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Movie Review: ‘Wanted Man’ | Moviefone


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Aaron McPherson as “Hilts,” Kelsey Grammer as “Brynner” and Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Aaron McPherson as “Hilts,” Kelsey Grammer as “Brynner” and Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Opening in theaters, On Demand and digital beginning January 19th is ‘Wanted Man,’ starring Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammer, Christina Villa, and Michael Paré.

Initial Thoughts

Directing his eighth (!) feature film, veteran action star Dolph Lundgren leans into his age and allows for a little vulnerability in the new thriller ‘Wanted Man.’ Make no mistake: this isn’t high art by any means, and has the sheen and feel of a low-cost direct-to-video (or direct-to-streaming) quickie, right down to the casting of one-time stars like Kelsey Grammer and Michael Paré. But Lundgren handles the action with confidence and tries to do something interesting with his character, even if the rest of the movie doesn’t quite have the same ambition.

Related Article: Dolph Lundgren Talks Directing ‘Wanted Man’ and the ‘Drago’ Movie

Story and Direction

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” and Aaron McPherson as “Hilts” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” and Aaron McPherson as “Hilts” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

‘Wanted Man’ opens with a drug deal gone wrong, in which four masked men intrude on a money-for-drugs swap and kill everyone involved, including two undercover DEA agents who seem to recognize the guys slaughtering them. Well, almost everyone is killed: two female escorts hiding in a back room escape and, it turns out, flee to Mexico.

Next we meet aging border police officer Mike Johansen (Lundgren), who probably should retire like most of his pals on the force but is now facing extreme disciplinary measures for beating the crap out of a suspect who happens to be Mexican. Johansen and his friends – which include the retired Brynner (Grammer) and the still active Tinelli (Paré) and Hilts (Aaron McPherson) – are the kind of good old boys who like to hang out in strip clubs after hours, get drunk and then drive, and push anyone with even a slightly darker skin tone than them around (as we see in one scene where Johansen demands to see an Arizona native’s green card).

When Johansen’s boss sends him on a mission to Mexico to bring back the two women who witnessed the DEA murders, it’s pretty easy to see where ‘Wanted Man’ is going. Sure enough, Johansen, the two women, and the Mexican cop accompanying them are ambushed in short order, leaving only a badly wounded Johansen and one of the women, Rosa (Christina Villa), on their own to survive and escape to the border.

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” and Christina Villa as “Rosa” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” and Christina Villa as “Rosa” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

‘Wanted Man’ starts out with an underlying tone of ugliness and racism that’s mainly thanks to the unrepentant nature of Johansen and his pals, particularly the nasty Brynner. But along the way, Johansen’s experiences gradually make him aware not just of his own prejudices but also the plight of immigrants desperate to make their way to a potentially better life in America. The movie – with its small cast and budget – thankfully doesn’t attempt to make any larger statements about our border issues, but it is earnest in portraying, through its protagonist’s travails, one man’s attempt to understand others.

Along the way there’s the expected action beats, narrative twists, and double-crosses, all of which you can pretty much see coming from miles away. This is pretty standard action-thriller material, but Lundgren handles it competently and even pulls off a few nice-looking shots while making use of his expansive desert locations. He’s also adept at handling the action sequences, including a tense shootout at a home in Mexico and a couple of standoffs in which he’s not afraid to show his enemies getting the upper hand on him at key moments.

At 86 minutes (including credits), ‘Wanted Man’ is the kind of compact thriller you can pass the time with relatively quickly, and even features a few interesting character relationships that elevate it slightly past the tropes it’s based upon.

The Dolph of It All

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Dolph Lundgren stars in, directs, co-produces, and has co-written ‘Wanted Man,’ making it clear that a) this is a story he feels personally attached to, and b) he wants to exercise some kind of quality control over the output of his later career. Lundgren has starred in dozens of direct-to-video action programmers that many of us have never seen, but with his profile recently raised by a supporting role in the two ‘Aquaman’ movies and a surprisingly affecting return as an older, wiser Ivan Drago in ‘Creed II,’ Lundgren seems more visible than he’s been in a long time.

He’ll never win an Oscar, but he brings a world-weariness and still-imposing physicality to the role of Johansen that makes the character believable enough, particularly as his arc bends from racism and anger to empathy and acceptance. He’s not afraid to show himself getting hurt, and to give generous screen time to his co-stars, particularly Villa, with whom he shares a decent chemistry thankfully free of any contrived sexual tension.

Daniela Soto-Brenner as “Leticia” and Christina Villa as “Rosa” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

(L to R) Daniela Soto-Brenner as “Leticia” and Christina Villa as “Rosa” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Villa herself is not incredibly expressive but displays intelligence and fire – although conversely her portrayal of an escort is less realistic since you have to wonder how she got there in the first place. As for the rest of the cast, it’s fun to see Michael Paré (‘Streets of Fire’) pop up, but he, Grammer, and most of the other male characters are given one-dimensional treatment that pegs them right away as either good guys or villains.

In the end, though, this is really the Dolph Lundgren show, and if you’re a fan then ‘Wanted Man’ will probably work for you.

Final Thoughts

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

Despite a surprisingly prolific career, Dolph Lundgren was never as big a star as the likes of contemporaries Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone or even Chuck Norris. Yet there’s an intelligence at work that tries to bring something other than the standard mix of violence and chest-beating to even a small movie like ‘Wanted Man.’ While the film skimps in developing most of its other characters in a meaningful way, and gets ugly at times, Lundgren gives a believable performance, and wrings just enough tension out of the narrative as director to keep one’s attention for 80 minutes.

‘Wanted Man’ receives 6 out of 10 stars.

“Some borders are better not crossed”

Not Yet Rated1 hr 25 minFeb 1st, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

Follows a police officer who must retrieve an eyewitness and escort her after a cartel shooting leaves several DEA agents dead, but then he must decide who to trust… Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Wanted Man’?

Travis Johansen (Lundgren) is an aging detective, whose outdated policing methods have given the department a recent public relations problem. To save his job, he is sent to Mexico to extradite a female witness (Christina Villa) to the murders of two DEA agents. Once there, he finds not only his old opinions challenged, but that bad hombres on both sides of the border are now gunning for him and his witness.

Who is in the cast of ‘Wanted Man’?

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, 'Wanted Man,' a Quiver Distribution release.

Dolph Lundgren as “Johansen” in the action thriller, ‘Wanted Man,’ a Quiver Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

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