Missionary Man (2008)
Missionary Man (2008)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: January 22nd, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Dolph Lundgren Actors: Dolph Lundgren, Kateri Walker, Chelsea Ricketts, Matthew Stephens Tompkins, John Montoya, John Enos III, Morgana Shaw, James Chalke

 


 

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ssentially a retelling of Clint Eastwood’s “Pale Rider,” which is itself a second-rate rehash of George Stevens’ “Shane,” Dolph Lundgren’s “Missionary Man” simply doesn’t have enough original elements to separate it from the rest of the direct-to-DVD fare. Some scenes work, especially those in which the hulking main character Ryder (who remains nameless in the film) wipes the floors with villains, but a lack of strong action moments and noteworthy storytelling prevent “Missionary Man” from being even slightly memorable. This goes right along with Lundgren’s recent trend of churning out indistinguishable projects, including “The Russian Specialist” and “Diamond Dogs.”

An enigmatic man-with-no-name (Dolph Lundgren), who drinks tequila and reads from a tattered bible, rumbles into town on his old-fashioned chopper to attend the funeral of J.J., a friend who recently died by drowning. J.J.’s family won’t accept his death as an accident, instead blaming local oppressor Reno (Matthew Stephens Tompkins), a vicious man who rules the town by fear and plots to build a casino on the neighboring reservation to fuel his drug-smuggling business. The tall, blonde-haired mystery man quickly causes problems for Reno when he begins to assault hired hands and interfere with Reno’s underhanded practices. Soon he finds himself the target of Jarfe (John Enos III) and his murderous motorcycle gang, a motley mob of miscreants out to end the disruption of their partner’s plotting. But a powerful wrath of vengeance fuels the steely-eyed stranger – and no sin shall go unpunished.

“No sin shall go unpunished” is also the tagline for the film, but oddly enough there are plenty of sins that go unrecompensed – and they all belong to Ryder. An antihero vigilante who goes above and beyond murdering for vengeance, Ryder exhibits no emotions as he blows people away with his sawed-off shotgun. What makes his actions even more controversial is the fact that he reads from a bible and imparts the idea that what he does is somehow in league with God. Knocking back shots of tequila nonstop also makes for an interesting contrast in a character that is supposedly “doing the right thing.”

Audiences will side with Ryder just the same, since thinking is not required in such generic actioners, and stunts, adventure, and ass-kicking are the highlights of the story. Sadly, Lundgren chooses not to do all that many stunts or even participate in all that many fight sequences. Quick and fancy camera edits make the brawls appear more dramatic than they really are, but when the climax involves simply shooting baddies with a gun, it seems a misuse of Lundgren’s well-known martial arts talents (though he is noticeably aging).

Channeling the Terminator, Dolph speaks few words, constantly sports shades, and mimics Clint Eastwood’s famous man-with-no-name. He sweeps into town with violence on his mind, obvious just from his rugged appearance. With terribly cliché events, incredibly mediocre dialogue that sounds recycled from other cheesy action flicks, and slow-motion shots all in the wrong spots (such as before and after a fight scene, instead of in the middle of the action), “Missionary Man” doesn’t ever break away from the idea that it is blatantly reusing the exact same aspects that were appealing in other films. Content with copying rather than bringing something new to the table, the best bits occur when Ryder throws out snappy one-liners to random rogues before he brutally executes them – a gimmick that hasn’t really been fresh in ages.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10