To many, Hans Lundgren is first recalled in memory as Rocky’s Russian opponent Ivan Drago. A muscle-bound anti-hero, vocally reduced to one syllable and too good looking. All that big blondness, the archetypal anti-villain rippling with muscles and Viking strength. The political overtones of this movie were quite timely – with the fall of the wall signalling the end of The Cold War not long after. We were irresistibly drawn to Ivan in spite of ourselves. What movie did it take for us to realise Dolph Lundgren was actually awesome?
Dolph has always defied convention. Many have easily dismissed the Swedish blonde giant, perhaps feeling that his incredible good looks are a barrier to anything further – such as brains, acumen and sentiment. Nevermind the self-confessed nerd has a similar IQ to Mozart or can speak six languages. As a child, he loved his music, picking out rhythms on the drum kit from a young age. He also enjoyed his martial arts; judo, Goju-ryu and Kyokushin Karate became ingrained in his lifestyle. He would study around the world, studying chemical engineering. He completed compulsory service in the Swedish Marin Corps, keeping his martial arts training at a premium. He was captain of the Swedish Kyokushin Karate team while still a green belt. But it was completing his Masters on scholarship at 24 at Sydney University that his life would change from that of the academic to the action hero. Bouncing in Sydney’s notorious King Cross to make a crust, he would come to the attention of 80s Queen Grace Jones at a Capitol Theatre performance – and the rest was history. His days of having to muster up cash as a student were over. Move over Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner; Grace and Dolph were there first.
For four years, the dashing atypical duo showed the world how glamorously a mixed couple could eat, drink and play. They paved the way for other coloured couples, at a time when Ebony and Ivory were idealised only by Paul MacCartney and Stevie Wonder. They certainly made a striking match; he all contoured Caucasian muscles, batman jaw line and white blonde hair; she all obsidian skin and angles and supermodel; all nine years older than him. Only he could tower over her supermodel body at 1.96m tall. They were glamorous, going so far as to prove it in Playboy. He must surely had been secure enough in himself to emotionally and physically be there for the superwoman she had to be. How could he say no to this Amazon? How could she not adore this Valkerie? Especially when he walked around New York with guns strapped to his body, prepared to put his life on the line for her in the utmost way. Such heady days they must have been: Disco, Dolph and the Divine.
And for Dolph, the aftermath must have been oh so sweet. From landing his first role in View To A Kill and leading to his iconic character as Ivan in Rocky IV, through to iconic science fantasies, films featuring sweet gratuitous violence, military movies to the now iconic franchise of The Expendables. It still continues with Skin Trade due for release this year alongside the one and only Tony Jaa.
Some 40 films under his belt and he remains one of the greatest action heroes of all time: right up there next to Stallone, Chuck, Arnie, Bruce, Seagal and JCVD. But there’s a reason why Dolph has lasted this long: he’s awesome in every way. He’s happy to balance the good with the bad – no other action hero has been that versatile. Or maybe they’re finding their versatility some fifteen-twenty years down the track. We sit down and look at the big screen – and the weaponry – for The Dolph Top 5.
WAIT… IT’S JUST TOO OBVIOUS
The Expendables, Universal Soldier and Rocky IV are just too easy. Of course they lead the pack but this is Dolph: as obvious as he may come across in his onscreen characters, he’s a simmering marvel of unorthodox awesomeness. This is about piercing beneath the obvious veil and exploring the unexpected.
In no particular order….
The Punisher (1989)Kick Ass action that has everything a rebellious teen secretly desires. Vigilante anti-hero brandishing the best .45 caliber automatic frame re-chambered for 9mm ammunition with customised silencer. Ever. The critics know nothing when it comes to low brow action. Though surely Marc Fennell would comply.
Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991)
The greatest mismatched bromance ever when Brandon Lee and Dolph take down the Yakuza. Brutality defines this action behemoth with grande director Mark L Lester at the helm – and also responsible for that paradigmatic Commando.
Red Scorpion (1988)
Unpredictable. Classic. Dolph reprises his Russian accent for this 1988 epic, looking blonder and more chiseled than ever. The AO-63 in the final scene is the bomb. Not quite literally.
Dark Angel: I Come In Peace (1990)
Sci Fi and action movie all in one with astounding action scenes, one-liners and rocking electric guitar music.
Masters Of The Universe (1987)
The greatest of them all: who else could possibly do He-Man justice? Let’s not forget the equivalent to a light saber either. Great characters. Much action. So Skeletor. But the grand finish, the immortal words of Eternia farewell: Don’t say goodbye. Say Good Journey.