• The Russian Specialist (Sony Pictures) DVD Review

    Released by: Sony Pictures
    Released on: February 14th, 2006.
    Director: Dolph Lundgren
    Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Ivan Petrushinov, Olivia Lee, Ben Cross
    Year: 2006
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Russian Specialist - Movie Review:

    In 2005, Dolph Lundgren impressed with his directorial debut, The Defender. Proving he's more than just a one hit wonder behind the camera, he's since followed up that rock solid shoot'em up with The Russian Specialist (it's known in other parts of the world as The Mechanik), a seventies style revenge movie that would feel right at home in Charles Bronson's filmography as it does in Dolph's, and that's a good thing.

    Lundgren plays a Russian named Nick Cherenko who, seven years ago, lost his wife and son to a gangster named Sasha (Ivan Petrushinov) who shot them down in cold blood during a firefight after a drug deal turned very sour on him. Nick hunts Sasha down, wanting vengeance for the loss of his loved ones, and he puts a bullet through the mobsters head leaving him lying in his car, presumed dead.

    Seven years later and Nick is hiding out in Los Angeles working as a mechanic, having illegally immigrated to the United States after the events that took place in the opening scene. A wealthy woman pulls up to the garage where he works and explains to him that he daughter, Julia (Olivia Lee), has been kidnapped and that she'd like him to get her back. She knows about his background in the special forces and that he's a man who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty and she offers him a decent amount of money to help. He refuses at first until she brings up the immigration issue and mentions the fact that the man who kidnapped her daughter is the same man who killed his wife and his child years back.

    Wanting to finish the job he thought he'd already finished, Nick takes the assignment and heads back to Russia to take care of business. He finds that Julie has been sold to a prostitution racket, and heads out to meet a contact of his named Burton (Ben Cross of Exorcist: The Beginning) who can hook him up with the right kind of firepower he'll need to move in and take her back. Burton also has a relationship with some of Julia's co-workers, it seems he has a bit of a fondness for the ladies of the evening, and through that connection Nick is able to round up some hired help to go in with him and take care of business once and for all.

    With Lundgren's first directorial effort, there wasn't a lot of background information given to his character and while it was a really fun and completely enjoyable exercise in ultra-violence, this time out he one ups himself by making and starring in a film in which we actually care about the lead character. Nick isn't the most multi-layered and complex character to ever hit the screen but we do find out enough about his background and his plight that we're completely sympathetic to his cause despite his rather nasty methods. He's an anti-hero we can cheer for and when he hits Russian soil once more and he puts his plan into action we want the guy to come out on top because we know why he's there and why he's doing what he's doing.

    Without a doubt, however, the focus of the film is on the action and as Lundgren has proven with his two films so far, he's able to direct action sequences with style and with a refreshingly blunt honestly. When Nick starts breaking arms and shooting up the mobsters who stand between him and Julia, you can feel the crunching and feel the bullets popping. While at times it's a little over stylized with some color fading and bleaching of the tones in a few scenes as well as a couple of flashy edits here and there, most of the violence in The Russian Specialist hits hard and hits mean and gives the action set pieces quite a bit of impact.

    With that being said, the movie does have a few flaws in that there are a lot of cliché supporting characters and the story is a little predictable and confines itself to a lot of action movie stereotypes but even with those very obvious strikes against it, it manages to be an entertaining and reasonably tense affair. Lundgren seems to be managing to shed the beefcake hero image that he gained from movies like Masters Of The Universe, and you won't see him running around shirtless with baby oil all over his chest. His character is grounded in something reasonably close to the real world and the movie is all the better for it. He's showing a lot of maturity, at least by action movies standards, with these last two outings, here's hoping he keeps them coming and of the same quality.

    The Russian Specialist - DVD Review:

    The picture is presented in a pretty good-looking 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There are some mild compression artifacts present during a couple of the darker scenes, as well as some mild edge enhancement but none of it is overly severe. Colors look pretty bold and robust without coming across as overcooked (except in a few scenes where it's obviously an intentional stylistic choice), and the flesh tones in the film remain lifelike without turning too pink or too orange. It isn't a perfect transfer with the aforementioned authoring issues (the aliasing is heavy in spots), but there isn't any print damage worth complaining and the grain that is noticeable is only of the very fine variety. The Russian Specialist looks very good on DVD.

    The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track does a great job of handling the action scenes for this film. It's a pretty aggressive mix that differentiates and places the action sound effects across the soundstage as required by the way the film plays out. Plenty of gunshots, bone cracking, and heavy hand to hand combat as well as the background music swells up behind (though, thankfully, not overtop) the dialogue, which lets the talkier bits stay clean and easy to follow. This DVD contains and optional English language closed captioning feature as well.

    The only extras on this DVD are trailers for a few other unrelated straight to video action DVDs available from Sony. There are no other supplements on the disc and surprisingly enough the trailer for the feature attraction is conspicuously absent on this release.

    The Russian Specialist - The Final Word:

    The second directorial offering from Dolph Lundgren proves to be a surprisingly good and effective revenge movie. Action fans will dig the no-nonsense style that he brings to the movie through his performance and although the story isn't breaking any new ground, The Russian Specialist is a fast paced and exciting action thriller that is well worth checking out. Recommended!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Not enough Dolph screenshots!