This nondescript direct-to-VOD thriller feels like little else but a mortgage payment for sorely underappreciated actors like Dolph Lundgren and Luke Wilson.
“Just brang ma baby girl back alive!”
Those are the first mewled words in the opening of a pointedly anonymous new action thriller with the pointedly anonymous title The Best Man. That’s a dispiriting thing to hear eight seconds into a movie paid for by eleven companies you’ve never heard of. If the director couldn’t get a naturalistic phone call out of one of his actors, how’s he going to handle the following 90 minutes? If you guessed “with unfinished green screen effects, poorly rendered digital squibs and gunfire, slumming former A- and B-listers alike looking so hungover they want to die, and a camera abused like a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny jar,” pat yourself on the back.
A harried rich guy (Chris Mullinax) is calling an Elite Mercenary Squad™ to rescue his daughter Brook (Nicky Whelan) who’s been kidnapped by a bunch of guys in hoodies in a warehouse attached to a parking garage. Our heroes rescue the girl but take heavy losses, including Axel (Scott Martin), who is left for dead. Flash forward a few years and one of the hired guns, Luke Wilson’s Cal, has gotten engaged to Brook. This confuses his remaining comrades, Anders (Dolph Lundgren) and Cal’s cousin Bradley (Brendan Fehr), but they show up despite their PTSD to support them.
Good thing, too, because wouldn’t you know it? The wedding gets stormed by bad guys with guns, led by none other than a not-dead Axel, out for revenge. Help will not be coming to this faraway, mostly empty resort hotel that’s playing host to the nuptials (“So there’s no cell service?” asks Brook’s sister [played by the great Scout Taylor-Compton] first thing when she enters the movie), so it’s up to these war-scarred old dogs to save everybody.
Years ago, I heard Joe Pantoliano speak at Emerson College about his lengthy and distinguished career. He took a moment to talk about a movie he’d just completed, the 2006 thriller Unknown. He described the guy who directed the movie as a “guesser.” He didn’t know what anyone’s motivation was when asked, didn’t know the best place for the camera to go, and when asked questions he just guessed. That describes Best Man director Shane Dax Taylor about as good as anything. His debut was a movie I have a certain affection for, 2010’s Bloodworth, written by co-star and national treasure W. Earl Brown. Of course, with that kind of a script and a cast that includes Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Val Kilmer, Barry Corbin, Brent Briscoe, Hilary Duff, and Frances Conroy you don’t have to do much more than turn the camera on. Eventually, though, you’ll find yourself in less august company and just turning the camera on ain’t gonna cut it.
I kept watching this movie hoping for some semblance of a formal design to emerge amidst the dollar store special effects and labored humor and was met with guesses. “Why is the camera here?” “Why is this scene shot like this?” “Was this the only take?” Every decision seems the product of a harried guess, as the budget ran out. It’s a little astonishing this was sent for review, but I guess Wilson’s name in the cast buys you that kind of thing.
Wilson doesn’t embarrass himself or anything, he just seems very over the idea of being in this movie and not a little intoxicated. So does Lundgren, who is always good value even in something like this. Can’t say I blame them. Frankly, Dolph’s drunken party antics and piano playing are some of the most fun things in the movie. It is pure science fiction that Wilson, Fehr, and Lundgren would be occupying the same space, least of all for a wedding, though unfortunately, it’s not quite funny enough to distract from the incongruity.
Scout Taylor-Compton is every bit the equal of an old pro like Dolph. For some reason, she never seems to work with good directors despite giving one of the best performances in American movies in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2. Her party-girl routine here looks at first to be a softball, but she commits and unearths a sparking circuit cable under the dirt of cliche. It’s what she’s good at, and every minute she’s on screen the film escapes its dismal routine. Martin seems to be having fun with his villain part, too, allowing as much downtime between lines and gestures as the movie does between setpieces.
It’s the rare movie with nothing to offer, but it’s never fun to watch one resting on the laurels of undervalued actors who deserve better than something that opens with a yawped, “Just brang ma baby girl back alive!”
The Best Man is currently available in theaters, on demand, and digital.