I think Dolph Lundgren is a vastly underrated director, but that his directing projects are often plagued with problems beyond his control which dampen the results and make it look like he has difficulties crafting a good film. I'm certain that if he got given some proper funding and a decent script, and wasn't fucked over by the producers, he'd deliver some action classics, but instead what we get is stuff like Diamond Dogs.
|Director: Shimon Dotan
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, William Shriver, Yu Nan
Screenplay: Leo St. Pierre
Lundgren is the owner of a failing security business in Mongolia, so to make ends meet he does some fighting and hustling. I'm not sure how he's successful at the latter because he's prone to yelling out that he's rigged the odds, but somehow despite this counterproductive trait he seems to be getting by. That is, until he's arrested and looks like he'll be sent away for awhile due to some unpaid debts. Lundgren is given four weeks to raise the funds before being gaoled, so he agrees to help an expedition track down a priceless relic. Aside from bandits and other assorted bad guys to deal with, they're also being followed by another group that are seeking the relic too.
Diamond Dogs is a particularly uneven film. Lundgren was an uncredited fill in director for Shimon Dotan, and one can actually see the quality waiver from scene to scene. The film never gets fully boring, but it clearly could've been much more than it is, and it seems Lundgren agrees with that assessment. This release is the producer's cut, but Lundgren went back and re-cut the film, no doubt improving it. Lundgren's cut wasn't released, so viewers are left with this inconsistent film, and Lundgren is left with another lesser film on his directorial CV.
Not that Diamond Dogs is an absolute shambles. It starts well, but it slows down after awhile and just never gets good again. The fight choreography is decent, which always immensely improves Lundgren's films, and the supporting cast are better than a lot of Lundgren's other direct-to-video co-stars. Of particular note is William Shriver, whose notes for the role must've been something along the lines of, "Be like Ben Kingsley, but flamboyantly gay." Lundgren is given a chance to be playful, which I prefer to his earnest roles, and there are some fun action set pieces.
There's also some harmless nonsense like the relic's curse rhymes after being translated into English and the penultimate fight where Lundgren appears to be too tuckered out to take part in it so just observes, but the film has deeper problems that are harder to overlook. For one, the movie is essentially Indiana Jones meets… well… Dolph Lundgren. While that could be a recipe for awesomeness, success in the Indiana area does require competing with some pretty spectacular films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Armour of God. Lundgren being a fighter does help keep things different from Raiders, because truth be told it is hard to accept Harrison Ford as a rough and tumble guy, but that just leaves Diamond Dogs trying to compete with Jackie Chan's version, which it can't. The Boy's Own feel of Raiders is naturally toned down as well for Diamond Dogs, but this doesn't prevent comparison between the two, and when it comes to booby traps and such Diamond Dogs is let down. The traps are significantly less dangerous here (though one guy does somehow manage to kill himself, but I'm thinking it required a lot of effort on his part) so the raiding is often less than thrilling.
There was a decent, lower budget, adventure film in Diamond Dogs somewhere, it's just a shame it didn't realise its potential.