Missionary Man (2007) — Dolf directs. ‘Nuff said.

“I’m gonna ask you to get down on your knees and beg the Lord’s forgiveness. But first, I’m gonna take this knee, and break that nose.”

Kaleb’s rating: If you will, turn with me in your Scripts to 2 Archetypes 4:6-8 for today’s reading: “And the Director spake unto them, saying, ‘Verily I say unto thee, that there shall never be a trope more intimidating than the scripture-quoting killer, either on Earth or in Heaven above.'”

Kaleb’s review: Someday, I will grow out of my milquetoastiness, and not have to always preface these things with an apology. Until then, apology ho!

Ideally, a review such as this one should begin with an eye-catching hook, be followed by a toned, sexy body, and then somewhere toward the end I should say something like, “In conclusion, pineapple.” and then you would be like, “Ah, yes. Now I see the subtle pineapply undertones featured throughout the review that were building to this point. Nicely done, sir. (golf applause)”

In reality, however, what you are about to read is a disjointed, hobo-rant-like rabbit trail abomination. I’m sorry, but there’s just too much here to ridicule, and making it all flow nicely would’ve resulted in a ridiculously long review. Moreso than this one is, I mean. Okay, apology over; time for the literary hurl-pile:

One of the rare perks of living in a candy-sprinkled crapcake like Branson is that we get to have shady, low-budget equivalents of the genuine entertainment outlets one can find elsewhere. The Game Xchange is a good example, and perfect for you if you’ve ever been in a Gamestop or an EB and thought to yourself, “Yeah, this is nice, but it would be better if it had bars on the windows and smelled like urine. And where are all the trashed-out ex-rentals?”

On the DVD end of things, there’s Buster’s. No, no “Block”, just Buster’s. They had to pay for the possessive tense permit somehow.

It was on a recent sojourn to the same that I came across Missionary Man, and thought that I had found a diamond in the rough. Or the bargain bin, as the case may be. You see, I was hurting — Dragon Wars had very nearly destroyed my faith in bad movies, and I needed healing and salvation and Gilead-brand balm and I’m going to stop with the forced religious rhetoric now.

The title and cover alone made me suspect that I had in my hands a tasty bit of cinematic flotsam, but what really sealed the deal was the blurb on the back:

…Dolph Lundgren directs, writes and stars in this action-packed modern-day western that will blow your mind away.

“Wow, that sounds pretty terrible just by itself. It has ‘Dolph Lundgren’ and ‘directs, writes and stars in’ in the same sentence, it openly admits to being a modern-day western — one of the most fundamentally cheese-ridden genres there is — and it makes threats of hurtling my psyche into the ether, while honestly expecting that to be a selling point.”

…Armed with his Bible, his motorcycle and his thirst for revenge, Ryder faces down the evil dictator in true vigilante style, proving that justice still packs a punch.

“PUT IT IN MY VEINS, BOYS!!”

I don’t know, there’s just something about seeing “Bible” and “motorcycle” right next to each other that turned this one into a must-watch. As a bonus, you get a hero named for the most feared and notorious moving van rental service this side of the Mississip’.

Perhaps it was just the relative effect of bottomed-out expectations, but the movie pulls a pretty slick fake-out during the first five minutes, in that it looks like it might actually be good. Then the dialogue starts, and everything goes downcliff from there.

Plot-wise, nothing new or unexpected happens; which is fine with me, lover of cliché that I am (hey, if its overused, it must work, right?). However, if you’re not going to be original, you need to at least be good at being unoriginal, and as one might expect, the execution in this case is more than a little SUPER-ULTRA-AWESOME!!

Sorry. I just wanted to spice things up a bit. And I was totally kidding of course; this movie is all manner of bad.

So… there’s an evil rich guy who runs this small town – which, in keeping with Hollywood’s definition of every locale that isn’t LA or New York, has a population that is exactly half malleable, wimpy simple folk, and half white-trash-for-hire – and he traffics in drugs and wants a casino to happen and is evil.

Needless to say, Ryder makes trouble for him, effortlessly beating up his thugs many, many times. So, Reno (the evil rich guy) calls on his biker friends from “up North”, because Ryder is a biker himself, and the reason Reno’s standard thugs can’t defeat him is that he knows secret Biker Ninjitsu. I assume.

It all culminates in a showdown on the streets and back alleys of Town, Texas, with the naughty bikers very wisely going after Ryder one or two at a time, so that he can systematically slaughter them like pigs. An en masse blitz on the part of the bad guys would’ve been a grave tactical faux pas, in that it might have actually allowed them to win.

It’s of note that during this final battle, Ryder drops his previously-established no-kill policy (which is never actually stated, just assumed based on his actions), and not only starts whacking baddies something fierce, but is at times somewhat mean in the process. Such as the time he strings a fellow up Old West style, or another instance where he rather graphically gives a guy a shotgun facial.

I don’t mean to go all Church Lady, but that doesn’t sound to me like something Jesus would do. And even if he did, I’m sure he would reassemble the man’s head straightaway.

On that note, one may wonder how Ryder’s apparent Bibliness is going to reconcile with bloody slaying. Well, the solution is really quite simple; just make sure that any faith-allusions are sufficiently vague and irrelevant, then relegate them to an area two planes further back than the background.

It’s not that I mind terribly; I didn’t honestly go into this thinking “Yay! Dolph is going to teach me how to enact massacre in a Christian manner!” It’s just that, if Ryder’s Bible wasn’t ever intended to be anything more than a prop — something for him to read when he isn’t strolling menacingly about town or showing off his freshly-showered back muscles — then they may as well have left it out altogether.

By the way, this film is set on a reservation in Texas, with real-live Native Americans and everything, so if you are a viewer of creamy complexion, get ready to be generously sprinkled with grated shame, as required by federal law. And if you’ve got a problem with it, all I can tell you is that you should have thought about that before you decided to be part of such an evil race.

For all of its faults, I can at least give Missionary Man credit for a milestone of sorts. That being, the first instance of my actually being frightened by an impending sex scene. Normally, I don’t mind a bit of spontaneous copulation, under the condition that my folks aren’t around (awkward!), and the preference that it be at least vaguely plot-relevant. But in this case, the obvious and imminent event — which seemed poised to lend horrible new significance to the film’s title — was met with a hearty, “Can we not, please?” Naked dudes really aren’t a high-demand import in my personal economy to begin with, but if such cannot be avoided, it could at least be one who doesn’t look like his face was carved out of adobe clay with a butter knife and isn’t twice the age of the woman he’s about to get unsettling with.

Happily, the whole thing was implied. So much so that I’m not even sure anything happened. Thank Heaven for small miracles.

That said, the fact that intercourse occurred at all is made potentially much ickier by the final enweirdening plot element: It’s faintly implied toward the end that Ryder may in fact be a revenant: a comparatively* moist and pleasant-smelling denizen of the undead. In this case, a murder victim who was actually well-known in Town, and who, according to an unspoken law established by The Wraith, looks an awful lot like his old self, but just dissimilar enough so that people don’t know it’s him.

Remember kiddies: The surest path to plot weirdness is excessive ambition.

The tagline reads “No sin shall go unpunished.” Apparently, purchase of this DVD is at the top of that list, and the movie it contains is the penance.

*Versus the other choices.

Didja notice?

  • In the previews: Zombie Strippers!
  • Also in the previews: Dragon Wars! (an ill portent)
  • Hey there, cripply guy who lives in a warehouse and has some past association with Ryder and has been keeping a special shotgun for him! We’ll never see you again or find out anything about who you are!
  • What’s that you say? You have something else for him? Well, I guess we’ll never know what it was, since he left before you could give it to him, and we never got to see it!
  • At one point, a biker thug walks into a building where Ryder is hiding, is heard to shout, “Ow, my arm!” and emerges, nursing a drippy eye wound.
  • Seriously. I re-watched the scene, like, five times. He says “arm”.
  • When the noosed biker is being lifted to his hangy demise, the shadow of some unknown piece of equipment can be seen going up with him.
  • The last scene is obviously ripped off from Pale Rider.
  • As is, arguably, the whole rest of the movie.
  • Hey, wait a minute. . .Ryder. . .Rider. Why, those clever rascals!

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