Comfortable and Furious

The Amusingly Bonkers: Part 5

Pentathlon (1994)

First things first: who thinks it’s a good idea to call an action movie Pentathlon? I bet a fair few people don’t even know what the hell one is. Christ, I thought it was something to do with chucking the javelin and discus. In short, Pentathlon is a terrible name (although those wise Filipinos tried a bit harder to attract moviegoers in their neck of the woods by renaming it Super Athlete). The cover art doesn’t exactly suck you in, either – the left eye of Dolph Lundgren’s glowering face is obscured by a gold medal. Does this intrigue in the same way Jodie Foster’s lips were hidden behind that death’s-head moth?


Let’s face it, from title to closing minute this neo-Nazi flavored cheesefest takes its $4m budget and pisses every cent of it up against the wall. And thank God for that.

The story: An East German pentathlete, sick to the back teeth of his abusive coach, the secret police and communism in general, gets a hard-on for Uncle Sam at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and flees to America.

The characters

Eric Brogar (Lundgren): Brimming with integrity, Eric embodies ‘the purity and power’ of East Germany. However (in the flick’s only believable aspect), once in America he immediately becomes a chain-smoking, beer-guzzling, burger-eating, obnoxious TV addict that occasionally gets mugged.

Mueller (David Soul): The Evil Coach. Introduced publicly slapping a child while singing the praises of the German Democratic Republic, we sense this flag-waving, diehard Commie doesn’t have the greatest sense of humor. Apart from indulging in the odd spot of child abuse, he’s also none too keen on racial harmony as illustrated by the time he inadvertently meets a black American athlete and points out: “You will speak when you’re spoken to. Speak politely. I am a white man. You understand, asshole?”

Mueller forms a fanatical attachment to Eric (“I made you. You are a diamond I cut and polished to show to the world”) and so is a bit peeved by his spontaneous defection. Never mind. In the shake of a lamb’s swastika-emblazoned rump, Mueller channels his sense of betrayal into various low-key activities, such as beating Eric’s dad to death, dropping communism to become a neo-Nazi terrorist, and obsessively hunting his former charge down while trying to re-introduce the American masses to the charms of Hitler.

Christian (Gerald Hopkins): Eric’s fellow athlete and supportive mate. Obviously wants to have sex with our towering hunk. It’s no surprise the Stasi end up shooting him.

Julia (Renée Coleman): An American athlete that doesn’t mind when Eric (a man she’s never met or spoken to) sneaks into her bedroom at the Olympic Village while she’s in a state of undress and asks for a kiss. The slut. Also unconcerned when thirty seconds later he says “The idea of the superman was born in Germany” before jumping out of her two-storey high window. Of course, this is a perfect demonstration of the art of wooing so she becomes his girlfriend. Dull throughout, at least she manages to look sensational in a vulva-hugging catsuit. Refuses to remove even half of it, though. Goddamn tease.

Creese (Roger E. Mosley): A black Los Angeles diner owner that keeps employing Eric as a burger flipper despite him being surly, unreliable and shit with the customers. Oh, and white. “Two million black men out of work and I bring in a German,” he tells his missus. “A white man! I can get laughed out of the neighborhood if I don’t make this work.” Not only does he make it work, but he becomes Eric’s trainer for the next Olympics, responding to his latest bout of tardiness by buying him a top-notch pair of running shoes. “You’ve got talent to burn and I’m gonna be your fuel, your Olympic fuel,” he insists. At this point I’m not sure how many Olympic pentathletes have been trained by diner owners that double as comic relief but maybe if I did a little research I’d find out there’s a rich tradition. Cue a shot of Creese pulling a cigarette out of Eric’s mouth during their first jog together as some idiot on the soundtrack croons: ‘C’mon, you’ve got to move/Say bye-bye to all your blues.’

Rhinehardt (Daniel Riordan): A resentful, blood-doped fellow East German rival beaten to the gold medal by Eric. Responds by becoming Mueller’s fawning bitch in L.A. and doing everything he can to kill Eric. I think that makes him a sore loser.

Hundt (David Drummond): A mustachioed, food-loving Stasi lunk that’s so inept he probably doesn’t even know who Lenin was. For some reason he likes to wear one black glove, perhaps because he thinks it’s intimidating. More likely, he lost the other one. He gets a big chance to win brownie points when assigned to kill the jogging Eric on a beach, but ends up kicked off his mountain bike. Then he misses with three shots and loses his gun in the sand. “Idiot!” the waiting Mueller hisses at him, with some justification.

Offerman (Evan James): Another inept Stasi goon, who only differs from Hundt by being smaller and goateed. Gets humiliated a lot by Eric, a fact which might explain his enthusiasm for later beating up a bespectacled, information-withholding old man. In his best scene he walks into Creese’s diner with the intention of distracting the owner as Hundt taps the phone line outside. Offerman then plonks a ghetto blaster on the counter and does a freak-out dance to some loud German hip-hop complete with his tongue sticking out. This man couldn’t even spell dignity let alone practice it.

A hippy with an acoustic guitar: This beautiful chap gets a peace rally entitled Never Again off to a warm, wholesome start as Mueller schemes to blow everyone up. “You know, people all around the world,” the hippy sings to the rather small crowd. “People are the same.” Well, if that profound insight doesn’t stop genocidal neo-Nazism its tracks, I don’t know what will.

Why it’s bonkers: The defection. Eric dons a USA tracksuit top at Seoul International Airport and makes his bid for freedom, even though those ruthless Stasi goons initially kill his homo mate on an escalator and shoot him in the back of the thigh. Despite the severe leg wound and being in the middle of an international incident, Eric still manages to jump off a roof and run to catch a busload of departing Yanks that include the smitten Julia. How does he get onto the plane with no papers and blood dripping from a bullet wound with a dead man lying in the airport? Doesn’t immigration have something to say about this slightly unusual episode? Oh, I forgot, he’s wearing a Stars and Stripes tracksuit. No wonder those Yanks have a problem with illegal aliens.

Mind you, nothing in Pentathlon is credible from its cheap recreation of the Seoul Olympics to the incredibly mismatched score that occasionally adds an air of surrealism to whatever’s happening on screen. Then there’s Mueller’s unexplained conversion to rabid Nazism and desire to attack America. This appears to suggest a diehard Commie is merely a Nazi in disguise.

The film mixes fencing, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Hitler worship and ripe dialogue, such as Creese admitting: “I feel like a gay pimp.” Dolph, who was surely going for a more human drama rather than his standard action heroics, is wooden throughout, but at least he tries to wander around on planet Earth. David Soul, on the other hand, is so OTT with his comedy accent and full-blown mustache twirling that he might as well be floating in space. It’s a whacked-out performance that does its best to convince you he should have stuck with the singing, even if soppy stuff like Silver Lady was the aural equivalent of someone’s diarrhea-leaking arse filling your ear.

Perhaps we should lay the blame for this funny fiasco at the door of director Bruce Malmuth, a man who has impressive form in the arena of the amusingly bonkers by giving us a comatose Steven Seagal four years earlier in Hard to Kill. Malmuth introduces his movie with a written statement that states the pentathlon was a late 19th century invention designed to glorify a soldier’s skills. Well, after watching this lovable turkey, I tend to think the word ‘pentathlon’ instead highlights a handful of artists crashing and burning.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *