The Best Man

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It’s 2023 and Dolph Lundgren is still knocking out the action movies. The Best Man is the latest of a long line going back to his debut in a small role in the Bond movie A View to a Kill (he was Grace Jones’s bodyguard/boyfriend at the time) and it’s a notch above the sort of thing you once found at checkouts in service stations or in revolving racks in local mini-marts.

It’s Die Hard, in all but name, except Dolph gets an assist by Luke Wilson and Brendan Fehr – the three horsemen of the apocalypse who will spring (lumber in Dolph’s case – he’s 65) into action when the wedding party they are at is invaded by a gang of mercenaries who want to take the bride hostage as a way of getting to her dad’s money.

Whose movie is it? A good question. Obviously it should be a Dolph Lundgren movie. So why a biggish name like Luke Wilson in it, as his partner in action? And why the largely unknown Brendan Fehr as the titular Best Man? If he gets more screentime than the other two it can’t be by much.

There are other bewildering things going on, especially in the first half hour, which comes across as an exercise in passing the time till the action starts – characters saying random things and actors who appear genuinely uncomfortable uttering their lines. Look at the framing, too, quite bizarre, as if director Shane Dax Taylor just wasn’t that bothered whether everything was in the frame that should be. And so many redundant shots.

Scott Martin plays the leader of the insurgents, Axel, the name a Germanic echo of Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber in Die Hard. He’s good, in a familiar, dead-eyed way. It’s actually quite a likeable cast: the three leads work well together; Nicky Whelan is sparky as Brook, the bride in question; Scout Taylor-Compton plays her sister and libidinous maid of honour; and Chris Mullinax makes an impression as the sisters’ dad, Chuck, a guy who gets absolutely shit-faced drunk just before the ceremony begins, which adds a dimension an AI-generated script might not have considered.

The groom and bride to be with Anders
Groom and bride to be with Anders

There is a slight theme of alcohol running through this film – Lundgren’s jaded veteran is also a lover of the bottle, though it doesn’t seem to affect his ability to deal death when the time comes.

As said, just wait for the first half hour to do whatever it thinks it’s doing. The last hour is where the bulk of the fun is, as the mercenaries scuttle about and Cal (Wilson), Anders (Lundgren) and Bradley (Fehr) mount as much of a counter-terrorist response as three retired ex-mercenaries can manage. They are, of course, still pretty good at this sort of thing.

There are some good action set pieces in the last hour, and Taylor makes an effort here, showing himself to be an effective action director who can build tension from, for example, an empty kitchen, a man, a woman and a gun.

For all the action and blood-letting of the last hour, there isn’t actually that much going on. And what there is has to be shared out among too many people – bride, maid of honour and dad all get a chunk of stuff to do, and Axel and his various cronies also have scenes that round them out a touch as human beings, when that’s the last thing you need.

It’s not terrible terrible. Everyone looks grateful to be working and everyone probably got paid. There are nice touches, the casting works well and the casino resort is used effectively. What Shane Dax Taylor really needs is a good propulsive story to keep things moving and then this cast, crew and location could be used to full effect. Add pizza, beer and a desire to see something that’s not too demanding and you might have a good time.

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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