I can’t fully imagine the struggle actor Scott Adkins must have faced at one point trying to branch out as something more than an action figure to the genre moviegoing masses. For this, I’ve always hoped he would become more actor-centric than anything, but it’s especially nice to know that his next (and even bigger) break isn’t too far off in Hollywood.
Whatever thoughts come to mind with respect to his career up to this point though, you may now relegate your analyses to the throes of Adkins’s newest reunion with Universal Soldier: Regeneration, Legendary and The Expendables 2 top-liner, Dolph Lundgren, in contained heist thriller, Castle Falls, one in a number of productions that survived the harrowing Covid-19 pandemic last year with a production shutdown that allowed safety protocols to matriculate for its restart much later.
Sitting Lundgren on both sides of the lens as actor and seven-time director, he joins Adkins whose arc begins with a story centered on Mike, a British MMA fighter down on his luck after failing to resuscitate his fight career in an all-or-nothing bout in his former gym. Now living in his truck, he finds work at an abandoned 12-story hospital and child care center (said to be a symbol of the city’s segregated past), removing scrap three days in lieu of the building’s demolition.
The story then pivots to Richard, a prison security guard facing the shit-end of life, forced to bear the brunt of a six-figure balance to help cover cancer treatments for his daughter, Emily (Ida Lundgren). It is only then that Richard, in a desperate twist, acquises to an inmate’s tip in a deal that should all but guarantee that Richard walks away with a hidden cash stash totaling three-million dollars, located in the very same building where Mike and his crew are working.
Alas, it’s not long before the gossip finds its way to crime boss Deacon (actor/stunt performer Scott Hunter) via his locked-up brother. Just as the final hours near on demolition, Mike suddenly discovers the cash for himself, an alarming find that puts Mike squarely in a race against time to play it cool until he can get the money and bail with nobody the wiser. Before long however, he soon find himself cornered by Richard, as well as Deacon and his small army of henchmen, with no choice but to fight his way out through them.
As the clock ticks closer to demolition, Mike and Richard soon lock horns, set on their agendas with guns aimed at both of them with very few places to hide and time running out. Can they find common ground and work with each other to survive? Or will they either get caught, or end up in a steaming pile of rubble with a political ceremony in the backdrop on a sunny Sunday.
There isn’t much to add on the subtext of bloating healthcare costs and political opportunism as it gets caught in the undertow of what feels like a generic Adkins/Lundgren package signed, sealed and delivered accordingly to its target audience. It’s all fists, kicks and ballistics to bookend with a touch of poignant drama to help carry the viewer through. In fairness, it’s well balanced enough in its execution between the Mike and Richard story arcs as they collide and we learn more about their motivations and what drives them; Richard’s story compels plenty in the desperate father role, and while Mike’s story sees him as beleagured and suddenly bound to get lucky, the push behind his character elevates to higher stakes when tragedy strikes at the hands of the gunmen.
The action, provided via the stewardship of Tim Man (Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear, Eliminators, One Shot), presents another ample display of finely-shot Adkins/Lundgren action scenery. The two best fight scenes fans can expect will certainly be the opening tête-à-tête between Adkins and actor/stunt performer Evan Dane Taylor, and much later
with co-star/stunt performer Jean Claude Leyeur who plays one of Deacon’s henchmen.
Of course, Adkins and Lundgren get to do the dance as well, and to the latter’s credit, while he may move admittedly slower, that he stays fit and dedicated to a life of health and wellness keenly enough for consistent action roles and projects speaks highly to the kind of work ethic I can say more of than a certain, unnamed pony-tailed shyster who’s clearly run his own course.
Castle Falls coalesces nicely enough for its commercial aim to sell a viable action thriller with a top-billed Adkins, and even cooler with Lundgren present in the room to add value. The performances and the work put in to make the film a reality despite all the circumstances should all get the acknowledgement they deserve, and as such bodes as a feasible entertainer for the average action fan who is pleased with the constant string of modest and low budget action and martial arts thrillers. To be frank though, if I’m drawing comparisons here on the grounds of characters fighting their way out of a doomed building in the same genre, I’d have to say the recent Jean-Paul Ly-led Nightshooters fares way better.
It’s definitely cool if you find yourself asking if this is all really enough, and it’s totally fine to want more, and possibly better. Adkins has long since proved himself for the action star he deserves to be on a bigger stage, and Castle Falls teeters some as another reminder of the ceiling many of us hoped he’d avoid reaching so long as the thrill of him kicking like Boyka and handing out 720s, side flips and Guyver kicks like free morning muffins at the office didn’t wane on us. All the same though, Castle Falls is satisfying enough to snag for your Blu-Ray, DVD or Digital collection when it releases.
Castle Falls will be available in theaters, on demand and digital December 3 in the U.S. from Shout! Studios. The film will also release in the UK from Dazzler Media on Digital from December 20, and then on Blu-ray & DVD from January 10, 2022.