If you like odd and authentic movies that don’t cross over into arthouse, Dollman is perfect for you! It’s another one of Albert Pyun’s wacky science fiction movies from the nineties. With a vibrant atmosphere, it’s more similar to Nemesis than to Cyborg or any of his darker movies. Just one year earlier, Pyun directed Captain America, the first feature-length adaptation of the graphic novel character. Who knew that after that horrible movie in just twenty years, Captain America would be one of the highest-grossing franchises? But enough about that, let’s get back to the subject at hand, this very strange and entertaining movie.
As is the case with most of the direct-to-video movies, Dollman is charming and delightfully trashy. I mean, once the movie starts and you see it’s made on a small budget you can’t help wondering how are they going to pull this off? How are they going to make a science fiction movie that screams for special effects on a small budget? With a lot of POV shots and heart is the answer. However, you don’t watch these movies for special effects but to have a good time. The script is snappy and very politically incorrect. Something that becomes quite apparent when they make about twenty references to fat people in the opening sequence.
Pyun blends a lot of concepts from the hits of the eighties into one surreal but fun experience. Take Dirty Harry, Lethal Weapon, and then add some Sledge Hammer! and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and you’re done. Well, not quite because we also get the gritty and grimy hood experience complete with gangs and a single mother trying to make it. Plus, you’ve got the whole superhero angle going on, so Dollman is actually a fairly complex movie that comes off as simplistic and easygoing. The important thing is that all of this works and doesn’t feel clunky or derivative.
Meet Brick Bardo, a burned-out cop on a distant planet of Arturos. He’s currently on suspension because he destroyed half the city on his last mission. However, that doesn’t stop Bardo from arresting bad guys and kicking ass. While trying to catch Sprug, his greatest enemy, both of them stumble upon a strange cosmic phenomenon that sends them millions of light-years away. They find themselves on Earth, only doll-sized and without any means to get back.
If all this led you to believe that Dollman is a movie for kids, you’re dead wrong. We will see exploding bodies, graphic violence, and grotesque creatures. How about just a talking head flying on a nineties version of a drone? Well, just so you know that’s Brick Bardo’s worst enemy Sprug. The practical effects used to achieve this are quite good and possibly the best ones in the movie. I was also expecting more sexual jokes but we get exactly two. And there are some pretty good ones I thought they were gonna use.
Shot on location in the Bronx, Dollman takes place in the rough part of the city riddled with gangs and violence. Probably to contrast all those suburb movies of the eighties. It shows just how fucked up these areas are and how difficult it is to live there. We also get a pretty poignant and sobering monologue from Debi about gangs and gang culture. Kamala Lopez gave a very powerful and engaging performance here. You might remember her from Deep Cover as the struggling mother addicted to crack. If you would like to see a great movie about gangs check out Blood In Blood Out.
Tim Thomerson was awesome as Brick Bardo along with Jackie Earle Haley (Watchman) as the ruthless leader of the Bronx gang. Tim has both the looks and skills to play a character like this and it’s no wonder he returned for the sequel a couple of years later. You might wanna check out Trancers from 1984 with him and Helen Hunt no less where he plays almost the same character. Only he’s normal-sized.
Dollman perfectly represents everything I like about these cheesy B movies. It’s got a great atmosphere, funny script, and crazy plot along with some laughable special effects. However, it’s got a heart and a good vibe to it. For me, it’s most definitely not a movie so bad that it’s good but a delightfully charming science fiction movie made on a budget. The music is your finest nineties mix of dance and hip hop perfectly capturing the mood of the decade. When you add clothes, cars, and everything else to the mix you get a perfect time capsule. There are even people talking about Guns N’ Roses concerts!
Director: Albert Pyun
Writers: Charles Band, Chris Roghair, Ed Naha
Cast: Tim Thomerson, Jackie Earle Haley, Kamala Lopez, Humberto Ortiz, Nicholas Guest, Frank Collison, John Durbin
Fun Facts: In the first 15 minutes, the footage of the city on Arturus are actually shots of New Chicago from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979).
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101751/