Dolph Lundgren continues in career freefall with “The Shooter,” an international action pudding whose dough consistently refuses to rise. Pic doesn’t look likely to score many bull’s-eyes even on homevideo, where it’s clearly headed fast in the U.K. following a token theatrical release.
Lundgren, who hasn’t had a decent outing since “Universal Soldier” (1992), seems to be trying for something a little more human here, but needs a much stronger vehicle if he’s to forge any career outside comic-strip or terminator roles. Aside from a script that mostly fires blanks, and direction by Canadian vet Ted Kotcheff that’s close to somnambulant, “The Shooter” spends most of its time making Lundgren’s character look either ungainly or dim, and pairs him off with a female assassin who starts out as an unsmiling lesbian. This is not the ideal landscaping for great action heroes.
Somebody has shot the Cuban ambassador to the U.N., so Czech-born U.S. Marshal Mickey Dane (Sweden’s Lundgren) zips off to Prague to arrest the prime suspect, international French hit woman Simone Rosset (Dutch actress Maruschka Detmers), who owns a swanky restaurant with her Czech girlfriend, Marta (Spain’s Assumpta Serna). Despite being drugged, Simone escapes from the clutches of Mickey and his old CIA buddy Alex Reed (John Ashton); only later, after a long chase, does Mickey recapture her.
During a quiet spell in the country with Simone before smuggling her back to the U.S., Mickey starts to have doubts about whether she was the killer. She claims she’s now retired, hasn’t left the country for five years, and is being set up for a similar assassination in Prague in a few hours’ time. He finally throws in his lot with her, and the duo return post haste to Prague, where more death and double-crosses await them.
Though stuck in a humorless role, Detmers is the only one to emerge with any credit from the clunky mess, making a reasonably convincing action heroine who’s not afraid to get her hair mussed up. As her sidelined lover, Serna is way overcast in a part that’s so underwritten it’s almost nonexistent; of the rest, Ashton is reliable in the standard tough-talking buddy role.
Lundgren strolls through the movie as if it’s a series of screen tests for future career options: a little badinage with Detmers about fine wines while wearing a smart suit; a little bare-chested jaw-grinding as he cuts open his arm to fool Serna he’s on her side; a little New Age sensitivity as he chats with Detmers after her bath. Unfortunately, neither script nor thesp are up to the various challenges, and both get no help from Kotcheff, who directs as if he can’t wait to get on the next flight home.
Shot in the Czech Republic and Toronto, with post-production in countries including Italy (music) and Canada (processing), pic is OK technically, but no more. Interior photography tends toward the muddy; editing, scoring and stunts are routine.