Dollman (1991) — Small cop solves big case

“So Debi, tell me size doesn’t count.”

Justin’s rating: I’m a Barbie dollman, living in a Barbie world

Justin’s review: I suppose it was my destiny to eventually watch Dollman, seeing as how it was the intersection between cult movie director Albert Pyun (Nemesis), Trancers’ Tim Thomerson, and Charles Band’s cult movie factory Full Moon Entertainment.

The bizarre smash-up concept with Dollman is to take a knock-off Dirty Harry, shrink him down to about a foot tall, and have him caper about Earth trying to track down a criminal. It’s so delightfully odd that people like me have no other choice but to check it out — even if there’s no way the budget could pull off the effects needed for a scifi Gulliver’s Travels.

Thomerson is Brick Bardo, a cop so unconventional that he wears sunglasses at night and growls out non-sequitur one-liners at every corner. I wasn’t making up that “Dirty Harry” thing, either; Thomerson clearly binge-watched Clint Eastwood to channel a facsimile of his iconic character.

Bardo chases his arch-nemesis Sprug (who is, it should be mentioned, a floating head) through a cosmic anomaly, which spits them both out onto Earth — and transforms Bardo into a 13-inch-tall grumpy galactic beat cop.

If that’s not complicated enough, Bardo arrives in the Bronx of the early ’90s, which I guess wasn’t the nicest of places. There’s a gang led by Watchman’s Jackie Earle Haley that’s terrorizing everyone, and Bardo finds himself fighting against them too on behalf of a single mother named Debi (who is remarkably tough herself).

The whole gimmick of this film — that Bardo is just a foot tall — buckles under the severe strain of a limited special effects budget. Think “lots of forced perspective,” actual dolls taped to the side of cars, and fight scenes that take place in non-descript piles of rubble.

Bardo’s only real point of leverage is a handgun that creates dinner plate-sized holes in his enemies. He adores using this gun, as you will often see, because it’s pretty much the beginning and end of his character. Well, that and grousing about “giants” a whole lot.

Outlandish concepts with tiny budgets, oversized ambitions, and inconsistent results are the trademark of Full Moon pics, and Dollman fits right in with Charles Band’s demented crowd. It speaks well of the general pep and zing of this movie that it can overcome the failed premise of a miniature human. Everyone’s putting their heart into these roles, both hero and villain, and if things get a little too slow, then Brick Bardo shoots a guy or two in half.

It’s all so exceedingly strange that it keeps the audience from growing restless or turning to modern action movies that don’t have a creative bone in their bodies. I just wish that Dollman had a few more million in its pockets to do this idea right. It ultimately falters and fails because of that.

To top the general lunacy of this flick, Dollman actually spawned a franchise of sorts. There was a limited-run comic book series, trading cards, and a sequel. Maybe it’s even time for a third entry — one where modern filmmaking techniques might actually sell this concept.

Didja notice?

  • Planet Arturos looks absolutely no different from earth, right down to the use of English signs
  • The coolest of cops wear sunglasses at night
  • The craziest of cops do laundry during.a hostage situation
  • It’s the “most powerful handgun in the universe”
  • The floating head effect is pretty well-done
  • Smoking after you’ve lost most of your body
  • A gun retrieval system that looks like Iron Man
  • The Bronx montage
  • Man, she really doesn’t like drug dealers
  • Guns are great for shooting cockroaches
  • Sprug sure got his, didn’t he?

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