Top Action Stars

Top Action Stars
2
The missing addendum to the title of the eight-disc DVD set Top Action Stars is the crucial phrase: The Later Years. Seemingly sifting through the bottom of those few bargain bins remaining at dying video stores everywhere, what's been assembled here are the theatrical flops, the straight-to-DVD fiascos and the most ill-conceived vanity projects imaginable. This might as well be the Statue of Liberty of action movie collections. This set features entries from the career death rattles of Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Dolph Lundgren, as well as the odd inclusion of a Val Kilmer movie that even he most likely doesn't remember making. Remember how much you loved Van Damme in Hard Target or even Timecop? Well, that's too bad because what you'll find here instead is the disappointing sequel to Universal Soldier and the almost interchangeable Second In Command and The Hard Corps. Both of the former are linked not only in how they involve him protecting prominent figures — a President of a country and rap mogul, respectively — but in how messy and lacklustre they are. It's a sad state of affairs when one of the films that pretty much spelled the end of his viability as a "top action star," his pairing with Rob Schneider in the abysmal Knock Off, is arguably his best in the whole set. What's more interesting about the career arcs of Lundgren and Seagal is how they sought creative control in their twilight years, with Lundgren directing the not-terrible The Russian Specialist and Seagal co-writing both Attack Force and Into The Sun. Unfortunately, Seagal's insistence on delivering his insipid dialogue in a hushed whisper undermines both films, especially Attack Force, making it appear as if he couldn't care less about what is going on. To be fair, there isn't really anything all that interesting going on anyway. The Kilmer film, Conspiracy, is a bit too slow and plodding to be considered "action-packed" (as the packaging promises), with Kilmer playing a retired Special Ops Marine searching for an estranged friend no one seems to remember ever existing. Though surely meant to titillate and dazzle with all of its explosions and gunplay, no collection has ever been so full of sound and fury yet devoid of significance as this one. It's ultimately rather depressing to see what has become of those who were once marquee names in the business, though perhaps there is inspiration to be found in the fact that, despite budgets and distribution circles shrinking around them, these guys just aren't ready to stop playing the hero. (Mill Creek Entertainment)