Tuesday, March 23, 2010

'Dollman'... 13 inches with an attitude

Dollman (1991)
Starring: Tim Thomerson, Kamala Lopez, Jackie Earle Haley and Humberto Ortiz
Director: Albert Pyun
Producers: Cathy Gesualdo and Charles Band
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Brick Bardo (Thomerson), the toughest cop on the distant world of Auturus, crashlands his spaceship on Earth while pursuing a dangerous criminal through a spacial anomoly. He proceeds to defend a single mother (Lopez) against a violent gang in the South Bronx, proving that size isn't everything because Brick stands only thirteen inches tall, and he is now in a world of giants.


"Dollman" is a fun, fast-paced sci-fi action comedy where Tim Thomerson gets to show off his roots as a comedian even while playing one of the toughest action heroes to ever grace the silver screen. (Has any Bruce Willis characters taken on an army of giants carrying automatic firearms? How about Vin Diesel? Arnold Schwartzenegger? James Cagney? Douglas Fairbanks? No, they have not!) Thomerson has some very funny interplay with his new giant friends, even while doing a very funny take-off on Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry character in the way Brick Bardo talks and carries himself. (The opening scene on Bardo's homeworld where he deals with a hostage situation in a fashion that would make Harry proud is one of this film's high points.)

It might be the New York setting or the way the street gang behaves, but "Dollman" feels more like a Troma Film than a typical Charles Band production--it's closer in feel and tone to "Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD" than any Band film I've seen so far. This isn't a bad thing, though... it can lead to all sorts of "what-if" fantasies regarding possible creative bi-costal team-ups by two of the greatest B-movie moguls of the late 20th century, Charles Band and Lloyd Kaufman. (How about "Toxic Avenger vs. the Demonic Toys", "Surf Nazis Must Kill the Puppet Master" or "Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD: The Case of the Killer Bong" anyone?)

The film is blessed with a talented cast, all of whom are perfectly cast in their parts and who have good lines to deliver. The special effects are passable and the action and humor is top-notch.

Unfortunately, this is another Full Moon feature that is simply too short for it to be as good as it might have been. This would have been a much stronger film if more time spent on developing the characters in the movie, primarily some of the connections between the people Bardo encounters Earth-side. (For example, there seems to be history between the gangleader and the single mom, but we never get to learn what that is. Knowing that could have lent more impact to the film's conclusion.)

It's also unfortunate that instead of adding such character development scenes, the filmmakers chose to pad the already brief running time with several stretches of random city scenes. Director Albert Pyun establishes the rundown Bronx neighborhood every effectively when Brick Bardo first crashes there, but then he establishes it again and again, for no real good reason. The end result is a film that clocks in about 70 minutes, but it really probably just shy of an hour long.

However, the padding isn't to the degree where it's destructive; it's just a shame that it's there in place of more important story matter that should have been present in the film. Despite its flaws, "Dollman" is one of the best films to issue forth from Charles Band's idea factory and it's another reason why the late 1980s and early 1990s is the Full Moon Golden Age.







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