Even in the best of circumstances, weddings are stressful as hell. Sure, they’re lovely, joyous occasions, but you’ve got a monumental logistical task, simmering family drama, travel, accommodations, drunk relatives. It’s a lot. And then you have to worry about a crew of vengeance-minded mercenaries showing up on the day to wreck up the joint. Oh, that didn’t happen to you? Cool, cool. Though that is the basic premise of Shane Dax Taylor’s The Best Man.
On the surface, The Best Man is exactly the movie it appears to be, and the movie it sets out to be. This is a low-budget DTV action thriller. It stars a familiar genre stalwart in Dolph Lundgren, a semi-familiar face you’ve seen in things but maybe can’t place in Brendan Fehr, and a more recognizable, more mainstream name taking what looks like a money-job in Luke Wilson. It even features two cast members from Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, Scout Taylor-Compton and Nicky Whelan. And the man at the helm, Taylor, and the rest of the creative team generally plies their trade in this milieu.
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For many, this whole packages conjures up certain ideas of content and quality. As said, this movie is exactly what it appears to be, but it’s also a prime example of movies of this ilk. The Best Man is the kind of sturdy action programmer that hit theaters every couple of weeks in the ‘90s. You could show up, buy a ticket, and get precisely what you paid for. This is slick, decently-executed action that never feels hamstringed or hemmed-in by budget. It even hits a few emotional beats some other DTV offerings miss thanks to an earnest bond between the main trio.
Plot wise, nothing unexpected happens, but again, the film executes it well. To call it Die Hard at a Wedding is a bit reductive and not 100% accurate, but it also gets the general point across. Cal (Wilson) is set to marry the wealthy Brook (Whelan). Bradley (Fehr) is the best man and their buddy Axel (Lundgren) is also in the wedding party, as is Hailey (Taylor-Compton), Brook’s party-girl sister. When mercenaries with a vendetta—a couple vendettas actually—show up, things take a turn toward the violent.
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The action may not be spectacular, but Taylor and company deliver the goods. We get running gun fights through a casino and the back-room bowels of the high-end mountain resort hosting the wedding. (Admittedly, the film does miss the boat on making use the gorgeous natural settings surrounding New Mexico’s Inn of the Mountain Gods, where filming took place, but that’s a minor quibble.) Fistfights abound as highly trained hired guns clash and throw down, and it all adds up to a fine time.
Across the board, the acting is solid. Cal, Bradley, and Axel were all part of the same soldier-of-fortune team and, of course, all haunted by a job gone wrong. While perhaps not particularly deep, the trio give it enough weight that it winds up more than a mere plot point. Lundgren plays Axel as a grizzled drunk running from his past, and he’s tipsy the whole time, even as shit goes down, which is fun. Fehr does sturdy work in this type of role, and, for his part, Bradley is more hiding from the past rather than running from it. Wilson’s sweet spot is affable charm masking deeper wounds, and he puts that to good use here. And if he wants to keep splashing around in this particular action pool and cash checks, we can do much worse.
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Whelan doesn’t get a ton to do, she’s a secondary player all things considered, though the script doesn’t relegate her entirely to the damsel in distress role. She has agency of her own and gets a hero moment to cling to. Taylor-Compton has an absolute blast as the wild child, who also happens to be CFO of their drunk-ass father’s massive corporation. And again, the film doesn’t wholly consign her to passive participant, letting her have her opportunities to shine and get in on the action fun.
The Best Man is going to blow any minds or rewrite the playbook, but it’s also not trying to. Shaggy and meandering at times, it still achieves exactly what it aims to, delivering a reasonably kick-ass bit of throwback action that scratches a very specific itch, and does so in satisfying fashion. The film is what it wants to be and manages to stand taller than many similar movies. If you’re inclined to this type of action, definitely give it a chance. [Grade: B]
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