‘How do you feel about killing somebody? Because us getting out of here is pretty goddamn dependent on it.” Dolph Lundgren and Scott Adkins make a fine odd couple in this meatily satisfying action film – once it gets moving. The ageing hulk is on prime form, juggling directorial duties with a Balboan blue-collar turn in front of the camera, while Adkins, the current king of kickass B-movies, again shows his range and brings the Brit-comedy – a levity that borders on dorky, if that’s an appropriate word to describe a martial-arts matinee idol capable of caressing your jaw with a spin-kick.
Adkins plays Mike Wade, an over-the-hill MMA fighter from Birmingham, England, down on his luck in Birmingham, Alabama. Cadging a job as part of a demolition crew stripping Castle Heights hospital, he finds a three-holdall stash of greenbacks in a cupboard. With the building due to be dynamited in 90 minutes, he returns solo for the money – unaware that two other interested parties are also moving in: Lundgren’s prison guard Ericson, who needs to finance his daughter’s cancer treatment, and a gang kingpin (Scott Hunter) out to secure the loot on behalf of his incarcerated brother.
That’s all that needs to be said. Andrew Knauer’s script spends the first third of the film unnecessarily detailing the various allegiances, which defers the good stuff: Lundgren and Adkins pounding seven shades out of each other and then teaming up against the real heavies. Lundgren, in his fleece and spectacles, looks like the most virile crown-green bowling player you’ve ever seen.
With a surprisingly substantial action-directing resumé behind him, Lundgren makes strong positional use of the decrepit high-rise in a way that Die Hard did expertly, though his action choreography – serviceable but staid – is less cutting-edge than Gareth Evans’s in The Raid. With so many factions in play, Adkins arguably doesn’t carry Castle Falls as much as he should – and deserves a better character flaw than “must overcome continually being put in a sleeper hold”. Crammed into the film’s back half, his and Lundgren’s break for the ground floor feels like it’s only just getting going, but this is a partnership that deserves to have legs.
• Castle Falls is available online on 20 December.