When A&E this morning announced the new reality TV show Steven Seagal: Lawman, about the action hero’s second act as a New Orleans deputy, we marveled at his gumption and stick-to-it-iveness. We were reminded of other inspirational, unpredictable second acts, and we immediately thought of other admirable men, like the political advertising genius Chuck Norris, the Method actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, and that great American patriot Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know who we didn’t think about? Dolph Lundgren.
We knew that pathetic eighties girlie-men like Dustin Hoffman and Chevy Chase would amount to little outside of Hollywood — but we expected more out of Dolph. Other action stars have demonstrated true courage by imagining careers outside of anticommunist action thrillers, while Dolph has cowered in his little corner: a scared little boy, afraid of taking real risks. Just look at the record:
Chuck Norris: With one show, Walker, Texas Ranger, Norris ended history’s shameful segregation of cowboys and martial artists. Then he supported Mike Huckabee, transforming him from also-ran to contender. Had Norris not been held back, he would have kicked Obama’s ass.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Schwarzenegger did what he could to change the world within the studio system, using Kindergarten Cop to prove that threatening brutes could be caring fathers too (paving the way for Vin Diesel and the Rock). But that wasn’t enough: His election as Governator broke barriers for Austrians, orgy enthusiasts, ass gropers, and Hummer enthusiasts.
Steven Seagal: Thanks to the brave work of this man, action films are no longer the domain of fit or thin action actors. He never spoke about it, but the quiet bulk of his moral authority transformed the genre into something bigger, even as he launched the 240-calorie energy drink Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt. Now he’s saving real lives as a deputy in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. With his bare hands.
Jean-Claude Van Damme: Nearly consigned to a life of copycat action films like Lundgren’s, Van Damme broke with Lundgren after the Universal Soldier films and reclaimed his dignity in this year’s dizzying metaphysical heist film JVCD, revealing himself to be an introspective postmodern conversationalist and avant-garde animal lover.
And you, Dolph? What have you done? Other than direct yourself in one straight-to-DVD, filmed-in-Bulgaria action flick after the next, as another crazy vigilante, another terrifying Russian, another martial artist named Lance Rockford working to stop the terrorists for a president played by Jerry Springer… What have you done outside of your comfort zone? Nothing. Fraidy-cat.
Dolph, please take a chance. You’re from the land of August Strindberg, Ingmar Bergman, Victor Sjöström, and the world’s most famous singing chef — don’t hide your genius from the light. Rip it out with your bare hands and drop-kick it back into the ring.