It is 1988 and East-Germany have produced an elite athlete to compete in the Pentathlon division at the summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea. His name Eric Brogar (Dolph Lundgren) and has been abusively and meticulously trained by Heinrich Mueller (David Soul) since childhood to compete and win. After finally winning gold, Brogar sees the freedom his American counterparts enjoy and escapes the clutches of Mueller by running away with them on their plane back to America.
The story picks up six years later where Brogar now resides in LA working in a diner flipping burgers and chain smoking like there’s no tomorrow. His boss, Creese (Roger Mosley), never understood why Brogar came to work for him until he discovers his Olympic heritage and re-trains Brogan to compete at the national level. Along the way, Brogar finds Julie, the girl who helped him immigrate to America, at the national try outs and attempts to rekindles their romance. Brogar regains purpose in his life earning him some media attention however his popularity brings him to Mueller’s attention who is now a Neo-Nazi terrorist and travels to LA with the intention of using Brogar for a vendetta against those who stand in his way.
Pentathlon shows the radical thoughts behind the East-German border, where young Brogar was raised, to the ideal western concept of individuality and freedom that the American athletes promote during the Olympic Games. In fact when Brogar attempts to swap his top with one of the Americans, Mueller reacts with utter disgust pulling him away from the encounter. One of the more sympathetic East-German athletes consoles the Americans saying not to take the incident to heart as they may live “on the same planet, they come from different worlds.” Lundgren wanted to inject some heart into this character and he does so on many levels.
The transitional theme of an individual wanting from break away from a Socialist environment into the free world was gracefully shown when Brogar drinks in a bar and watches the Berlin wall come down on a TV. Brogar was now free, but clearly not happy. Always dreaming of something more than what the Germans can offer, Brogar didn’t hesitate when an opportunity came to take him away from Mueller however it all came at a cost he wasn’t aware of and certainly wasn’t strong enough to bear. While being physically strong and at his prime, Brogar was now a broken man and not even his strength could help pick him up. Only after his diner boss brought things into perspective does he return to form.
When Stallone launched Lundgren in Rocky IV back in 1985, he was able to carve a career with hight octane action movies like Red Scorpion, The Punisher and the cult classic – Universal Soldier which also starred Jean-Claude Van Damme. Up until that point, Lundgren was involved with extreme action thrillers and probably wanted to balance his image so as Exec Producer, he created Pentathlon combining heart felt drama with a dash of action. And lots of scenes without his top on.
The interactions between the characters are warm and affectionate. While the acting talents do their job well, the threat Mueller brings near the end of the movie however isn’t as dramatic as it makes itself out to be. Still hung over of the philosophy of failing the German Democratic Republic, Mueller’s vengeance doesn’t seem that intense even though the character is played by Soul of Starsky and Hutch fame. As a result, Lundgren’s acting and action muscles never seem to be fully flexed. That being said, Pentathlon is an enjoyable movie and Lungdren has never looked so good. Well… not until he turned up in The Expendables anyway. But that’s a whole other movie.
Pentathlon will be released on DVD & Blu-Ray on 30th July
Reviewed by Vaskar S. Kayastha
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