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Castle Falls 2021 Dolph Lundgren Review

Castle Falls (2021), directed by Dolph Lundgren | FEATURE FILM REVIEW

With Castle Falls (2021), Dolph Lundgren’s return to the director’s chair poses interesting character subtext in this solid action thriller starring action icon Scott Adkins.

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Hollowed Out Hospital…

Abandoned hallways, crumbling walls, and gaping holes where windows, doors, and elevators had previously been part of the structural landscape. Wires are dangling from the ceiling, abandoned children’s artwork litters the walls, and on the ground level there are load bearing structures draped in explosives.

The setting of Castle Falls (2021), a stripped down and gutted hospital on the verge of demolition, is the perfect place for the events of this budget-conscious action thriller.

…Filled With Hollowed Out Men

Like its setting, the lead characters within Castle Falls are two men in shambles, desperately clinging onto whatever structure is in their life and struggling to move towards a brighter future as time and unsure footing robs them of momentum.

They are worn versions of what they used to be, torn apart by circumstance and a world cold to their plights to move forward towards their goals.

In this crumbling labyrinth of an abandoned hospital hides $3 million of cash waiting. Two men navigate its mazes of hallways, rooms, and staircases as a group of paramilitary assholes hellbent on their demise hunt them down to retrieve the cash first.

This all happens while our two disparate, but all too familiar protagonists dig down to find their own wealth inside of them as human beings.

It’s symbolic, really.

Director Dolph Lundgren
Director Dolph Lundgren in CASTLE FALLS, a Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.

If He Directs, He Directs

This kind of light layering in theme and concept is not what one necessarily expects from a Scott Adkins action vehicle directed, produced, and co-starring Dolph Lundgren. Yes, that Dolph Lundgren.

It’s not his first run at directing a film and, to be frank, I’m quite partial to most of his work in that department. Both Icarus (2010) and Command Performance (2005) are genuine delights in my action film collection that regularly find ways into my watch queue. However, neither one matches the dramatic intentions or intriguing subtext of Castle Falls which sets it aside from Lundgren’s other directorial efforts.

Two Paths, One Purpose

As a film, Castle Falls takes its time developing its characters, building up the context of their plight into the hospital to seek out the money. There is a substantial amount of time excavating the circumstances around its two protagonists to earn an audience’s empathy.

Enough so that it doesn’t even have them meet up on screen until almost an hour into the 89 minute feature. It’s worth the effort and, naturally, their first meeting is one that immediately leaps into action.

Adkins gives one of the best performances of his career as a professional MMA fighter pushed out of his employment by age and a non-existent killer instinct. Lundgren is on financial straits due to mounting healthcare bills for his daughter battling a blood cancer. Both imbue a world weariness that feeds into the tonality and dramatic heft of the film with remarkable ease.

In Castle Falls we have two action titans dig deep into their acting wells to deliver some of the strongest performances of their careers.

Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins in Castle Falls
Dolph Lundgren, Scott Adkins in CASTLE FALLS, a Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.

It’s Plotting, Not Plodding

Between the two, they carry Castle Falls through most of its narrative hiccups; in unraveling its unnecessarily complex tale of prison deals, criminal families, and a satirical political subplot with a Mayor celebrating the destruction of an abandoned health care system.

The latter exists only as a sly prodding of the ignorance of politicians to the struggles of working men against time, violence, and a competitive race against one another to a cash prize. It’s not the most efficient film in getting those points across, but it’s admirable that they even exist in a film that could have easily stuck with its baddies vs. goodies plotting.

Re: Action

All of those intriguingly layered characters and symbolic parallels are not what’s going to draw in most viewers though. Castle Falls is a film starring Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren after all. Most viewers are coming for one thing: action.

Although the film is relatively light on action throughout its first half, opening with Scott Adkins in a “friendly” gym match against a younger rival fighter and a bit of a prison brawl a bit later on, by the time the second half rolls around the clock ticking down to the hospital’s demolition and a slew of paramilitary assassins make sure that the film satiates that action craving.

Lundgren, as a director, smartly partners a handheld and a naturalistic camera tone for the dramatic pieces with a steady and slow to edit approach to the action. It’s best to catch Adkins with all of his speed and impressive stunt work in longer takes and Lundgren never shies away from that approach and it allows Adkins to deliver on what he does best: kicking a substantial amount of ass.

Does Adkins drop kick a man down an elevator shaft? Abso-fuckin’-lutely.

Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren in Castle Falls
Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren in Castle Falls. a Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.

Re: Match

It should be noted, though, that the highlight of the film is when Adkins and Lundgren initially meet and take to giving one another a classic action film beatdown before working together. If this film didn’t have that, well, that’s a problem. It’s the rematch that any fan of Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012) has been asking for and it’s blissfully brutal in beautiful violence.

Rest assured, they fight one another, learn about each other’s goals, and then proceed to team up with a bit of comedically toned banter before setting about to escape the hospital and kill as many baddies as they can on the way out.

It might be part of the formula, but that’s what most people are going to be coming to this film for, so it’s hard to call that a detriment.

Castle Falls Rises Too

Castle Falls isn’t reinventing the wheel, nor is it a film that the pompous cinephiles of the world will suddenly see with open-minded eyes, but it’s a slice of cinema that understands its identity, its limitations, and its strengths.

Lundgren brings a lot of heart to the film with his performance as an actor and behind the camera as a director. This allows it to maximize Scott Adkins, for the brilliant action star he is and bring out the underrated actor that he has always been.

Actor Director Dolph Lundgren
Actor Director Dolph Lundgren in Castle Falls. a Shout! Studios release. Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios.

The action crushes with a few key moments, including a hard-hitting, bruiser of a finale and the character work powers a plot that surprises with some of its intriguing layers.

Like the abandoned hospital that most of the film is set in, don’t judge Castle Falls by its direct-to-video status and rough around the edges look. There are a lot more stories, character work, and life in it then what’s just on the surface. It just takes an open mind, a bit of time, and some exploring to find all of its interesting pieces.

Take a punch at Castle Falls and it might punch back.

Credits

Editor & Artwork: Richard Williams
Stills courtesy of Shout! Studios

3.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewer / Presenter

Writer, podcaster, cinema fiend, drive-in mutant, kung fu fanatic, horror hound, vulgar auteur, and sometimes human being. I’ve been writing about cinema for over ten years now, dedicating my time to all genre cinema. Co-creator of Blood Brother Film Reviews and co-host of the No Franchise Fatigue podcast.

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