Battle of the Damned (2013)
(15) Running time: 88 minutes
Director: Christopher Hatton
Writer: Christopher Hatton
Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Matt Doran, David Field, Melanie Zanetti
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Mostly down to the phenomenal success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, zombies are big business right now, and everyone is cashing in on the idea. Likewise 80s action stars are enjoying a revival, with both Stallone and Schwarzenegger enjoying huge career boosts of late after the wonderful action film, The Expendables. So, it goes without saying that eventually someone would come up with the idea of placing a 80’s action star in a zombie flick, and while they’re at it, throw in some violent robots too!
If the idea of watching Dolph Lundgren take on so-called zombies, in a kind of Walking Dead type setting, and having brutal robots at his command floats your boat, then Battle of the Damned is definitely for you. If the idea seems silly, then that’s because it is, and if you don’t have the patience for silly B-movies, then its best you stay away from this one. Battle of the Damned is as B-movie as they come, and while it is not a particularly good film, it can often be a lot of fun.
Lundgren plays the brilliantly named Major Max Gatling, and he has been tasked to enter a zombie infested city, and bring back a survivor, the sexy Jude (Zanetti). The city has been closed off, to keep the infected from getting out, and stopping anyone else from getting in, it is a no-go zone, and a dangerous place. Gatling finds it out very quickly as he loses his men, and declares “Gatling, you’re a stupid son of a bitch” before the opening credits roll some fifteen minutes in. Seconds after the credits, we return to the movie, Gatling finds the girl, but she comes with a group of survivors who all want to be saved. Gatling is now faced with a predicament about whether he saves just one, or the entire group, all the while the so-called zombies are walking around the city.
I say so-called because one man describes them as not being zombies at all, because “The infection invades the cerebrum and kills the higher cortical functions” I don’t really know what that means, but suffice to say these zombies can die however Gatling decides to kill them. A simple shot to the head is out the window here, and Gatling slices, chops, stabs, strangles and occasionally shoots the undead in a barrage of violent scenes. When the robots turn up later, they too slice up the undead in gloriously bloody fashion, but here lies one of the films many faults. The action is too close up, and the camera far too jittery to actually be able to see what is going on, and it was very frustrating.
Some of the acting is pretty awful in places, and the story is way too familiar to ever really feel exciting. The film is fun, simply for Lundgren’s presence, but take him out of the film and this would be painfully mediocre and actually rather boring. Lundgren towers over the cast, and his one-liners like “fuck you you fucking can opener” as a robot turns against him, or “zombies, killer robots? Nice town you got here” really elevate the film from the realms of crap to the realms of B-movie gold. In a brilliant piece of action star dialogue, Lundgren is explaining to the leader of the group of survivors who he is:
Duke: “Are you with some kind of military para-troopers?”
Duke: “Is there a difference?”
Gatling: “They’re pussies”
The colourless design gives the film a real sense of loss of life and humanity, and the band of survivors all do their best to impress while in Lundgren’s shadow, but they can’t. This is Lundgren’s show, and he is taking no prisoners. The idea to add killer robots into the mix works too, and even though when they walk and run they look rather silly, it does make for some guilty pleasure type fun. You know it’s stupid, you know it’s cheap, and you know that Battle of the Damned is actually a big pile of crap, but god dammit it has Lundgren fighting zombies and killer robots are also involved, and that my friends is reason in itself to watch this. You can also poke fun at how often the eye make-up on Zanetti either increases or disappears, it is a magnificent achievement that her character can create and take away make-up in the blink of an eye!
Take Battle of the Damned with a pinch of salt, have your humorous head on, grab some beers, and just roll with it. It’s actually kinda fun.