For a DTV action movie starring Dolph Lundgren, "Direct Action" is pretty good. Lundgren's definitely made some better ones, but on the whole, his 26th starring outing is a solid vehicle. It's not as flashy or bombastic as I'd like it to be and the style of action isn't quite what I had hoped for, but in Dolph's case, no one can really complain if a movie of his surpasses the 'acceptable' mark. If you're already a fan, you can buy the film without much reservation, but newbies to Lundgren should start somewhere else.
The story: Frank Gannon (Lundgren) is a police officer set to testify against the activities of the department's Direct Action unit - a coalition of veteran officers undertaking illegal operations for the sake of money. On the day before his visit to court, he's paired with a rookie officer (Polly Shannon, Men With Brooms) and is almost immediately caught up in a plot of the DA brotherhood to retire him permanently.
It becomes quickly apparent that the film was shot under a small budget and minimal resources - few tripods, an unflexible lighting scheme, and loosely-choreographed action - but rather than letting this drag the movie down, director Sidney Furie (Iron Eagle) maintains excellent production values to turn the stripped-down look into the film's style without making it look fudged, turning technical deficiencies into the choice look of a gritty cop thriller. The only real production decisions that I can find fault with is the choice of soundtrack (a repetitious selection of grating rap and electronic music) and the rather noticeable goof that all of the cars being shot up display no bullet holes. Oh, and the special features - a rarity on any Lundgren DVD - aren't all that great.
The action is good...for a DTV film. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the violence is that it's the most karate-friendly since Lundgren's Bridge of Dragons: Dolph bangs out the kicks, punches, and throws to a respectable extent, and this alone should make the film appeal to fans who feel that the Swedish Superman doesn't use his hand-to-hand talents nearly enough. It's a bit of a disappointment that all of his fights are relatively short and one-sided, but apparently that's the trade-off for seeing the big man throw roundhouse kicks at all these days. Surprisingly, the gunfights help make up for this: while the aforementioned no-holes snafu is evident most of the time and the shootouts themselves are nothing revolutionary, both Lundgren and the bad-guys put themselves out there and get shot up enough so that there's some actual excitement to be gained from these scenes, which there is no shortage of.
There's not all too much to be said as far as the acting goes other than that nobody's awful: looking amazingly fit and powerful for a man approaching 50, Lundgren fits the role of veteran cop well, while Polly Shannon likewise does good with a few slip-ups, and miscellaneous co-stars Donald Burda (The Highwayman), Rothaford Gray (Max Payne), and Conrad Dunn (Silent Trigger) are generally passable in their roles as assorted good cops and bad cops. Not much to complain about, but nothing to roll out the red carpet for, either.
On its own, "Direct Action" is unremarkable, but as a Lundgren action vehicle, it's a hopeful example that the man can still deliver. If expectations are kept low and the film is watched in the company of some popcorn or a hotdog or two, fans are likely to have a good time with it. Give it a try.