‘There are a lot of things to dislike in this world. Nazis. Modern art. Vegans. But above all I despise vampires.” That’s Dolph Lundgren in a growl, wearing a ludicrous wig, and karate-kicking his way through a horde of undead. Lundgren plays ageing action star Claude Luc Hallyday, a veteran of trashy films with trashier titles (Moses v the Nazis!). It’s a supporting role but Lundgren is the main attraction in Orson Oblowitz’s misty-eyed, sentimental, sometimes silly love letter to cinema. The setting is a gorgeous movie palace where the owner has a thing for tough guy Hallyday, watching his 80s action flicks on repeat – funny pastiche clips shot here as little movies-in-a-movie.
To be fair, Terrence Howard is also pretty terrific as cinema proprietor George, whose family have owned the Grand since it opened in the 1920s. George grew up in the cinema, and Howard plays him as a man who’s never fully signed up to the outside world, dressed like a cowboy in a long leather duster coat, and speaking in a faintly grandiose way like a character from a classic movie. His problems begin when a corporate developer Lynn (Amanda Righetti) sets her sights on his cinema, planning to bulldoze it to make way for gleaming luxury apartments.
Here’s where the film gets a bit daft as Lynn dispatches her goons to make George sign on the dotted line. But George has hired his hero Hallyday – living as a recluse in Estonia – for a sell-out guest appearance. Lundgren is a good sport as the washed up action star, mumbling and barely coherent, and possibly channelling Ozzy Osbourne. It makes for some fun moments and a funny showdown with the baddies. In the old days this would probably have gone straight to tape, so straight-to-download feels like the right place.