|17 january 2024
In Wanted Man, Dolph Lundgren takes on the triple role of director, co-writer and actor as he attempts to revive the redemptive journey of an aging action hero. Lundgren, known for his iconic roles in such '80s action classics as Rocky IV and Masters of the Universe, stars as Travis Johansen, a bigoted California detective caught in a public relations nightmare after a racially charged incident is caught on camera. Despite its noble intentions to explore themes of redemption and cultural understanding, Wanted Man struggles to rise above its predictable plot and stilted execution.
The film opens with Johansen, a relic of a bygone era, dealing with the consequences of his violent outburst against a Mexican immigrant. The incident goes viral, jeopardizing Johansen's career. In an attempt to save his tarnished reputation, he is sent on a routine mission to Mexico to escort two witnesses back to the United States. The witnesses, played by Christina Villa and Daniela Soto-Brenner, are survivors of a violent incident involving DEA agents, and Johansen's mission becomes a crucial turning point for his character.
Early scenes set the tone for the exploration of right-wing ideologies, with Kelsey Grammer's character, Brynner and Johansen's colleagues openly expressing their prejudices. However, the film fails to build on these early moments, and the transition to a more compassionate worldview feels forced and lacks nuance. Lundgren's attempt to infuse Johansen's character with depth and address the complexities of immigration fails, leaving the story feeling superficial and contrived.
While Dolph Lundgren's commitment to the project is evident, his direction lacks the finesse necessary to enhance the material. The film's pace is uneven, and the dialogue is often clumsy and forced, particularly in scenes that attempt to convey Johansen's point of view. The action sequences, typically Lundgren's forte, offer occasional bursts of violence, but they struggle to compensate for the film's general lack of tension and excitement.
One of the aspects that sets Wanted Man apart is its depiction of individuals crossing the border in search of a better life. The film attempts to humanize these characters, presenting a more sympathetic vision than the initial right-wing rhetoric suggests. Kelsey Grammer's abandonment of his familiar Frasier Crane persona is a notable addition, giving the film an unexpected dimension.
Despite these elements, the film's overall impact is hampered by its inability to deliver a coherent message or offer a fresh perspective on its central themes. The plot unfolds predictably, with every twist and turn announced well in advance, robbing the narrative of any real surprises. The lack of character development further weakens the film's emotional resonance, leaving the audience detached from the fate of Johansen and the witnesses.
Wanted Man is neither a convincing action thriller nor a thought-provoking exploration of societal issues. Dolph Lundgren's efforts as a filmmaker and actor are evident, but the film struggles to transcend its uninspired direction and clichéd narrative. For those hoping for a resurgence of the 80s action hero, Wanted Man risks making them long for the glory days rather than celebrate the present.
Directed by Dolph Lundgren
Written by Dolph Lundgren, Michael Worth, Hank Hugues
Produced by Dolph Lundgren, Craig Baumgarten
Starring Dolph Lundgren, Christina Villa, Kelsey Grammer, Michael Paré, Roger Cross, Aaron McPherson
Cinematography : Joe M. Han
Edited by Darren C. Bui
Music by Sacha Chaban
Production companies : Millennium Media, Wonder Street
Distributed by Quiver Distribution
Release date : January 17, 2024 (United States)
Running time : 86 minutes
Viewed on January 27, 2024 (VOD)