aka Fallen Knight; Knight of the Apocalypse
Director – Jean-Marc Piché, Screenplay – Ripley Highsmith & Matt Roe, Story – Matt Roe, Producer – Claudio Castravelli, Photography – Barry Parrell, Music – Jean Corriveau, Special Effects – Falcor Enterprises (Supervisor – Jacques Godbout), Makeup Effects – Mario Soucy, Production Design – Violette Daneau. Production Company – Mahagonny Pictures/Pascal Borno/Taurus 7 Film Corp.
Dolph Lundgren (Lucas Sodorov), Francoise Robertson (Dr Karen Greenleaf), Roc LaFortune (Dr David Schulman), David Herman (Lieutenant Roseberry), Don Francks (Chief Bear), Michael Greyeyes (Gray Eagle), Dennis St John (Gregor), Allen Altman (Dante), Jean-Marc Bisson (Bernard)
On December 22nd, 1999, the skeleton of a Mediaeval Templar Knight is dug up beneath the subway in New York City. American Indian archaeologist Karen Greenleaf is called in. Just as she discovers a gold key on the skeleton, she is attacked by a security guard. She is saved by a mysterious priest Lucas and watches as he kills the guard using a spiked glove. Fleeing, the two of them are forced to defend themselves as others begin attacking them. In doing so, they become the focus of a police manhunt. Lucas explains that he is one of the modern Templar Knights who maintain a secret order based in Jerusalem. The key is able to open the door that will unleash The Devil on Earth. They are being pursued by the Minion, a demonic entity that is capable of inhabiting and passing through human bodies.
The Minion, known under various alternate titles and only released direct to video, interestingly prefigures the more high-profile Arnold Schwarzenegger dud End of Days (1999). There is much similarity between the two films – both feature an action star who plays a destined guardian entrusted with saving the world from the arrival of the Devil at the turn of the Millennium. End of Days was a boringly pretentious flop. The Minion is not much better, although it certainly has more substance to it as a script than End of Days. (One sneakingly suspects that had the script of The Minion been produced with the A-budget flourish that was accorded End of Days that between them we might have ended up with one halfway decent film).
The Minion is no more than an occult variation on the body-hopping alien film The Hidden (1987) with the then contemporary gimmick of the Millennium grafted onto it. [The superior Fallen (1998), which came out around the same time, did very similar things with the same body-hopping demon plot]. While there is little originality to the premise, the film comes packed with a surprising number of ideas. Indeed, it in many ways resembles Stigmata (1999), a B film with A-budget dressing that came with some surprisingly thoughtful theological ideas embedded inside it.
What you cannot deny with The Minion is that the scriptwriters have gone and read up on their Biblical mythology, their Catholic cant and even the history of the Templar Knights. The script comes packed with all manner of wild ideas – one where Catholicism sits alongside Native American beliefs (even the suggestion that The Devil is The Wendigo) and a fascinating attempt to offer a biological explanation for possession. All of this makes for a refreshing change, even if it is ultimately the same old body-hopping entity story underneath.
Alas, the film befalls a poor director in Jean-Marc Piché. Piché is not much of an action director – the action scenes are merely people fighting while the camera looks on and he crucially fails to imbue them with any dramatic intensity. There are other times the action is dumb – an entire militia of Templars is unable to even hit the Minion with machine-guns, yet the untrained heroine manages to pick a gun up and knock it down with her first shot. Dolph Lundgren has a great entrance – coming into the dig, killing a victim by punching them in the back of the neck with a spiked cestus and then blessing the body.
Dolph is certainly a much more interesting character than Schwarzenegger was in End of Days. Elsewhere however, his character is outfitted with ponderous Biblical quotes and he looks awkward and embarrassed having to deliver them. Possession, it appears, seems to bring with it much in the way of wild-eyed stares and overacting – one particular offender here is a female cop who turns up early in the film and gives an astonishingly bad performance.
The Minion was co-produced by Mahagonny Pictures, run by Avi Nesher, director of She (1983), Timebomb (1991), Doppelganger (1993) and Savage (1995). Mahagonny Pictures have also produced genre films such as Automatic (1995), Mars (1996), The Outsider (1996) and Legion (1998). The film was produced and shot in Montreal.