The story: Mike Riggins (Lundgren), an ex-Special Forces veteran of Kosovo, is promised release from his unjust incarceration at a Bulgarian prison by a shady businessman (Michael Paré, Streets of Fire) if he can rescue an American woman (Gina May, "Undressed", "Malibu, CA") from the control of a sadistic general (Bashar Rahal, Hannibal: Rome's Worst Nightmare). However, when it becomes clear that the girl was not kidnapped but is being stalked for darker reasons, Mike must fight for his life as he attempts to bring her safely to the American embassy.
If nothing else, "Direct Contact" stands out for being the most action-packed of all of Lundgren's recent pre-Expendables fare. More so than any of the no-namers who wrangled Dolph's fare in the last several years, director Danny Lerner (Sharks in Venice) realized what fans want to see the Swedish Superman involved in and delivers it satisfactorily: three hand-to-hand fights, three big car chases, a smattering of shootouts, and more blowing up of stuff than in the latest Rambo movie. Van Damme and Seagal have yet to find themselves a vehicle which so admirably brings back the over-the-top action content of yesteryear like Lundgren has, and for this, this one should be of immediate interest to fans.
However, the styling of all this mayhem might be a bit too over-the-top for some more conservative action fans. The car chases in particular are notable for the sheer amount of destruction they cause to the city environment - so much that it almost seems cartoony. Make no mistake, everything is pretty well put together (not to mention exciting: shades of Death Race on the second chase), but you could make an argument whether requiring this much suspension of disbelief is appropriate for an action film that's otherwise played straight. I mean, these goons practically rip the entire city apart in their hunt for one guy on a motorcycle! Additionally, the fistfights aren't the best you should expect from the karate expert: while there's at least one roundly satisfying exchange Dolph has with a no-name soldier, the two others are a bit too awkwardly-staged to count as great. A few short skirmishes are sprinkled between the main brawls, but these hardly count towards anything: a good representative of these occurs when Lundgren is lifted up bodily and slammed against the wall by an attacker but cuts the fight short by promptly shooting him. What, was he afraid of being upstaged?
The production values are good all around. The movie team makes fine use of its shooting locations in the Bulgarian capital, so that despite the relative grayness of the color palate, the movie is never dull to look at. The acting from everybody is acceptably hammy, although I couldn't help but feel that Michael Paré was miscast as the slimy, underhanded villain: sure, he has a decent little punching exchange with Dolph at the end of the movie (SPOILER! - not to mention a pretty spectacular death), but considering his credentials, it would've been nice to see him in a more physical and/or intimidating role. On the other hand, the villains in general are certainly done up something nasty: never before have so many innocent bystanders kicked it just because the bad guys were jerks, as seen when Paré's character shoots an entire homeless family to death just because they couldn't understand English. In Bulgaria. What I said: over-the-top.
It's kinda hard to describe the general temperament of the film. On one hand, the director and production team were obviously trying to make "Direct Contact" the most explosive flick Dolph had gunned to in a while, but Lundgren himself almost seems to be phoning it in, especially when it comes to his sorry-looking kicks. When it comes to enthusiasm, the film is certainly unbalanced, but in the end, it's definitely worth buying. With a bit more oomph from the right participants, this one could've been a classic, but at this stage in Dolph's career, fans must be content with "pretty good."