I always wanted to watch a movie where terrorists invade a party at a ritzy hotel in hopes of gaining a certain objective only to find out that some members of said party are former spec ops operatives who give them more than they bargained for. It’s been done before with the lone warrior wrecking crew like Willis in Die Hard which is the most famous version but here we get a fun, stripped down low scale actioner called The Best Man that gives you an ensemble effort. Here we have action icon Dolph Lundgren along with Canadian character actor Brendan Fehr and Luke Wilson who’s known more for his comedy than his aim with a weapon.
Director Shane Dax Taylor, who just happened to co-write the Scott Adkins action marathon Close Range, tackles his first full on adrenaline pic as a helmer and the results are old school and rough around the edges and even with its flaws, I was still digging it. Is it the best action film you’ll see this year or any year? Of course not, but it’s still a reminder that you don’t need big explosions or bigger set pieces to deliver an adequate 90 minute banger that will suffice on a Saturday night.
The Best Man opens the best way an action film can and that’s special ops soldiers on a mission to rescue a female hostage and the shit hits the preverbal fan as a firefight ensues. The squad, which consists of Bradley (Brendan Fehr), Cal (Luke Wilson), Axel (Scott Martin) and Anders (Dolph Lundgren) are up to the challenge of course and they use their signature skills to subdue the enemy but at a price. Two members are left dead or supposedly dead in the process but the mission is a success in more ways than one.
Fast forward some time later and Cal is getting married to Brook (Nicky Whelan) who just happens to be the female hostage him and his team rescued. Cal visits Bradley and asks him to be his best man at the nuptials and he says yes pacing the way for our story to unfold.
Brook’s father is a rich tycoon, hence why she was kidnapped, and she also has a more woks younger sister played by Scout Taylor-Compton of Rob Zombie’s Halloween Reboot. The wedding is taking place at a lavish hotel where the father of the bride has bought out the entire place for the weekend ceremony. Anders is also in attendance and just as the ceremony commences, wouldn’t you know it that a unit of black clad terrorists crash the party.
It seems that Axel was left for dead and he unfortunately wasn’t which has led to some bitter feelings towards his old comrades. In a simple word…he’s pissed and he wants some payback and a little loot as well.
What culminates is a cat and mouse game as Cal, Bradley and Anders battle Axel and his new cronies. The hotel turns into a battleground where the best of the best are going toe to toe with only one side walking away once the dust and bullets settle.
It’s important to note that Lundgren is front and center on the key art above but he’s more of a supporting player to Wilson and Fehr. If you’re ok with this, as I was, you’ll be fine as it’s more of an ensemble piece with all three doing the heavy lifting. There are some die hards out there (see what I did there?) that will cry foul over this but I was intrigued to see how Wilson would handle his first leading role in an action pic. Fehr has done it before so I was sure he’d be fine but I’m happy to say that Luke was solid on both sides of the physicality and dramatics.
The Best Man was helmed by Shane Dax Taylor who has tackled other genres in the past but this was his first all out action film and even though it had its issues from time to time, you can tell that Taylor is a fan of this genre and the Die Hard trope of self contained action stories in a single location. It’s been done better before but the stars and the low key action sequences work for this type of indie action flick. Taylor has a solid career ahead of him as an action director and this was a fine film to get his feet wet with.
The plot of an old comrade seeking vengeance was refreshing as usually it’s all about some greedy outcast just wanting what he thinks is due to him. Here it’s more personal and that lays a more dramatic foundation to the action and makes the audience more vested in the characters and what will happen during the course of the movie. The action means more here because the two sides were once brothers in arms and now one brother has felt betrayed.
Wilson has done more high profile films in the past but here he takes on the role of Cal with a grounded gusto. He’s not Bruce Willis but he could be his younger sibling who is more serious than McClane. Wilson gets a few opportunities to prove his mettle and I must say he looked comfortable doing it.
Fehr has done more in the past in his filmography in regards to action so I guess if you needed to pick a top protagonist, he would be it. Fehr has a James Dean vibe going for him and he gels with Scout Taylor-Compton who he shares most of his screen time with. Taylor-Compton plays it sassy and even though she’s not trained, she still handles herself well.
What can you say about Mr. Lundgren? The man is an action icon and even though this isn’t his movie, he still shows up and helps save the day with his brutish presence and charm. It’s also funny that Lundgren’s Anders is sort of an alcoholic so he spends most of the time fending off bad guys hung over which adds to the nuance of the film. Fans will still get to see the O.G. Punisher kick some ass and do it with a Pooh ding headache so it’s a win.
This film is an indie affair so don’t expect a lot in the way of big, bombastic action set pieces. Here it’s more of escape and evasion and CQB encounters. As a martial arts fan, I relish anytime that a movie has more throw downs then firefights. It’s also cool to see the leads sample a bit of their spec ops training as they dispatch bogies with extreme precision. The finale is a little sluggish in terms of payoff which was unfortunate but the ride to get there was solid enough.
Overall, in terms of the Die Hard action trope, The Best Man may be an acquired taste for some. There are those reviews out there that will write this one off as a low budget rip off and while the action may leave you wanting at times, it’s still an old school action pic with some solid battles and hand to hand chaos. The leads do an admirable job with what they’re given and Wilson is a winner in his first action role.
Lundgren does his action icon thing and Fehr is tops when he has to be and despite a finale that is lacking, the movie still radiates a Saturday drive in action vibe. Don’t think about other movies that came before and watch this one on it’s own merits and you’ll have a decent time as killers kill, bodies drop and this is one wedding that’ll definitely be memorable.
VERDICT: 3 Out of 5 Stars
Lundgren, Wilson & Fehr do enough damage as an ensemble to satisfy action fans and even though this trope has been overdone, it’s still a drive in, old school good time.
The Best Man hits theaters, Digital & VOD this Friday, April 21st from Saban Films.