You might think after having endured the rather stinkified Dolph Lundgren film Missionary Man that I would be ready to call it quits with the old Dolphster. And if that’s what you’re thinking, then you, my friend, would be dead wrong. As long as guys like Dolph Lundgren and Jean Claude Van Damme continue to grace the shelves of video stores in barely watchable garbage, I will continue to watch—the notable exception being Steven Segal, or course—and afterwards I will continue to ask myself, “Why do I keep watching these movies?”
But every now and then some flick will come along with enough entertainment value to not make you feel like a total moron for spending 94 minutes of your life watching it. Such movies should not be confused with good cinema, but are more than sufficient for wasting some time while eating cold pizza, drinking cheap beer, and wondering whether or not your life will ever amount to more than the sum total of that particular moment. And for those moments, there’s always something like Diamond Dogs, starring Lundgren, which is not totally terrible, especially when weighed against other movies produced with the sole intention of distracting people from strenuous activities like reading or thinking.
Dolphster stars as Xander Ronson, a former Special Forces officer disgraced after a botched mission left everyone under his command taking a dirt nap. Ronson lives a meager existence in Mongolia, where he barely scrapes by earning money for illegal fighting. Heavily in debt, Ronson needs to come up with some cash, or he will end up in jail. Fortunately for our brooding hero, he is hired by Chambers (William Shriver), a fortune-seeking scumbag in search of the Tangka, a legendary Buddhist artifact that could be worth millions of dollars. Complicating what promises to be an already complicated mission are the sadistic Russian mercenaries that also want to get their hands on the Tangka, and the fact that the ancient tapestry is rumored to cursed, bringing horrible deaths to whoever disturbs it from its secret resting place deep within the rugged mountains of Mongolia.
There are three things working against Diamond Dogs—four if you count the ridiculous title—that hinder the film from being anything exceptional. First and foremost is a script bereft of originality and overflowing with predictability. Not that either of these things is terrible, because lets all be honest: if you’re watching a Dolph Lundgren movie where he plays a soldier-of-fortune; you’re probably not in the mood for a film that engages you on a cerebral level. So, while Diamond Dogs suffers from an unoriginal predictable script, it is no big surprise, and somewhat expected given the nature of these types of movies.
The second problem with Diamond Dogs is that it never quite feels complete. By this, I mean that it feels more like the outline of a story than an actual story itself. Sure, films like these always have characters hewn from the thinnest cardboard in plots with all the intricacies of a first-grade reading primer, but even within that context, Diamond Dogs feels as if it is missing something. The premise of the film opens up to a wide range of possibilities, including the opportunity to turn the movie into a rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark, or at least a better version of something like the terrible Golden Child or the even worse Treasure of the Four Crowns. But for whatever reason, Diamond Dogs never ventures into the realm of fantastic, staying instead firmly rooted in the B-movie conventions that dictate movies of this nature. And that’s what is especially disappointing about the film—rather than trying something unpredictable and failing, it remains predictable and comes dangerously close to failing anyway.
The third problem with Diamond Dogs is an otherwise forgettable cast of such nominal talent it would be safe to say that any one of the cast was actually talent deficient—the notable exception being the Dolphster himself. Most of the cast consists of either disposable Mongolian characters or disposable Russian characters that come and go amidst the gunfire and decapitations, and serve no purpose other than to pad out the film’s runtime. Co-star William Shriver gives the film unintentional laughs as the greedy American who hires Ronson, and comes across like Brad Douriff’s effeminate brother.
Originally, Diamond Dogs was to be the first installment in a series of films starring Lundgren as Xander Ronson. But apparently the production was beset with all manner of problems, resulting in the script be retooled in some capacity, and an uncredited Lundgren having to take over for director Shimon Dotan. Exactly what was directed by Dotan and what was directed by Lundgren is anyone’s guess, but by and large the film is much better than the Dolphster’s other directorial endeavor, the deathly tedious and remarkable unentertaining Missionary Man. And while the film has problems, including the fact that the word “assistant” is spelled “asstistant” consistently throughout the end credits, Diamond Dogs provides a fairly entertaining diversion.