During my review for The Best Man (2023), I noted that Dolph Lundgren had starred in a number of inferior movies. The poor quality of these films wasn’t down to Lundgren, with him usually being the only incentive to watch them. Because of this, I was highly anticipating his latest, Wanted Man. The reason for this was down to the fact that not only was Lundgren starring, but he was once again in the director’s seat.
Each of the times Lundgren has gone behind the camera has paid off, with the likes of The Mechanik (2005), Missionary Man (2007) and Command Performance (2009) being some of Lundgren’s best solo features to come out in the latter half of his career. Each of these films played to his strengths as a performer, with Lundgren having a clear, no nonsense shooting style that works wonderfully when it comes to the action.
Even lesser directorial efforts like the more recent Castle Falls (2021) still had terrific action and likeable performances, so even if Wanted Man didn’t live up to his best, I knew I was still in for an enjoyable time. Unfortunately I was proven wrong, with Wanted Man paling in comparison to any of Lundgren’s previous work as a director, with it being extremely lacking in the action department.
This came as something of a surprise as Wanted Man is something of a passion project for Lundgren, with it being in development for well over a decade. Perhaps I’m the problem, as I was expecting the film to be a different film than the one Lundgren made, but considering this is being sold as an action film it comes off as sadly lacking.
Still, it isn’t a complete wash, as there is enough here to at least make Wanted Man a worthwhile watch, especially if you are a Lundgren fan. The script from Lundgren, Michael Worth and Hank Hugues is totally predictable but has some nice touches that manage to keep things interesting.
The plot pretty much develops as expected but is willing to go to some dark places as well as having some strong political views. In fact, I think Wanted Man may have fared better than it did with me if it was sold as the drama it clearly is, rather than a typical Lundgren actioner, with the action seemingly being an afterthought. I suppose with Lundgren being involved he wouldn’t have much choice, as his involvement does come with certain expectations.
The characters are another plus point, and make Wanted Man somewhat stand out, especially Lundgren’s frankly racist Johansen. When we are introduced to him he is already in trouble for a racist tirade that was captured on camera. Even after his Captain (Roger Cross) is able to salvage his career, he still seems like an asshole, constantly blaming his problems on Mexicans. I found this refreshing, harkening back to films from the 70’s when filmmakers were less interested in making their heroes likeable but instead went for interesting.
I also appreciated that Lundgren’s role was tailored around his age, with several commenting on how he should be retired by this point. It is obvious that his job has taken its toll on his body, with him being on a steady supply of painkillers. Even his damaged ankle, which Lundgren recently had an operation on is mentioned, which explains why his Johansen isn’t as limber as he once was. Johansen is a character that seems like his best days are behind him.
Because of the negative press surrounding him, Johansen is sent to Mexico to escort a couple of prostitutes across the border to testify after they witnessed the murder of two undercover DEA agents during a bungled robbery. As expected, those involved in the robbery don’t want them to testify so they end up attacking the police escort, with Johansen and prostitute Rosa (Christina Villa) being the only survivors.
With Johansen wounded from the attack, and unsure of who he can trust, he and Rosa must work together if they are to survive. As the film progresses Johansen’s racist views are softened, as he finds himself having to rely on those he has been so against, with Rosa’s family putting their life on the line to protect him.
This is the most effective portion of the film with likeable character work, some nice dialogue and probably the film’s best action scene. If only there was more like this to follow, Wanted Man could have been a real winner. Rather than building up momentum as it goes towards the finale, the film instead devolves back into wordy dialogue scenes, with the finale being an extremely brief fight scene that should have been more exciting than it was.
Including this brief fight, the film only really has three action scenes, which are relatively small scale. As mentioned, the film’s best action scene comes somewhere during the midpoint of the film. It is an effective home invasion set piece that finds Lundgren unleashing serious damage with a shotgun.
One aspect I have always appreciated of Lundgren the director is his penchant for old school style action. With a preference of using blood squibs over the typical digital blood, his action scenes have a grittiness about them that make them standout. Best examples of this are his work on the Mechanik and the underrated Icarus a.k.a. The Killing Machine (2010). The home invasion set piece is excitingly staged and it’s just a shame there wasn’t more like it throughout the film.
Lundgren isn’t the only 1980’s action star featured in Wanted Man, with fan favourite Michael Pare showing up as one of Johansen’s old cop pals. Pare only appears in a handful of scenes, with him not really getting much to play character wise. Even so, Pare makes the most of it and still manages to make an impression.
Kelsey Grammer may get prominent billing on the film’s poster, but he only has slightly more screen time than Pare. It isn’t really a surprise how Grammer factors into the film’s plot but he always manages to be a likeable presence, with him also sporting some especially snazzy shirts that make him stand out. Grammer has featured in a good deal of DTV/VOD movies in the latter part of his career, with some better than others. Wanted Man may be no classic but it’s no Money Plane (2020) either.
Other than Lundgren the most screen time is afforded to relative newcomer Christina Villa. Her character is central to the plot, with her sharing most of her scenes alongside Lundgren. The two of them work well together although the suggestion of a possible romantic connection between the two of them towards the end of the film was unnecessary.
I really wished I enjoyed Wanted Man more. Maybe if I watch it again in the future I will get more from it as I wont have the same expectations. Ultimately I went in expecting an action film but was treated to more of a dialogue driven thriller.
If I can take anything away from Wanted Man is that at least Lundgren wasn’t short changed. He is front and center rather than being relegated to a supporting role like he was in The Best Man, Showdown at the Grand (2023) or Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023). Of those three I could only recommend Showdown at the Grand. Like Wanted Man it could have been better, but there are enough interesting additions to make it worthwhile.
Plot: 2.5/5 Acting: 3/5 Action: 2.5/5 Overall: 2.6/5