy showdown. And it can’t come soon enough, what with all the filler drama that wastes precious screentime. Sequences of combat at the finale aren’t too shabby, though they’re disjointed and random, as if devised without any interest in continuity, and with characters continually sprinting back and forth across unidentifiable stretches of jungle. And they’re definitely not exciting enough to compensate for the film’s overall slowness.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10