The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

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--Matt

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Army of One aka Joshua Tree (1993)

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My friends and I first came across this classic when we fell for the Punisher bait-and-switch. We were looking all over for the good Punisher-- the one with DTVC Hall of Famer Dolph Lundgren in it. Most places only carried the new bad version with Travolta and a grimacing Thomas Jane. Anyway, this Bangor video store that rented both mainstream and porn videos told us over the phone that they had the film. They didn't, it was the new one, but we found this bad boy instead. If you're wondering, I eventually had to purchase the good Punisher from Amazon.

Joshua Tree or Army of One has Dolph as a trucker shipping illegal cargo for a dealer named Jimmy Shoeshine and a crooked cop played by Just Shoot Me's George Segal. Things go bad when a bike cop pulls Dolph and his driving partner over, and the partner and bike cop end up dead with Dolph taking the rap. While being moved from one detention center to another, two guards try to kill him, and he takes them out. Now he's on the run and he wants revenge. He takes Days of Our Lives star Kristian Alfonso as a hostage, and when she sees his too sweet abs she decides he's the side to be on. Now he's just gotta clear his name before the net closes in.

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This is a good time-- not that it ever isn't when Dolph's involved. There were some great chase scenes, especially later on when Dolph steals a red Ferrari and Segal counters with a Lamborghini. It was like the old days when me and my friends had Micro Machines and debated which car was cooler. If the chases weren't enough, there was plenty of shooting and explosions, and Dolph brought it in the fight scene department. Finally, just to complete the action film paradigm, Kristian Alfonso shows off her boobs. Cars, karate, explosions, and boobs: what more could you want?

Dolph was great in this except for one thing: his character name. Wellman Santee. What kind of shit is that? Look at the awesome Tank Concrete-esque names Dolph's had over the years: Lance Rockford (Defender), Sam Decker (Detention), Jack Devlin (Blackjack), Ivan Drago (Rocky IV), just to name four. In his newest three films he goes by Mike Riggins, Ryder, and Xander Ronson. How can any self-respecting film maker think Wellman Santee is a name associated with a guy who kicks as much ass as Dolph does? Someone should've made an executive decision and dubbed over all mentions of Wellman Santee with the name Brock Gridiron, or Todd Jackhammer, or... well, you get the idea.

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Interesting choice for George Segal as the main baddie. He did Just Shoot Me about four years after this was released, but I didn't see it until well after I'd gotten to know him from the show. I just couldn't marry the concept of him as a crooked cop with the him I knew as a fashion magazine owner in my mind. I was waiting for David Spade to give him advice on how to kill Dolph. This is why it's important to cast the right baddie when making a film like this. Think of the guy from Die Hard: he never goes out of style. Neither does Brian Thompson. On the other hand, I can't think of someone I would've cast in place of Segal. He kind of fits. Maybe William Shatner or George Takei would be better, but that's it.

Anyone who's a fan of Days would recognize Kristian Alfonso as Dolph's leading lady. My mom was actually a fan of the ABC soaps, so I didn't come into contact with Alfonso until college, when a neighbor in my dorm watched it. He and I had class at the same time, and I would shoot over to his room and we would leave together. He always had to wait until Days was over to go, though, and so I followed the soap's storyline for an entire semester with only the last five minute wrap-ups each day. Anyway, with that in mind, I was pretty surprised when I saw her topless in this film. The only thing I can see is that in 1993 she'd been doing Days for ten years, and wanted to get into films, and figured this would be a way to break out of her soap star mold. Based on her imdb resume, it didn't work.

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There are some great co-stars and cameos in this. The sheriff helping Segal track down Dolph is played by Geoffrey Lewis, the guy who raised one of the Van Dammes in Double Impact. Dolph's murdered driving partner is played by Ken Foree. You may remember him both from Kenan and Kel, and Dawn of the Dead. In Dawn he was the guy who survived with the blond chick. I loved at the beginning when he tells her "I've lost a lot of brothers today", and she says "real brothers... or soul brothers?" to which he replies "both". His widow is played by CSI: Miami's Khandi Alexander. George Segal's wife is played by Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas. Then there's Nick Chinlund, who plays Lewis's deputy. You may know him from Chronicles of Riddick as the guy telling Vin Diesel "You should've dusted my dick when you had the chance."

Much of the film draws illusions to the Bogart classic High Sierra, and I get those. But I see another film and theater parallel: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire. Much of Dolph's manhandling of both Kristian Alfonso and Michelle Phillips reminds me of Stanley Kowalski. One thing we know about that was Kowalski embodied some of Williams' own fantasies regarding being manhandled by a brutish young man. I'm not sure if the director or script writer is depicting his desires for Dolph through the women in this film, or if he just has a low opinion of women and thinks they need to be thrown around and roughed up from time to time. Either way, in both cases (Alfonso and Phillips), the female characters seemed to enjoy it.

This is a definite one to watch. It's in my top 15 of Dolph films. Even if you're not the Dolph fanatic I am, the bad action-ness of it alone is worth it. Like I said, it fills all the main categories of a great bad movie: cars, karate, explosions, and boobs. Plus there's plenty of recognizable faces. If you haven't seen this before, give it a shot. I've seen it listed more frequently on DVD as Army of One, but you may see it as Joshua Tree as well, so look for both.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106309/

3 comments:

  1. I came across your blog just by accident when looking up Joshua Tree (one of my favourite bad ass movies).
    I have this on VHS but I want to get it on DVD. I noticed you didn't have Robert Ginty on your list (one of his earlier "bad" films was "The Exterminator", and Robert is another one of my favourite direct to video bad action actors along with Wings Hauser. The 80's was the period when a lot of these films were released and I rented most of them from my local video store.

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  2. It's crazy that I haven't reviewed a Robert Ginty film. He's definitely an icon. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. it seems that a woman named crystal breeze actually did alfonso's nude scenes in this movie.

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