Bridge of Dragons (1999)
What we have today is a fairly entertaining action movie staring the awesome Dolph Lundgren, one of the most memorable of the Stallone-Clones that came out of America's 1980's fascination with blowing stuff up and killing people. Most of the movies I review come to me via grainy pan-and-scan public domain DVD-R burns or fuzzy 25-year old VHS rips off late light cable, but my copy of Bridge of Dragons is a crystal clear factory fresh disc from HBO Films and the quality of my screen captures reflects this. However, awesome picture clearness can't make up for horrible dialogue and lame acting, both of which are in ample supply here.
Ok, enough of an intro, on to the show now...
You know a movie I absolutely love? 1996's Mars Attacks!, Tim Burton's quirky campy sci-fi extravaganza staring half of Hollywood's A-listers and featuring some of the best bug-eyed alien monsters after our women you will ever see. Of course, it has become one of those "target movies", a favorite whipping boy of oh-so-smart movie reviewers and I-only-watch-Fellini professional critics, and most especially of that particularly irritating class of movie buffs who dwell on the IMDb user comments section. These pretentious fuckwits need to be shot. The best part of Mars Attacks! was how deliberately anachronistic it was. Spoofing the alien invasion films of the 1950s, while still set in the 1990s, the film featured a wild mix of 50s cars and fashions, 90s technology and dialogue, and dashes of every decade in between. The military hardware was especially anachronistic, with old M-47 tanks getting intelligence from the Hubble Space Telescope. Where is all this going? Well, Bridge of Dragons is actually one of the more deliberately anachronistic films I've seen since Mars Attacks!. The clothes, the vehicles, the hair, everything, are all from a mix of different eras, from the Dark Ages to the present day, and it is fun to try and catch the anachronisms when they appear.
The timeline is pure Alternate History it seems, a time in the future after Japan and Germany won WWII and the world was changed forever. Our story is set in some unnamed European country, certainly around the late 1990s or so. The government of this country is a monarchy (!), though it's in a bit of a shambles right now. The old king, much beloved by his subjects, recently died in an "accident". His sole heir was his underage daughter (a princess), who was too young to take the throne. In her stead, the leader of the Army took over as "temporary" regent until such time as the princess could rule. This, of course, is a story that has been repeated throughout history, from 5th century Spain to the Empress Dowager Cixi, and it almost never ends well for both the kingdom and the young heir (who often ended up dead).
Anyway, in any oppressive society there are those who would rebel against the authority. In our movie there is indeed a fairly active and militant rebellion brewing in the hinterlands and amongst the slums of the cities. They tend to be disaffected peasants more than duplicitous middle class or scheming elites, and there doesn't seem to be more than a hundred men-at-arms total.
On to our opening combat scene. First off, Bridge of Dragons was filmed in Bulgaria, which naturally looks like an oppressed wasteland. Bulgaria, like all of Eastern Europe, is an excellent place to film these sorts of movies in as it's populated entirely by out-of-work soldiers, well-dressed techno club dancers, dastardly criminal masterminds, and flexible porn stars who dream only of sleeping with me . The old Cold War architecture and Slavic drabness also make for impressively dreary and depressing landscapes for a variety of film productions that need that "certain look" (Underworld and Hellboy come to mind, but there are hundreds more out there).
Anyway, I keep tangenting, sorry. As we open, a band of rebels has just hit an Army base and wiped it out. How these seemingly disorganized revolutionaries managed to do this probably speaks more to the state of the Army than anything else, and later observations of the poor quality of both discipline and morale (as well as deficient equipment) only back up my initial dicey assessment of the military.
The rebels loot the base, check that cool BTR back there, I want one. Actually, it looks like they rented just this one vehicle for the movie and just drove it back and forth to make it seem like they had dozens.
Let's meet our film's hero, the head-shakingly named Warchild, a mercenary in the pay of the ruling government and a bane to the rebellion. Warchild is played by 42-year old Dolph Lundgren, a hulking uber-Nordic Swede who has specialized over his career in playing big dumb violent brutes, despite being a Fulbright Scholar at MIT and by all accounts a perfect gentleman off-camera. To me, and to most of the huddled masses out there, Lundgren will always be Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, droning "I must break you" as his Stalin-loving nostrils flared.
An impressive amount of military hardware is on display in this opening scene. There are Czech-made Vz-25 submachineguns, common-as-dirt AK-47s, oddly-out-of-place British Sten guns, and even a Carl Gustav rocket launcher. A number of former Bulgarian Army vehicles are to be seen, including big Ural cargo trucks and a few hulking BTR-60 Armored Personnel Carriers.
The Kalashnikov has been all over the news lately, as the new Iraqi Army has chosen it over the M-16, much to the embarrassment of the US Army (who really should know better).
Riding into battle in a pair of beat up old UAZ jeeps, Warchild and his mercenary team mates cut a bloody swath through the rebels. We can tell from the first gunshot that this is going to be one of those action movies where every single shot the hero fires hits the mark, while the bad guys can unleash a tidal wave of bullets and never hit anything. Nothing, and I mean nothing, annoys me more in a firefight than when twenty guys with machineguns fire like mad at the hero's vehicle from ten yards away while the hero stands up fully exposed in the back, and not one single bullet even comes close (well, other than the standard oh-so-cliched single thunking hit in the windshield that causes the hero to blink casually before mowing down everyone in sight).
Must have a cloaking device.
Once the shooting is over, two helicopters come beating in. They are old Russian-made Mi-8 Hips, surely former Bulgarian Army machines, painted white and with the standard "666" tags on the sides of the fuselages (oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that for some inexplicable reason, the Army's emblem is Satan's street address, which I guess is a less-than-subtle way of telling us that they are evil). With them come a number of trucks and APCs, all loaded with soldiers who begin securing the area and rounding up prisoners.
Russia built some suitably menacing-looking helicopters.
From one of the helicopters steps a dangerous man named General Ruechang, the leader of the military and the regent to the throne. Reuchang is played by 49-year old Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, a fairly noteworthy martial arts actor who is currently a masseuse for the University of Hawaii football team (seriously).
To show us just how epically badass Reuchang is, we get a little set-up scene where a particularly cantankerous rebel talks some smack to the General as he's being led to his death in some concentration camp. Ruechang shows an impressive set of kung fu moves and then cuts the man's throat with an ornate samurai sword.
Ok, enough of that macho stuff. Let's go back to "the city" and meet the beautiful Princess Halo. The Princess technically holds the throne but is overshadowed by Ruechang (he controls the Army) and is little more than a figurehead with no power. Princess Halo is played by Valerie Chow (here credited as "Rachel Shane"), an absolutely lovely 29-year old Hong Kong native who has been in a large number of Cantonese-language movies, none of which I have seen. Despite her in-the-shadows role in the kingdom, the princess is strong willed and fiercely independent, and she's not happy that the violent butcher Ruechang intends to marry her and become king.
Princess Halo (and calm down, this is the closest we get to porn in the entire movie).
Halo has an old lady Nurse, who has served the royal household for decades. She, in fact, was Halo's father's (the dead king) secretary and has a lot of secrets. She's overly protective of Halo, who she has raised from a pup, and they have a very nice relationship built on trust and love.
This old lady worked with Monty Python, that's cool.
Halo has a bit of a wild side to her, and she likes to do things normal princesses do not. Every now and then, Halo goes to in the city beyond the palace walls, dressed as non-descript as she can (though it seems that she's been sequestered in the palace for so long that hardly anyone knows what she looks like anyway). The city beyond her safe-haven is fairly typical of the sort of grimy, run-down post-fall cities that litter Eastern Europe. A mix of shabbily-dressed peasants and only-slightly-better off merchants rub shoulders with patrols of soldiers and policemen in the crowded, narrow streets. Halo is here to visit a Fight Club, and get her rocks off playing dangerous games with dangerous people.
Halo, dressed like Queen Amidala, walks the mean streets.
The Fight Club is one of those seedy dive bars where the unwashed masses drink ale, chase hookers, and watch people pummel each other for sport. The center of the bar is open, containing about three dozen wooden poles, each sawed off to about four feet high and set in rows. This forest of poles sits in a big puddle of pig shit and mud, which is not a good combination. Contestants fight each other on top of these posts, using long wooden poles to try and knock each other off into the mud, American Gladiator-style.
Rocket, Hurricane and Siren do battle in the Eliminator.
Warchild is here, getting some exercise against the locals, when Halo comes in, a thick padded mask covering her face. Halo and Warchild fight last. He doesn't realize she's a woman (preposterous) even when he gets a good look at her soft, feminine eyes and what are obviously boobs poorly covered with a thick burlap coat. This is actually a pretty well-acted and tense fight, as are most of the hand-to-hand scenes in this movie. Checking my facts, however, I see that Akihiro Noguchi was the fight choreographer, a man mostly known for his work on Power Ranger series (I guess much of my reading audience still watches these shows, though, and even collects the "action figures"). In the end, Warchild cheats by throwing mud in her face, but she gets the last laugh by pulling him down into the mud when he offers her a hand up. She then runs off.
Stuntmen dressed like Warchild and Halo get it on.
Halo makes it back to her room, dirty and undoubtedly smelling like pig manure, to find a very pissed Ruechang waiting for her. She gets lippy, he gets mad, and he ends us slapping her across the face and storming out. The old Nurse comes to her aid and agrees with Halo when she says she can't marry such a man. The Nurse then tells her a story, something that she hasn't told anyone for fear of her own life. It seems that the old king (Halo's father) didn't die in an accident, but was killed by Ruechang! The Nurse saw it herself, but never told anyone (why? And I hope that Ruechang doesn't know this, because she would have been dead long ago). This comes as an incredible shock to Halo, and she's mad as a hornet at Ruechang. She can't really do much about it, though, as Ruechang controls the courts and the military, but you just know she's planning something.
All couples fight before the wedding, really.
The wedding day comes, the palace fills with well-dressed guests and military officers in dress blues. Princess Halo, wearing a stunning white beaded gown with a long train enters to the hushed murmurs of the crowd. As she walks past Warchild (who is in the front row), he recognizes her as the fighter in the mud pit from her eyes. It seems she also knows her secret is out, but now is clearly not the time for that. Ruechang, resplendent in his full orders uniform stands before her, his oily grin and reptilian eyes making her queasy.
My second wife had this exact same "please kill me" look on her face on our wedding day, probably should have gotten the hint then.
Halo faints, faking being overcome by the moment, but really part of her plan. Taken to her quarters, she's examined by the royal doctor who pronounces her suffering from exhaustion. The officiating priest claims that the wedding won't be "legal" unless she's of her right mind. Ruechang is not at all happy, but relents to a one hour delay while she recovers.
The princess in her bed.
But an hour is longer than she needs to escape. Somehow slipping out of the palace, past surely the tightest security net known to man (this was the official royal wedding in a nation wracked with rebellion and strife after all) Halo runs off. Donning a olive drab parka and jumping on a horse, she hoofs it through the town square as jackbooted soldiers barely look up from their gun-cleaning and knife-sharpening as she thunders by. Once it's found that she's gone, Ruechang postpones the wedding for a week (saying that "the princess is not feeling well") and then quietly tasks Warchild to go find her and bring her back.
Riding through the thick verdant woods, Halo stops her horse to take a drink from a cool mountain stream. Stripping off her wedding dress, she shows us that she's got brown pants and a cute eggshell top on (this is the outfit that she will be wearing for the vast majority of the rest of the movie). She's then taken unawares (though that's inexcusable) by a small band of straggly thugs who mean to do her harm. These are local men, neredowells who live outside the reach of the authorities and who seem to be opposed to bathing on religious grounds.
Love that "extra from Robin Hood" hat.
Despite her insisting that she's a princess and therefore untouchable, the thugs don't seem to care about her royal birthright. They are more interested in her naughty bits, if you know what I mean, and it looks like it's going to get ugly. Back up against the wall, Halo slips a knife into the gut of one of the thugs who puts his hands on her. The well-acted look of disgust and fear in Halo's eyes suggest that this is the first time she has taken a life. She doesn't have much time to think about it, though, as she's on the run instantly.
Halo draws first blood.
Halo runs but is hit in the face with rifle butt! Down she goes in the mud and up she goes in the hands of her captors, a little dazed but overall fine. This is the sort of thing in movies that just drives me nuts. Here this delicate little girl just got smashed in the face with a rifle butt, knocking her flat on her back, but pops up with nothing more than an artfully smudged cheek.
This West Virginian hick just smacked her real good, yee haw.
Just when it looks quite scary for her, Warchild arrives, having finally tracked her down to this place. He wades in, pulling out his tiny submachinegun and shooting dead all three bad guys, even the one holding a knife to the fair princess' neck (which seems needlessly dangerous). The accuracy of his shooting (especially with that notoriously inaccurate stubby sort-barreled Czech burp gun) is amazing, rivaling RoboCop's for sheer one-shot-one-kill b-movie cheesiness.
This scene, where the hero shoots the guy holding the hostage with laser-like accuracy, has showed up in every movie every made and I'm sick of it.
Despite just being rescued from certain death, Halo is fiercely bitchy to Warchild, huffing and puffing and being all Paris Hilton haughty as she tries to convince him to let her go. Warchild's frustration and inability to be harsh with her speaks to the power of the nobility in this society, as well as Warchild's ingrained-from-birth duty to serve his masters (and maybe even his secret love for her, we'll see). Tricking Warchild out of the way, Halo runs off again after yanking out the ignition wires on his jeep. She claims she'll be "back with rebel army" and he can tell Ruechang that.
Halo has a long conversation with a big, strong male with awesome hair and criminally-large genital endowment. Oh, and Warchild is there, too.
After cursing his luck, Warchild then heads off on foot, walking in the general direction of where she was riding. The forest is beautiful, thick and lush like Washington state in late summer, and Warchild strides purposefully through the ferns and tall grass undergrowth. Oddly, the music for this scene is very Harry Potter-like, which makes no sense at all.
Just taking a stroll. Note his nifty combat rig, complete with never-to-be-used grenades and dangling canteen.
Warchild eventually comes across a rundown house, where a bunch of Gypsy types are dealing in captive women, trading them for horses. WTF, has anyone done this since 1729? Anyway, Princess Halo is in a net, having been captured (again), and she's worth six horses, by the way. The greaseball that is about to buy her says he has to "try her out first" and it looks like it's going to get R-rated on us.
What year is this?
Warchild's blitzing one-man assault on the locals is another masterful set-piece of pointless gunfire and lame action movie cliches. He starts by cutting loose some horses, stampeding them in to break them up before single-handedly slaughtering everyone. He kills 16 bad guys, mostly with a pistol with a magically bottomless magazine (an old Bulgarian-made Luger knockoff, if you simply must know), while doing a lot of that John Woo sideways leaping pistol firing thing that I find so annoying.
Stunt men falling down.
Once again, logic is left wallet-less and bleeding in an alley, as Warchild leaps fifteen feet through the air to punch some guy in the face and a half-inch thick wooden card table manages to stop a dozen rounds from an AK-47. Right there at the end, the last guy shoots Warchild in the stomach from close range with a pistol, which does little but cause him to grunt before riddling the bad guy with bullets. The firefight ends as Halo's stunt double kicks a guy's ass with some badly rehearsed kung fu.
Hiding behind that titanium-coated table.
Warchild passes out, slumping to the ground with a thud. Halo puts him into an old Land Rover that was sitting there with the keys in the ignition and drives off. Hey, how the heck does that skinny 110 pound girl manage to get an unconscious 275 pound dead-weight hulking man up into the passenger seat of an SUV? A series of pulleys and ropes? Spooky Jedi Mind Powers? However she does it, once they are in, she drives "another day further from the city".
Ok, maybe this is not a Rover, help anyone?
That night they stop to rest. Halo manages to pull the still-unconsicious man-mountain Warchild out of the vehicle, drag him about twenty yards away, and prop him up against a stump. She then further is able to magically heal his gunshot wound by applying a simple compress to the hole. Warchild wakes up refreshed and none the worse for wear, seemingly able to heal himself like he's Claire Bennett. Halo pulls a gun on Warchild, holding him off while they talk. He says he knows it was her fighting in the pit that day, and she says that his fighting style "was without honor". They then banter about the rebels' chances against Ruechang, with or without Halo as their leader.
Halo clearly doesn't like cream in her coffee.
All the while Warchild is inching closer and closer, and when the moment is right he strikes and gets the gun away and handcuffs her. Next morning they drive back, stopping first at an Army base on the frontier. Things are different out here on the outskirts of the empire and Warchild has to crack some heads to get things done. After thumping some guy with an attitude, he gets to them to call a chopper.
Warchild pulls rank (and some guy's liver out of his body) to get his orders followed.
As they wait for the chopper to arrive, they talk. Halo rightfully predicts that as soon she gives birth to Ruechang's first child, she's dead. Warchild has no response to this but to clean his gun some more. She then asks why he's so blindly loyal to Ruechang. Warchild says Ruechang "saved me from the work gangs when I was ten, put me in the Military House". This Spartan-like military training from a young age made him a good killer, even if it didn't stamp out all his individuality. Warchild's gunshot wound to the stomach has miraculously healed overnight, by the way, but I'm not going to worry about that.
A big white Hip helicopter arrives with Ruechang aboard. Warchild hands Halo over to him, but he's clearly conflicted inside (though Lundgren's limited acting abilities makes it hard to tell if he's emotional or just constipated). Pissed at all this embarrassment, Ruechang backhands Halo down into the dirt, leaving her bleeding from the mouth and staring helplessly back at Warchild! This is the last straw for Warchild and as Reuchang approaches him, he roundhouse kicks the General in the face!
This is seriously going to hurt his chances at promotion.
Oh, it's on now. All the local soldiers, plus a squad of the General's personal guard (which unloaded from the helo before he came out) swarm at Warchild, machineguns blazing. Warchild whips out his tiny submachinegun and shoots away, all the while running to scoop up Halo in his free arm and carry her to safety. A number of soldiers die horribly painful deaths before Ruechang rightly orders them to stop shooting for fear of hitting the princess.
A good look at the two types of soldier uniforms, the standard Warsaw Pact camo BDUs bought locally in Bulgaria, and the knockoff Wehrmacht WWII uniforms from the prop and costume departments.
Some soldiers continue to rush at them, however, and Warchild and Halo beat them down with some slo-mo fu moves (Lundgren has legit skills, but clearly Shane's opponents tend to "fall down" a little too easy as this tiny little girl smacks them with her skinny wrist). It seems, however, that some other soldiers are still shooting to kill them, which doesn't make sense as a dead princess makes a lousy wife. It does served to reiterate just what rotten shots the entire imperial Army is, as no matter how many bullets they throw at them, the most they can ever do is cause Warchild to flinch.
Warchild likes to kick guys in the face, it's his idiom.
Seeing the helicopter sitting there idling, they get the idea to escape. Warchild gets the chopper's engines running while Halo shoots in the air, screaming at the ducking men, "get back, I don't want to hurt you!" Throughout this movie, we see the princess' total lack of will to kill anyone, even though they are trying to kill her, perhaps a function of her cultured, gentile royal upbringing (though at odds with her wanton need to beat up strangers in the Fight Club).
Halo holds them off.
Warchild gets the Hip in the air slowly, and I do mean slowly. There's some Komedy Gold as he admits to her that he can't fly that well! Harharhar! I got a better idea, lets talk about Warchild's amazing blink-of-an-eye turnaround from uber-loyal soldier to boss-kicking traitor. Did he flip for her, for the chance at booty far above his station in life? Was he already disollusioned and just looking for a spark to set off his rage? Didn't seem that way until just this second. I'm so tired of such rapid emotional changes in people in these types of movies, though I realize that the time constrains of a 2 hour window make it hard to show a lengthy period of soul-searching and self-examination.
Wow, that's a convex Leno-like face.
It's not very long before a second Hip catches up to them as they race along a heavily forested valley. A loudspeaker blares at them to land immediately or be shot down (do they know how loud a helicopter is, especially inside? Why not the radio?). Having none of that, they run away, Warchild learning quickly how to do evasive maneuvers while flying at high speed twenty feet off the ground. I note here the Russian Crylic writing on the chopper's instrument clusters, which is understandable, but so far everything we've seen of the empire says they are strictly and exclusively English-speakers.
The chasing Hip has some dorky little rockets mounted on outrigger pods. Oddly, only the ones on the left side ever fire, making me wonder if the prop department could only get that side to work and the shoot had to go on. There is also some question if the pods shoot big rockets (like the ATGM-looking red-tipped ones we see once) or little unguided rockets or even machinegun bullets. I guess it depends on what the scene calls for.
Riddled with bullets and leaking fuel, Warchild's smoke-filled chopper is disabled and forced to land. The stunt pilot shakes the Hip back and forth as the production's insurance agent chews his nails in fear of having to pay out a claim for a crashed helicopter. On the ground, Warchild and Halo run from the chopper, which explodes in a fireball. A slo-mo replay show that they set a large gasoline bomb between the parked helicopter in the background and the running actors in the foreground and used some neat camera angles to make it look like the chopper blew up (nice work, I am always impressed by the tricks that directors use to make a scene spark).
The chopper's loudspeaker tells them to surrender the princess, but the door gunner is clearly still shooting to kill, raking their position with bullets as they hunker down behind a rock. One can only imagine Ruechang's wrath if they kill the princess while trying to save her. Well, wait a second, if she does die, who then is next in line for the throne? We've not heard of any younger siblings or a long line of close relatives who would be next in line, but we can assume there must be, otherwise Ruechang would have long ago put a bullet in little Halo's head and taken the throne himself. Clearly he sees marrying her and becoming king as the fastest and easiest way to rule the land (other than a military coup followed by a fascist dictatorship, that's worked in a number of countries in real life, eh?).
The door gunner is not following orders.
Anyway, suddenly a band of rebels on horseback show up! They are heavily armed with Sten guns and Mosin-Nagant rifles and start shooting at the hovering helicopter. Gushing smoke, the helicopter "crashes" over a rise, an effect accomplished through the judicious use of a jump editing cut and a few crates of TNT hidden behind a bush. The rebels cheer their victory and then quickly surround Warchild and Halo, disarming them.
The rebels, on horses that were clearly not trained for combat as they buck and rear with every shot.
They recognize Warchild and lead him off bound (you'd think the princess would say something). They are led to a village of rebels, all armed, women and kids, too. We see shotguns, Uzis, AKs, Stens, MP-40s, FN-FALs, pistols, RPGs, carbines, everything (though this is one of those movies where everyone has a gun, but no one carries any extra ammunition for it, it's like they had this long line of extras and they just handed them each a prop gun and told them to stand over there and wave it around, regardless of how stupid it looks).
Warchild is led into the village.
Not surprisingly, everyone hates him, or perhaps just what he represents. Kids hit him with slingshots, men glower menacingly at him, and women turn up their noses as he walks by. Hey, this just occurred to me, why did they send only that one chopper after Warchild? Doesn't the kingdom have any airplanes or paratroopers or something? They just let the princess and Warchild escape way too easily, despite Ruechang's supposed uncontrollable rage at this.
They all seem to be dressed like Romanian peasants or Medieval serfs.
Anyway, the leader of rebels greets Princess Halo warmly, "welcome to the revolution". The leader, named York, has awesome Donal Logue hair, but that's not really that important. Halo is disappointed to hear that York's "rebel army" is actually pretty weak. But York correctly points out that when people hear of Halo, more will join the rebellion. Halo agrees, but she says she will only join if they treat Warchild well, they don't like but agree to.
The rebel leader.
When asked his opinion, Warchild says that even some soldiers will defect when they learn of Halo joining up with the rebels, again affirming the impression that all is not right in the kingdom. But the rebels have no real tactical or strategic leadership, despite the moral and inspirational effect of having the princess aboard. Warchild could help in that, but he declines, deciding to leave at dawn to "handle his own problems".
"Tony Stark, we need to you build us the Jericho missile."
Meanwhile an exceedingly pissed Ruechang is calling out all his troops to find them. As he glowers ruefully, his face twisted up into a barely-controlled pretzel of rage, soldiers and mercenaries run here and there. Warchild's old band of merry hired guns is enlisted to help with the hunt, though we can tell that they are more sympathetic to Warchild than they let on.
Troops on the move, the mercenaries are there in front, looking all mercenary-like (eg. sans sleeves).
That night, Halo tries to convince Warchild to stay and fight. She uses every stick in her arsenal, from begging to demanding ("this is not a discussion, this is a command, soldier!") to objective reasoning, but still Warchild won't stay and fight. He will, however, finally admit that he loves her (aww...) and she has to admit that she's softened to his lunky good looks and his rare-to-find gentlemanly nature (when he's not blowing things up and stabbing people to death). They even kiss (though she clearly has to stand on a box to reach him as he's two feet taller than she) and maybe even get to know each other in the biblical sense. But, Warchild is still leaving and in the morning he says goodbye to Halo and the rebels. Leia gives Han a...I mean, Halo gives Warchild this blue stone amulet she's been wearing all movie as a token of her affection.
Seriously, who didn't see this coming?
Long after Warchild has ridden off, he sees a fully armed Hip fly over him towards the rebel village! Realizing that Ruechang has found them, he turns his horse around and rides hard back towards the direction he came, determined to help save them. The Hip is faster, of course, and makes it to the village long before he does. Hovering over the exposed tents and corrals, the helicopter unleashes a murderous fuilisade of rockets and bullets. Explosions blossom, men and women run around like crazy, people die, horses bolt (just like in Rambo III, but with a tenth of the budget). Regrouping, the rebels return fire on the hovering chopper with a variety of machineguns and rifles, all seemingly to no effect (which is dumb, if we've learned anything from Vietnam and Iraq it's that helicopters are extremely vulnerable to small arms fire).
Nicely framed shot here, with the helo in the background and dirty explosions in the foreground.
A group of foot soldiers arrives at the same time, led by Reuchang himself. A wicked awesome firefight breaks out, with stuff exploding everywhere and nameless Bulgarian stunt men working overtime. Rallying in the face of certain defeat the rebels give good account (helped by the soldiers' total lack of small unit assault tactics other than the banzai attack), but they are eventually driven from the field by superior numbers and firepower. The leader is killed and Halo is captured.
Ruechang out in front, leading the charge, small wonder his troops follow him blindly, that sort of hands-on leadership is hard to find.
Despite riding his poor horse hard, Warchild arrives long after the shooting is all over. He takes a recon position and sees the few surviving prisoners being led away and Halo being put in a big armored truck.
Warchild arrives on scene, awesome look at that dinky gun, he'd look better with something massive (perhaps the shotgun from Blastfighter, eh?).
An alert sentry foils his surprise plans and (yet) another vicious gun battle develops. Warchild again takes on an entire Army platoon single-handedly, relying on his combat skills and steely blue eyes to compensate for being outnumbered a fifty-to-one and having no actual attack plan other than "run like mad shooting people". Warchild kills eight soldiers before being wounded by an exploding rocket, loosing his gun and being captured.
I think Dolph does most, if not all, of his own stunts in this movie, though always having a stack of hay or a bundle of potato sacks to land on sure helps.
Reuchang is going to kill Warchild with his sword, but Princess Halo intervenes at the last possible moment. She tells Ruechang that she will marry him willingly if he lets Warchild go. Ruechang steps out of character for a second and agrees, though maybe his fondness for Warchild (pre-kick in the face) has got the better of him. Warchild leaves on a horse, happy to be alive but seething with rage just the same. Man, that poor horse looks so small under him.
Get that horse a chiropractor!
Warchild's old mates (the three mercenaries who were with him for the opening scene) follow in a jeep on Ruechang's orders to kill him out of sight. They make the mistake of splitting up, and Warchild takes down the two lesser guys, knocking them out cold. Then he and his former bestest buddy have a showdown. This guy, named Emmerich (and played by 42-year old Gary Hudson, a trashy b-movie regular), and Warchild don't want to fight each other and cut a deal over a shared flask of whiskey. They hatch a sneaky plan to fake his death, and Emmerich goes back to the city and gives Ruechang that amulet as a sign of Warchild's demise.
Ruechang comes to see Halo in her room the night before their (second try) wedding. He actually tries to show that he's not just a cold-blooded killer marrying her for power, but she is still ice cold, "there will never be any love between us!". Enraged, Ruechang gives her that amulet as her face sinks, she thinks her great protector and one-time lover Warchild is dead now.
Oh, that's not nice, not nice at all.
The wedding day arrives. Alone in her room, depressed and thinking she has no options left, Halo mixes up a cocktail of poison and puts it in the cup of wine that both she and Ruechang will drink to seal their marriage. The kindly old Nurse sees this and tries to stop her, but Halo is determined. This time she really does tie the old lady up in ropes to keep her quiet (that poor old woman spends half her time on screen tied up on the bed, probably not what she expected when she signed onto this production).
Halo makes a cup of death!
Ok, what the hell? Warchild, in dress blues, with Emmerich drives right up to front gate of the palace and is let in! Didn't anyone tell the guards about Warchild deserting or dying? Wouldn't a rumor like that spread like wildfire? What about those officers he walks right by, wouldn't any of them know about his turncoat ways and maybe be a bit concerned that he's right here right now? Perhaps they didn't have the money left in the budget for an extensive scene of him storming the palace. And did they stop by Warchild's apartment to get cleaned up and change clothes first?
"You don't need to see our identification...these aren't the droids you are looking for...we may go about our business now..."
Emmerich goes to the wedding while Warchild goes to check Halo's room. She's not there (explaining the lack of armed guards) but he does find the old Nurse tied up. She tells him that Halo is going to kill herself and Ruechang with the poisoned wine glass. Off to save his true love, Warchild goes running down the hallways at a full gallop.
This is not what it looks like.
Back at the ceremony, Halo and Ruechang stand before the crowd. Halo hands him the cup, but Ruechang is suspicious and tells her to drink first. As the cup is at her trembling lips, Warchild shows up! He throws a knife to impale cup before she can drink, which looks just as stupid as it sounds. Halo smiles, Ruechang grimaces, the crowd gasps!
At the wedding.
Halo takes this opportunity to yell out that "Ruechang is a murderer! He killed your king!" The freed Nurse also arrives to add her testimony, which wouldn't seem to hold much weight with these class-conscious elitests, but it does get the crowd fidgeting and talking. The soldiers take sides, some older and wiser officers take their places beside Warchild and Emmerich and some brainless Privates and Corporals stick with Ruechang. Guns are drawn, faces are set, and we have a Mexican standoff.
My first wedding ended just like this, except that I still had to have the tuxedos back by five.
A brave/stupid soldier starts the inevitable firefight and all hell breaks loose. Guns blaze as well-dressed wedding guests flee in terror. Casualities are high on both sides, though Warchild and Emmerich, of course, avoid all the bullets Neo-like and thump, kick and punch to death a number of soldiers. I'm consistently amazed at how all these supposedly crack soldiers, including the personal guard of the General, are such lousy hand-to-hand fighters. They basically just stand there while the heroes smash them around, barely lifting a finger to defend themselves, let alone put forth any offensive moves. The Imperial Combat Training Course curriculum really needs to be updated.
His kicks have the force of ten men because his heart is as pure as the driven snow.
In the confusion, Ruechang takes Halo out of the palace by force. He tosses her into an open-top jeep and drives off. In the dumbest thing I've ever seen, Warchild jumps off a balcony into the back seat of the fast-moving jeep, from like fifty feet up! Actually, I just saw this same move in Men in Black last night, with the same total disregard for physics and momentum and bone-structure physiology, but Smith's on my Good List for Hancock so I'll let him slide.
See him falling there?
I won't spoil the epic one-on-one final fight for you (though I don't know why not, it's not like you are ever going to actually watch this movie). Quickly, Warchild kills Ruechang with his own sword and then saves Halo from an exploding gasoline tanker. Sweet.
Final battle, actually pretty anticlimactic considering all the other fights we've already seen.
Hey, wait! What the hell? There were no "bridges" and there were no "dragons" in this movie, not a one. Who came up with that title?
Written in October 2008 by Nathan Decker.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...