Den' D (2008)
By: Devon B. on January 26, 2014 | Comments
The Lone Ranger Poster
Director: Mikhail Porechenkov
Starring:: Mikhail Porechenkov, Aleksandra Ursuliak, Varvara Porechenkova
Screnplay: Oleg Presnyakov, Vladimir Presnyakov
Country: Russia
When I first heard about Den'D (D-Day) I thought, "A Russian version of Commando? How could that not be awesome?" I immediately imagined a film in the vein of Turkey's First Blood remake Rampage, but despite the fact the makers of Den'D must've run out of money right at the time they needed to buy facepaint for the all important tooling up sequence, this isn't a no-budget knock off but instead a mostly competent remake made with quite a few rubels behind it.

Den'D starts much the same as Commando did, with some rubbish collector assassins and the deaths of other members of our hero's former unit. But it's not all old hat in Den'D because this time one of the guys is working with dolphins. John Matrix, here named Ivan, is meanwhile living an idyllic life with his daughter, but things go sour when his daughter is kidnapped in an attempt to blackmail him into doing a mission. Ivan knows even if he succeeds at the mission that his daughter will be killed, so instead of even trying to do the baddies' bidding he pretends to go along with their plan but almost immediately trains his sites on the kidnappers instead of the target they set for him.

Ivan is played by Den'D's director Mikhail Porechenkov, and while his muscles aren't as defined as Arnold Schwarzenegger's, he's still a big dude. He's not the most emotive guy I've ever seen on screen, but his low key acting is almost appealing next to some of the scenery chewing performances he directed out of his co-stars. The new Bennett is no patch on the original, but then neither is the movie itself. I don't remember Vernon Wells yelling like a goober so much, but sporadic yelling seems to be the only method Russian Bennett has to try and seem menacing. Along with the manic acting comes some very broad and heavy handed humour, made worse by awkward subtitles. Some things may have been lost in translation, but there are things that just don't make a lot of sense, and they're not things that didn't make sense in the original, they're new bits of nonsense.

Because, yes, there are new bits. Some of the changes are irrelevant, like the inclusion of those aforementioned dolphins, but there are some good changes like having a bad guy tailed to a water park because that's even more ridiculous than the original film's scenario. In fact, maybe the water park also has some sort of dolphin show and both those changes are linked. The remake also alters a few iconic moments so now one character dies "funny" instead of "last", except his death was less funny than in the original, so it was really stupid to explicitly state that the death would be changed to be funny when it lost humour from its previous incarnation. Even that's a somewhat minor change, but there is the really tragic alteration of making Ivan a paratrooper, which completely ruins the plane gag from the original. Instead of the highbrow and subtle humour of Schwarzenegger's totally believable escape, there's a lame joke referencing how Schwarzenegger is better than Ivan. Except because it's true it doesn't really seem like a joke. Commando is a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece, and it fully announces its intentions with the outrageous plane scene, so to alter that so the scenario is more plausible just makes it seem like the people behind Den'D didn't fully understand Schwarzenegger's classic.

There's one other thing that strongly indicates the people behind Den'D were struggling with their source material. Russia is a country lead by a guy that claims he doesn't like homosexuals but poses for incredibly homoerotic publicity photos. I was very interested to see what a country like that would make of one of the greatest homoerotic action movie ever, and the answer is they seemed to have missed out on that element. Den'D does sanitise Commando, which might be why it's such a short movie, but the toning down of the gayness feels like a repression of the movie's central theme to me. Den'D seems to be striving for the jovial tone of the original, but by shirking its overwhelming homoeroticism it bypasses one of the things that made Commando so endearing, and also the thing that made the real Bennett so menacing.

To be fair to Porechenkov, at least he and pseudo-Bennett do bare-chested battled in the climax. Also to be fair to Porechenkov it should be stressed that his film doesn't seem like a low rent remake, even if it doesn't have quite the same scale of the original. He still gets to blow up stuff for the finale, and there are some other cool action moments. A few of them are even innovative.

A curio for Commando fans, Den'D is fun, but nowhere near as fun as the story was the first time around. It replaces the pastiche tone of the original with an outright nudge nudge, wink wink mentality that makes the film's intentions clearer but also makes it less engaging than the original.
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