May 5, 2014

Review: Joshua Tree (1993)

Dolph Lundgren is a beaut isn't he? He'll never get as much love as action heavyweights like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone but ever since he broke onto the scene in Rocky IV, he holds a special place in action movie mythology. He clocks in more at the level of Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme type movies which is still a respectable domain. At 6'5, he's absolutely massive and he's great at keeping that permanent scowl on his face. He's not much of an actor but he's got the skills to carry an action movie.

Joshua Tree was directed by famed stuntman and stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong who's most noteworthy credits include Indiana Jones, James Bond and Superman which is pretty impressive. Joshua Tree is his directorial debut unless you want to count an episode of The Indiana Jones Chronicles. Vic's done good in bringing Dolph on board who he had worked with previously in Universal Soldier.


Genre: action, adventure, crime
Directed by: Vic Armstrong
Produced by: Andy Armstrong, Illana Diamant, Moshe Diamant, etc.
Written by: Steven Pressfield
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Running time: 106 minutes
Production company: Vision International, Epic Productions, Zilex N.V., etc.
Distributed by: Vision International, 20th Century Fox Australia, Herald Film Company, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $9,000,000
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, George Segal, Kristian Alfonso, Geoffrey Lewis, Beau Starr, Michelle Phillips, Matt Battaglia, Bert Remsen, Michael Paul Chan, Khandi Alexander, Marcus Brown, Nick Chinlund, Ken Foree, Edward Stone, Rondi Reed, Anita Brabec, Jason Ross-Azikiwe



Joshua Tree is as timeless as action movies go. Dolph Lundgren plays Anthony Santee who works as a driver hauling stolen exotic cars. A cop gets killed when Santee is pulled over and is charged with the crime. It's a wrongful accusation and it's one that Santee aims to get revenge for. He bails out of prison, takes Rita Marrick as a hostage and wreaks a whole bunch of havoc along the way.


Joshua Tree an easy story that's a little rough around the edges in its execution. It's also a glorious throwback to a time when we still had slow motion action scenes without any hint of irony. Where one man can be an army and as viewers we don't roll our eyes. I could go on and on about how awesome the 80's and 90's were for action movies, but Joshua Tree is a perfect example of that time. It's a second rate action movie if you compare it to Terminator 2: Judgement Day or any other action blockbusters, but boy does it have charm.

First, I got to mention the score. When I saw the opening credits roll I saw the name Joel Goldsmith. It made me think of composer Jerry Goldsmith but I didn't think anything of it until I actually looked up who he was. He's actually the son of Jerry Goldsmith and it shows. Not that Joshua Tree has the greatest score ever, but it has some great atmospheric music to enhance the mood. JT likes to think of itself as a bit of a western and the music just helps that along. It's gloriously 90's and I wish I could have this music playing if I were driving through the desert too.

In the acting department, we don't have any Oscar or Golden Globe potential but I wouldn't want it any other way. Dialogue is weak and delivery of said dialogue isn't much better either. The funniest scenes probably occur when Dolph's character meets Maralena and her son E.G. for some help. Santee gives E.G. a very stern talking to because he doesn't want him to become like himself and I couldn't help but guffaw at this part.

The action which is the most important part after all is inconsistent but you can't help but enjoy it despite its faults. Some car stunts are edited to hide deficiencies and some of the fights could have benefited from some more takes to improve the choreography. Despite these issues, Joshua Tree is an action movie fan's dream come true with tons of guns, explosions, car chases and a couple one-liners. Yes, some movies have better production values but if only they could deliver half the fun of what Joshua Tree brings.

It's easy to dismiss the Rita Marrick character as just eye candy. Well, she pretty much is just eye candy for 90% of the movie but she does have some important parts to play in several scenes and on more than one occasion she proves her merit. There are movies that are definitely worse offenders for having women as simply eye candy than Joshua Tree.

All in all, Joshua Tree serves as a reminder of how good we had it. Action movies are and still can be a lot of fun but there's something honourable about JT. It's kind of like a samurai when gunpowder started making its rounds. It brings the most crucial parts of what makes an action movie fun to watch. There are hiccups and it is not the greatest action movie ever made, far from it. All the same, if I were to weave a tapestry that shows the history of action movies throughout the decades, Joshua Tree would find itself somewhere on that tapestry.



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