Modern Pentathlon is a ridiculous sport and that’s what makes it fantastic. The only event specifically created for the modern Olympic games it combines swimming, cross-country running, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting, and fencing. How it manages to avoid being amongst the most popular events on the Olympic schedule eludes me. That lack of popularity didn’t stop it from being the basis for a 1994 action movie starring Dolph Lundgren. Quite honestly, I’d think that a guy who could run, swim, ride a horse, fight with a sword, and shoot a gun would be make for a pretty good action hero, so I’m mildly surprised nobody thought to try it until 1994. So I had some hope as I sat down to watch Pentathlon. Alas, apparently co-writer/director Bruce Malmuth didn’t actually see the same potential in the idea as I seem to think there is, either that or he just doesn’t know how to make a decent action movie; because this movie just wasn’t any good.
Lundgren stars as Good Guy, an East German modern pentathlete wins the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, then defects to the United States, possibly after months of planning or possibly because one of the women on the American team, Renée Coleman as Love Interest, smiled at him. Either way he escapes, but his friend Sacrifical Lamb is killed in the escape from the team’s Stasi handler, while his father, Loving Father, back in East Berlin doesn’t fare much better. Of course, if you’ve studied your history you know that the Berlin wall came down just over a year after the ’88 games, meaning that Good Guy could simply have waited for freedom to come to him. This combined with an injury from his escape leads to Good Guy falling into a depression and breaking up with Love Interest. All so he can begin training for his big comeback.
While Good Guy is going through all this, his former coach, Evil Coach, played by David Soul has gone from the head coach of obscure East German sports team, to the most wanted Neo-Nazi in Germany. Of course Evil Coach comes to the USA to carry out an evil plan, where he sees a newspaper article about Good Guy’s attempt to get onto the 1996 US Olympic team. So he decides to integrate revenge against Good Guy into his evil plan. Well, sort of, there really isn’t much of a plan, and what’s there is all stupid.
One of this film’s problems is that Bad Guy and his Goons never come across as very menacing. This is in part because even characters in the movie realize that the evil plan is stupid, and doomed to fail. The Nazi-sympathizing businessman he turns to for funding even turns him down because the plan can’t possibly succeed, even if he pulls it off. Bad Guy and the Goons even have their plan seriously disrupted by a particularly incompetent batch of action movie security guards.
This movie started out with an interesting premise, after the first act it could have gone on to be a perfectly average 90’s sports movie chronicling comeback from depression to Olympic glory, or it could have gone on to be a perfectly average 90’s action movie, with Bad Guy threatening Love Interest/The Ambassador/America/world peace, and Good Guy being the only one who can save the day thanks to his unique blend of skills. Sadly, the film sort of tries to do both, and ends up succeeding at neither. Add in a bunch of two-dimensional characters, (there’s a reason why I haven’t refereed to any of the characters by name,) and you’ve got a movie that just isn’t worth watching.