The Jack Abramoff + Dolph Lundgren Connection

Today sees the opening of Alex Gibney’s new documentary, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, a thoroughgoing rise-and-fall treatment of jailed super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Despite some minor quibbles about the style (too many inter-titles, music cues that are way too on the nose, etc.), I consider this the only must-see of the weekend, and the perfect antidote to Iron Man 2 — which any adult should be able to discern from a thousand yards off as a piece of trash. Abramoff was something of a real-life Iron Man himself, a high-flying, charismatic, teflon-coated Gradgrind who came to apotheosize everything wrong with K Street. Before the highly publicized trial in which he pled guilty to charges of conspiracy, honest services fraud, and tax evasion, Abramoff had perpetrated more cons than an army of grifters. He also, I was reminded, spent ten years in Hollywood, where believe it or not, he produced a sensationalist Dolph Lundgren actioner!

1989’s Red Scorpion is, from any artistic standpoint, an atrocious film. Meant to extol the virtues of the Reagan Doctrine in Africa, what it really does is just barely amuse with its mishmash of action movie tropes and confused rhetorical posturing. In it, Lundgren plays Lt. Rachenko, a Soviet soldier ordered to undermine the burgeoning regime of African freedom fighter, Kallunda Kintash (Al White) in the fictitious nation of Mobaka. His mission fails, and after a lot of narrative filler, he’s eventually won over to the rebels’ cause. He joins their fight, kills nearly every other Russian in sight, and I’m pretty sure says “Fuckin eh!” just before the credits role. In what is also an hilarious footnote to Abamaoff’s former weightlifting career, Lundgren also saves his best friend by power-lifting a jeep. This terrible movie is nevertheless a key ingredient to the Abramoff saga, and it’s somehow priceless in its own “shitty agitprop” kind of way.

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