ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sean Collier is a writer and movie critic. Listen to his podcast, The Number One Movie in America, on all major podcast apps. Follow him on Twitter for more reviews: @seancollierpgh
How can a movie about a hardass vigilante extraterrestrial — who happens to be about 13 inches tall, and is in possession of a magnetically controlled super-gun — end up stunningly boring?
For the answer to this question: Watch Dollman.
Directed by schlock maestro Albert Pyun (Cyborg, The Sword and the Sorcerer, the troubled 1990 version of Captain America), Dollman received a straight-to-video release from Full Moon in 1991. Pyun had been busy; Captain America finally saw the light of day the previous year, and he had two other films premiere in ’91 alone.
Perhaps that’s why some parts of Dollman feel much more fleshed out than others. Or maybe it’s just because the script is awful.
The titular tiny guy is Brick Bardo, played by Tim Thomerson (in one of the only recorded instances of a character name and actor name being equally ridiculous). On his own planet, Bardo is actual size; either because of some space dilation or just because his planet is tiny (it’s kind of explained in an automated message from Bardo’s ship), he’s little on Earth.
He winds up here after a showdown with crime lord Sprug (Frank Collison), a disembodied head attached to a floating life-support device; Bardo rendered him body-free, and he wants revenge. (An elaborate effect keeps Sprug’s head floating … in wide shots, with an obvious prop head. Collison only speaks in close-ups that stop at about the chin.) When the confrontation goes sideways, both Bardo and Sprug hop in their ships and head to Earth, where they get caught up in a small-time Bronx gang war.
Yup: Of all places this story could’ve gone, it ended up making its bizarre alien characters secondary players in a minor street scuffle.
Presumably, what budget was set aside for Dollman was thoroughly exhausted on Bardo’s home planet — these scenes have the only decent-looking sets — forcing the three credited writers to come up with a cheaper-to-shoot locale for the rest of the film. Other than occasional one-liners, most of Dollman is only vaguely concerned with the fact that Bardo is tiny; rather than do much with the size difference, the film plays out like an unimaginative action movie.
The only aspect of Dollman worth seeing is a committed and suitably odd performance by Jackie Earle Haley, as vicious gang leader Braxton. Haley had risen as a child star in the ’70s (“Bad News Bears”) before going into the Hollywood wilderness for quite a while; he’d mount a major comeback in the ’00s, earning an Oscar nomination for Little Children en route to playing a pair of icons, taking over as Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake and giving the best turn in Zack Snyder’s mediocre Watchmen adaptation. 1991 was certainly a low point for him, though — good news for anyone trying to make it through Dollman.
Miraculously, Dollman persisted, appearing in a post-credits stinger after Full Moon’s Bad Channels and then crossing over with their Demonic Toys property in 1993’s inventively titled Dollman vs. Demonic Toys.
I will not be keeping up with his further adventures.