A Movie A Day #237: Detention (2003, directed by Sidney J. Furie)

It’s Die Hard in a school!

A group of gun-wielding drug runners have broken into Hamilton High so that they can use it as the base of operations for a huge drug deal.  With the Vice President scheduled to be traveling through town that weekend, they figure that the school will be deserted and no one will be paying attention to what’s going on.  What they failed to consider is that not every student goes home after the final bell rings.  One paraplegic student is still in the library, doing research.  Two more are in the auditorium, getting high.  There’s even a few “bad” kids in detention, including one of whom is pregnant.  Even worse, for the drug dealers, is that Sam Decker (Dolph Lundgren!) is in charge of detention.  He may teach phys ed and history but before he decided to help broaden young minds, Sam was an army ranger.

Of all of the performers who starred in direct-to-video action movies in the 90s and early aughts, Dolph Lundgren was the best actor.  When considering that his competition largely came from Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme, that may sound like damning with faint praise but the fact that Lundgren could actually memorize his lines and hit his marks actually did make a difference.  It is easy to imagine Detention with Lundgren and the results are not pretty.  Steven Seagal would have been too busy whispering his lines and waiting for his stunt double to show up.  Jean-Claude Van Damme would have gotten too caught up in doing the splits to waste his time worrying about the kids trapped in the auditorium.  Not Lundgren, though.  Dolph Lundgren’s too busy getting shit done to worry about any of that.

Though the action sequences are top notch, Detention would work better if the villains were Lundgren’s equal but they’re not.  One reason why Die Hard worked was because Alan Rickman and his men always seemed like they were capable of killing Bruce Willis.  In Detention, the main villains are three Hungarian punks and a flamboyant American, Chester Lamb (Alex Karzis), and none of them seem like they could even carry Dolph Lundgren’s shoes, much less defeat him in a combat situation.  Scenes where Chester pretends to be an innocent bystander seem like they were included to remind us of the first meeting between Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis in Die Hard but Chester Lamb is no Hans Gruber.  There is just no way that Dolph Lundgren is going to lose to someone named Chester Lamb.

Even with the underwhelming villains, Detention is a gloriously stupid action movie that is entertaining because Lundgren gives it his all.

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