Castle Falls, 2021.
Directed by Dolph Lundgren.
Starring Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren, Jim E. Chandler, Kim DeLonghi, Scott Hunter, Kevin Wayne.
Three million dollars in cash hidden in a building due to be demolished becomes the focal point of a desperate father, a skint construction worker and a gang of ruthless criminals.
Action star team-ups can often produce mixed results but when one of those stars is the director you can usually expect a little more than the typical beefcake face-off. Castle Falls stars Scott Adkins (Avengement/Ninja: Shadow of a Tear) and Dolph Lundgren (Universal Soldier/Red Scorpion), who also directs, and surprisingly it isn’t just two brick outhouses belting seven shades out of each other for 90 minutes.
Which, if we’re honest, is probably why we fancied watching it in the first place because there are few things finer in life than sticking on a ‘brainless’ action movie we don’t have to think about while we park ourselves on the sofa with no intention of moving. And if that is your particular wont then there are plenty of bargain bin titles starring Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson or Billy Blanks readily available to satisfy that particular craving, but Castle Falls is a little more than that, mixing together crime thriller, tearful family melodrama, gun-toting action and – yes – a bit of martial arts (because why wouldn’t you when you have Scott Adkins and former European Karate champion Dolph Lundgren on the same set?). Does it hit every stylistic beat in the best way possible? No, but it does try very hard.
Adkins plays Mike, an MMA fighter whose promoter has lost confidence in him and, now penniless, is forced to move out of his digs. Picking up some work on a building site where a former hospital is being dismantled before being demolished in front of local dignitaries, Mike discovers $3 million in cash stuffed inside three bags and stashed inside a cupboard, roughly around the time that prison guard Ericson (Lundgren) has struck up a deal with a convict in his charge to recover $3 million that belongs to an incarcerated kingpin whose brother on the outside might be searching for. Ericson is a good man, but his beloved daughter has cancer and their insurance does not cover the cost of her treatment, so $3 million would come in very handy but with the detonation charges set to go off in 90 minutes, a skint Mike and a desperate Ericson need to team up to escape the ruthless criminal gang pursuing them before it all comes crashing down.
With similarities to Walter Hill’s early ‘90s caper Trespass, Castle Falls is a lot more laidback than you would expect, especially during the first act when all of the character establishment is taking place and the pace does feel a little slow. However, once Mike discovers the loot and we’re into act two the pace picks up, even if the script doesn’t quite keep up with it. Dolph Lundgren’s direction is a lot more fluid than you would expect given his previous efforts behind the camera, where quick cuts and fast action were the order of the day, as here he lets the camera take in what is happening on the screen, allowing the fight scenes to be seen in all their glory without needing to create a false sense of momentum by constantly cutting and changing angles.
And how are those fight scenes? Well, as you would expect, Scott Adkins is on top form despite playing a character who is supposed to be past his best, punching, kicking and throwing like he was taking on the final level boss in a video game. As a character Mike has a little more to him than Adkins’s typical screen personas, and Adkins himself has hugely improved as a dramatic actor over the past few years – his role in the excellent Avengement proving he was more than just hired muscle – with this probably being his best performance so far. Despite Mike and Ericson having to team up, the two do initially clash and we get an all-to-brief dust-up between the two, with Adkins’s age and flexibility going up against Lundgren’s size and strength for a couple of minutes of body slamming that is the most fun scene in the whole movie.
But there is a gang of goons after them, led by the bloodthirsty Deacon Glass (stuntman Scott Hunter) and his psychotic girlfriend Kat (Kim DeLonghi), who is the most interesting character of the bunch thanks to her facial scar and her history as a stripper that gets alluded to. Glass himself is a fairly bland villain, portrayed by somebody who is a better stuntman than he is an actor, but him and his cohorts are dastardly enough to make you want bad things to happen to them, and by the time the final act rolls around the action has been ramped up to quite intense levels thanks to the various plot threads coming together, Lundgren’s layered direction and some gnarly violence. Unfortunately, the acting from some of the cast and the dialogue itself is base-level and reflects the low budget nature of the production, most of which could be ignored if the finale – i.e. the inevitable blowing up of the hospital building – was any good but somebody clearly forgot to put fifty pence in the meter and what we get for all of our loyalty is an embarrassing CGI demolition scene that looks like a cut-scene from a PS2 game circa 2002; there aren’t even any CGI flames, despite the amount of explosives that keep getting mentioned throughout, so a CGI dust cloud projected behind a smiling Mayor is what we get for our trouble.
So, slow first act and unintentionally hilarious ending aside, Castle Falls is a solid action/crime thriller with a bit of heart, two strong leads and good intentions. It might not be the action film you go to throw on in a post-pub frenzy of adrenaline and alcohol-induced bravado but it is one you could show to the non-action movie fan in your life as it has an engrossing and occasionally emotional story to go along with the testosterone, making Castle Falls a pleasantly enjoyable – or even an enjoyably pleasant – surprise, despite its budgetary shortcomings.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★