Director: Shane Dax Taylor
Notable Cast: Brendan Fehr, Luke Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Scout Taylor Compton, Nicky Whelan, Scott Martin
Although there are plenty of action stars that have been relegated to the direct-to-video market in the last handful of years and while many film critics and fans are eager to pounce and people like Bruce Willis or Nic Cage for falling into this category, it’s a corner of the market that has its own feel and approach that often gets overlooked.
When The Best Man first stumbled into my consciousness, it was hard not to buy in for me simply based on the Dolph of it all. Yet, it was apparent that he would play a secondary character to Brendan Fehr and Luke Wilson (?!). Now my interest went from piqued to full-on curiosity. Yet, with films like The Best Man, it is best to keep expectations tempered and that’s my recommendation here. While the idea of seeing Fehr, Wilson, and Lundgren team up to fight off terrorists is seemingly outlandish enough, the reality is that The Best Man is rarely as entertaining as it might have been. It’s a fine paint-by-numbers low-budget action flick to burn a lazy Sunday afternoon on, but it never reaches its own potential.
The formulaic Die Hard clone that is The Best Man is hardly original and, if I’m more than honest, it’s not trying very hard to discern itself from some of its more generic peers. Sure, the idea of terrorists invading a location and a person or persons must play cat and mouse with their wits and skills to take them down is a formula that still works, The Best Man never quite nabs the charm necessary to pull it off. It tries to pull off a "reveal" of its big bad who is leading the terrorists, but even that never seems to add entertainment to the film.
The setting, a mountain hotel venue that has been fully booked for a small private wedding party, is never utilized fully. In fact, 95% of the film exists within a few rooms within the vicinity and it never uses the mountain terrain that could have provided much-needed variety for its action. It’s just bland room after generic location for the events to unfold. Half of the charm of being a Die Hard clone is being creative with the setting and that never happens with this one.
So, if the setting is hindered by the budget or speed of the filming, then the film desperately needs charming and fun characters to grab its audience and, once again, The Best Man struggles to find those. While Fehr is technically the titular hero of the film, the story instead bounces between the three previously mentioned characters. Fehr’s role as Bradley has no real character to play in the role, even if he’s given the most to do with his romantic subplot with Hailey, played by genre stalwart Scout Taylor Compton, who is also mostly asked to run into rooms and yell things. Lundgren is significantly underutilized as the drunk military friend and Luke Wilson, who could have easily been the surprise MVP of the film, ends up looking pretty awkward through most of the film and struggles with the action set pieces he’s given. For characters that are all ex-special forces military, only Dolph comes off as convincingly cinematic as someone who was trained and that tends to ruin some of the film’s fun.
Granted, all three of the main stars are given some solid low-budget action set pieces. There’s quite a bit of editing to work around the various hindrances of the stars, but the action is decent enough - even if the general build of the narrative plateaus at the beginning of the third act which is also a bit of a problem considering the terrorists don’t even show up until the halfway point in the film. The henchman for the forgettable villain seems to be one of the few stars/characters that seems to genuinely be having some fun in the action set pieces and for that - I’ll give him full credit for punching and throwing his way into being the secret sauce for so much of the action.
All in all, The Best Man isn’t a terrible film. It’s fairly competent in managing to run through the motions of its action blueprint and having the screen presence of Dolph Lundgren does the film wonders despite a general lack of screen time for the Swedish action icon. Truly, Dolph is an explosive presence when needed. Where The Best Man struggles is finding its own identity in its characters or concepts beyond the baseline plot progressions. The action is fine. The setting is fine. The casting is fine. In a world of 1 million low-budget action flicks though, fine just does not cut it. If you can’t elevate the material, at least have fun with it.