Review: Ambushed

Ambitious drug dealer Daniel Bonjour is looking to make some quick cash and then leave the business to settle down with his oblivious girlfriend Cinthya Bornacelli. Along with volatile Scottish pal Gianni Capaldi, Bonjour gets the idea to alleviate kingpin Vinnie Jones of the burden of having to put up with ineffectual middle men when Bonjour and Capaldi can just sell large quantities of the drugs themselves. Bonjour attempts to prove this point by killing the middle men himself. Did I mention they’re working for the very mild-mannered Vinnie Jones? And they didn’t let him in on the plan until after Bonjour kills a couple of his dealers? Yeah, these guys have balls. Not necessarily brains, but certainly balls. Meanwhile, Dolph Lundgren and by-the-book newbie Michael Rivera are a couple of DEA agents happening upon the scene of the murdered dealers. They also happen upon a surly LAPD detective (Randy Couture) who doesn’t much like them stepping on his turf. He’s the film’s “Bad Lieutenant” and Lundgren spots it a mile away. Carly Pope plays a skanky chick who hangs out with Susie Abromeit, the latter a good time acquaintance of Bonjour and Capaldi. Mel Rodriguez turns up as a small time dealer who prefers to be known as Sweetness. Sweetness is an idiot.

Well this sure was a pleasant surprise. Directed by Giorgio Serafini (“A Certain Sacrifice” with Dolph Lundgren, “Game of Death” with Wesley Snipes), this cops-and-crooks-and-crooked cops flick from 2013 may not be especially original, but it’s certainly entertaining and far more competently made than the usual thing you find Dolph Lundgren in. I was expecting something firmly in the C-grade and heavy on action, but in fact this is closer to B-grade and largely plays like a crime-thriller.

South African-born Daniel Bonjour completely convinces as an American, but the James Franco-wannabe is otherwise a pretty uninteresting and unlikeable lead. Thankfully, although acting isn’t remotely Oscar-quality here, there’s a pretty interesting cast (and film) around Bonjour. The very Scottish-sounding (but not very Scottish-named) Gianni Capaldi could possibly tone down the Billy Connolly accent exaggeration at tad (and did he really have to claim to be a descendant of William Wallace?), but is nonetheless a lively presence whenever on screen. Capaldi (who co-produced and is a frequent collaborator of the director and Lundgren) plays an unscrupulous sleaze, yet you find yourself not hating the guy somehow. In fact, when he makes the dumbfuck decision to take a swing at Vinnie Jones you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy, he’s soon going to violently regret such an act. The best performance by far (and the main reason to see the film) is from a surprising source: Former fighter Randy Couture, essentially playing “Bad Lieutenant”. As a forever pissed off, corrupt, drug-addicted piece of shit cop he gives his best performance to date. He’s particularly amusing reacting to Lundgren’s cocky upstart partner with obvious disdain. All angry all the time is a mode that works really well for Couture here, and while he may not be the film’s main villain he’s certainly a very bad and brutal man. Meanwhile, if I worked for Vinnie Jones, I’m pretty sure if I ever did something wrong I’d commit hari-kari/seppuku because it’s gotta be less brutal than whatever Vinnie Jones would do to me if he ever found out. The guy looks mean, violent, and completely OK with the thought of carrying out violence should anyone piss him off. Or blink in his presence. Like Couture I’m not sure I’d call Jones an actor as such, but he’s a helluva presence. He’s perfect really, largely because he just seems like a genuinely scary dude who isn’t acting all that much. In fact, the film’s one real flaw is that his character seems to disappear completely towards the end. Did he have another filming assignment to get to? Cinthya Bornacelli is pretty dull as Bonjour’s na├»ve squeeze (who doesn’t even seem to realise that her boyfriend owns a strip club and sells drugs!), but Susie Abromeit is pretty good as a trashy acquaintance of both Bonjour and Capaldi. Look out for a genuinely hilarious cameo by Mel Rodriguez as Scott, AKA ‘Sweetness’, the dumbest wannabe big-time pusher you’ll ever come across in cinema. I mean, this guy is such a douche that he drinks right out of someone’s blender without asking. Yes, the actual blender itself. Which isn’t even his. Did I mention that he prefers to be called Sweetness? Yeah. As for Lundgren, I prefer him in villainous mode, but this is one of his better good guy performances. He’s older and slower, but I have no doubt he could kick both of our arses. Dude definitely takes care of himself. His partner, played by Michael Rivera is as I alluded to earlier, the most inept law enforcer since Sweetchuck in the “Police Academy” franchise and a constant source of hopefully intentional amusement.

Aside from a couple of fairly anonymous lead performances, this crime drama is surprisingly very watchable. The supporting cast offers up some pretty memorable turns (Randy Couture especially), and if the script is nothing new at least it’s better than usual for a Lundgren picture. I might just give this one a soft recommendation. The screenplay is credited to Agustin, AKA Agustin Fernandez, who later wrote and directed “Badge of Honour” which boasted a helluva B cast of its own: Martin Sheen, Mena Suvari, Lochlyn Munro, Natasha Henstridge, Patrick Muldoon, Haylie Duff, and Jesse Bradford. I should probably track that one down sometime.

Rating: B-


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