Dollman (1991)

I love this one.

I mean, hard-boiled alien cop pursues a bad guy to Earth, where he discovers that he is only fourteen inches tall?  It’s brilliant, it’s silly, it is incredibly inspired in a totally bonkers sort of way, and it is something you can only find from a small, independent distributor because the big studios normally protect us from this sort of thing.  It is also my current favorite film from Full Moon Features, give or take a Bad Channels or two.

Which, admittedly, might not sound like much of a category to chose from, but for all their essential cheapness, their old school effects, and their tendency to rip off other, better films, the movies from Full Moon — or its Empire Pictures precursor — often had something essentially strange about them, whether it was aliens using a DJ to steal our women, or a mixed martial arts tournament at a distant space station, or a giant war robot which has been turned into a passenger bus service.  I’m not sure if this is because the founder of the two companies, Charles Band, provided the original story for most of these films, but that would help to explain their constant battiness, even if  they don’t always live up to their absurd promise.

This one features one of their star players, Tim Thomerson, who is perhaps best remembered as Jack Deth in the Trancers films.  Tim is actually quite an accomplished character actor, but he has definitely made his mark with hard-boiled tough guys, whether Dirty Harry-esque future cops like Jack Deth, or the indestructible Sergeant from Zone Troopers (another eccentric Empire offering!) or a stranded fourteen-inch tall alien cop with the most destructive handgun in the known universe.

Brick Bardo is a loose cannon back on his home world, a cop who tends to leave blood and guts strewn all over the place when he takes on its criminal scum.  He lost his wife and family, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to deal with the increasingly violent criminals around him.  Naturally, when he reaches Earth, he doesn’t land in some peaceful Mid-Western town, but in the heart of the gang war-zone that is the Bronx of the 1990s.  Well, only more so, I suspect.  I’m not sure how many street gangs had automatic weapons back then.

But Brick is a lot shrewder than he seems, and, despite his rudeness and anger, Tim manages to make him surprisingly sympathetic.  But what makes this all work is the sheer absurdity of his plight, as his spaceship is treated like a toy, all the neighbors have to come and stare at him, and the criminal he was pursuing meets the most ignominious death of any super villain on record.

Albert Pyun directed:  he’s had an interesting career making low budget action films with the likes of Jean Claude Van Damme and Olivier Gruner, including many for Charles Band, under one label or the other (among others Trancers and Nemesis).  But his films have generally had a decidedly strange edge to them:  among them you will find an intense, three player, one set drama with two aliens holding a girl hostage in a warehouse — one of whom calls himself Brick Bardo! (Deceit) — and a truly amazing minimalist alien invasion film, shown entirely from the perspective of a Police Car’s dash camera (Invasion).  He seems an ideal choice for a hardboiled film wrapped around such a goofy premise, and he carries it all off with effortless grace.

If you are looking for great drama or dazzling directorial style this is not the movie you are looking for.  But if you are hoping for action, heroics, gunplay, a hardboiled hero and a bit of science fiction, then this one should fill the bill.

After all, an ultra-violent Dirty Harry-style cop is an ultra-violent Dirty Harry-style cop no matter how small…

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