It makes me sad when I see an action legend starring in a film that is clearly beneath them. Even the most well known action stars have films in their back catalogue that make you think, “what the hell?” Stallone has Oscar (1991) and Stop or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) whereas Schwarzenegger has Junior (1994) and Jingle All the Way (1996).
When it’s an action star working in the DTV arena, the possibility of starring in sub standard material is obviously higher. They don’t have the same pickings that their A list counterparts have. For the most part, popular stars like Scott Adkins and Jean Claude Van Damme have managed to escape this, by starring in increasingly well made actioners that give audiences what they want. Even so, they have even been known to feature in some under par features.
This brings us to the great Dolph Lundgren. He has been entertaining action fans since the 80’s, with several classic actioners under his belt. There is no denying that Red Scorpion (1988), I Come in Peace (1990) and Universal Soldier (1992) are all crowd pleasers. Even later in his career when he has become more of a DTV star, he has still starred in a range of quality features, with titles like The Mechanik (2005), Command Performance (2009) and Icarus (2010) all showing Lundgren at his charismatic best. Co-incidentally, those three movies mentioned were also directed by the great man himself.
Unfortunately, of late Lundgren has found himself co-starring in a range of seriously low budget productions that have very little to recommend other than his presence. The one thing each of these films has in common is that Lundgren at least brings his A game. Even in a production beneath him, he isn’t phoning it in. This is most evident in the recent Operation Seawolf (2022), where he actually gave a vanity free, nuanced performance as a German U Boat commander.
As lackluster as some of these productions are, there has still been the odd bit of quality shining through. Castle Falls (2021) was an enjoyable re-teaming between him and Scott Adkins that while clearly had a low budget, it made up for it with a generous helping of kick ass fight scenes. It’s not surprising that Lundgren also directed this one. It would seem the director who can bring out the best in Lundgren is himself.
Because of films like Castle Falls, I was willing to be open minded when going into Lundgren’s latest feature The Best Man. Sure, Lundgren is only a co-star, but for most action fans he will be the reason they are even checking the film out.
I wish that I could say that The Best Man is an upturn in quality from some of Lundgren’s recent releases, but in some regards it’s even worse. At least Operation Seawolf featured him in a leading role (even if he was credited last). The Best Man relegates him to a supporting role with limited screen time. As expected, he is still the best thing the film has going for it, with him at least injecting some humor and personality into proceedings.
Rather than having Lundgren as the lead, in his place is former Roswell (1999) co-star Brendan Fehr, the last person I honestly would have thought of as leading an action film. No offense to him, he does what he can in the role, but considering he is the title character, I really expected this Best Man to be much more of a bad ass. Actually, if the title of the film wasn’t The Best Man, I may not have realized that he was meant to be the lead character.
Fehr stars as Bradley, the Best Man to his friend Cal (Luke Wilson), who is getting married to the lovely Brook (Nicky Whelan). On the day of the wedding, their classy resort is taken over by armed terrorists, forcing Bradley into a Die Hard type scenario where he has to single handedly take down the terrorists one by one. Well I say single handedly, he has more help than John McClane ever did, with old army buddy Anders (Dolph Lundgren), the bride’s sister Hailey (Scout Taylor Compton) and even the groom stepping in at one point to lend a hand.
Fehr gets to take part in the odd hand to hand fight scene which is accompanied with some extremely underwhelming shootouts. Even if they weren’t using some awful digital gunfire, these action scenes would still struggle to generate much in the way of excitement.
The film is totally lacking in atmosphere, with everything having an unappealing digital look.The film also seems devoid of life. Considering it’s set during a wedding, there doesn’t seem to be many people in attendance.
When checking on director Shane Dax Taylor’s previous work, I wasn’t surprised by how The Best Man worked out. I try not to judge him too harshly as he is working with a shoestring budget, but as I have stated before, directors have done more with less. One thing he does seem to pull off is pulling together a decent cast. His previous films have starred the likes of Val Kilmer, Kris Kristofferson, Mark Boone Jr and Stephen Lang.
Even here, the cast are decent, but most deserve better. Sure, Fehr may be more of a television actor but his supposed hero is as dull as dishwater, with Luke Wilson’s character not being much better. The two do their best to inject what little personality they can into the characters, but there isn’t much to play with.
Lundgren fares slightly better, with his character having a serious drinking problem which allows him to let loose a little and have a little fun. I honestly don’t understand why Lundgren wasn’t made the Best Man of the title, but perhaps the filmmakers could only afford him for a certain amount of time. I know he has recently gone through some surgery so this may also have had a factor, as it is obvious that he isn’t as light on his feet as he once was. Fans of Lundgren won’t care about this though, we just want to see him kick ass, and for me the film only came alive in the brief moments when he was doing so.
The females in the cast are unsurprisingly of the damsel in distress type, all waiting for a hero to come rescue them. Both Whelan and Compton have certainly done better work. I would even put this beneath the Halloween (2007) remake that Compton starred in years back, which I never thought I’d say.
I don’t enjoy giving a film like The Best Man a poor review. While I do approach DTV films with some apprehension, I always hope for the best. I have been surprised countless times over the years, with many DTV efforts being equally on par with the Hollywood blockbusters of the time. It would have been nice to put The Best Man into this category, as it would be nice to see Lundgren once again starring in a film worthy of him.
Thankfully, things seem to be looking up for Lundgren, at least in terms of his film output. This year he has two cinema releases with Expendables 4 (2023) and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023). In addition to these he has Wanted Man, which once again sees the big man stepping behind the camera as well as Hellfire (2023) which finds him reteaming with director Issac Florentine for the first time since Bridge of Dragons (1999). As a Lundgren fan I can’t wait to see him again in films worthy of his involvement.
Plot: 1/5 Acting: 2/5 Action: 1/5 Overall: 1.3/5