Wanted Man

Wanted Man
Wanted Man
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With the 2024 presidential election in full swing, national concerns such as the border crisis are still at the forefront of people’s minds. In a new action thriller set at the border and directed by and starring Dolph Lundgren opposite a post-Frasier reboot Kelsey Grammer, a MAGA-like detective flips his script on Mexican culture for public safety. Wanted Man is pretty paint-by-numbers stuff — it’s every racially charged cop movie you’ve ever seen, rolled into one. But there’s some fun to be had in watching Ivan Drago finally get old while trying to save the day.

Meet Johansen (Lundgren), an aging detective who is not retiring from life so much as he is being forced out of his job. He starts off with outdated police work methods that might make you cringe within the first act — think rambling at a strip club with his fellow boys in blue about how Mexicans keep coming over here with nothing but problems. Yes, that kind of cringe.

By the time we meet him, Johansen has already become a PR nightmare for his department thanks to his MAGA-esque mindset. To cover their asses, they send him down to Mexico to save the day against his will — looking for a sex worker named Rosa (Christina Villa) who also happens to be the only witness to two DEA agents getting killed during some kind of drug deal gone wrong. That death sequence serves as Wanted Man’s opening, it might remind Soderbergh fans of that early scene in Traffic when Don Cheadle and Luis Guzmán pose as dealers in an undercover plot to take down drug lords … which works out well for them; this one doesn’t so much …

Before we head down south for this mission, though, we spend some time back home with a couple familiar faces. If you watched Fox’s hit series 24 back in its heyday, you’ll remember fan-favorite character Curtis, played by the always enjoyable Roger Cross. In Wanted Man, Cross rocks a beard but brings the same kind of understated intensity to his role as Johansen’s colleague that we grew to love on Smallville all those years ago. Unfortunately, though, he’s not around for long before things keep moving.

“I’ll do a couple of tequila shots for you,” Johansen tells his boys’ club colleagues as they part ways at the border. Thankfully for us and our expectations of another generic movie, soon after this line is delivered the film starts introducing interesting Mexican actors as local characters who will help our lead out once he arrives. That includes Officer De La Cruz (James Joseph Pulido), whose peppy demeanor in the face of Lundgren’s stoicism during their drive-around scene ranks among Wanted Man high points — it’s too bad Pulido isn’t in more of the movie …

Fortunately, in “Wanted Man”, De La Cruz leads Johansen towards another bright star — Rosa (played impeccably by the stunning Christina Villa). She is relatively new to Hollywood according to her filmography, but her future looks promising under the Tinseltown skies. While he’s escorting her across land borders into US soil by car, they get involved in a lethal raid that results into a shootout; an event which renders him useless as a result of getting shot and needing time for recovery while at Rosa’s family home.

The sight of Dolph mingling with Rosa’s kinfolk is touching stuff, but everything feels very confined; unfortunately micro-budgets are recognizable across this flick. Obviously villains will pounce at some point or another; you do not need to be cinephile to figure out who lies behind all these bad antics against Johansen and his witness. Perhaps star power like Kelsey Grammer — who starred alongside Lundgren in an Expendables movie years back — isn’t enough to keep us interested, though it does make for nice change seeing him go evil here instead of comedy route which he frequently takes up projects on like this one. Everything about storytelling here seems generic at best, but hats off to Lundgren because he deserves it when wearing many hats such as: lead actor, director, co-writer and producer. Go Dolph!

I mean honestly speaking a whole movie centered around conservative Swedish-American being stuck with Mexican culture was bound to be better than this feature’s outcome. However since we’re bombarded with what seems like repetitive shootouts and “crooked cop” bantering, chances are high that during bullet stuff you’ll find yourself scrolling phone then looking up once Rosa returns on scene more so admonishing Johansen while reminding him not trust his janky peers. Serpico would have field day down here.

They say “half of acting is reacting,” so don’t be surprised if Rosa’s deadpan “are you serious” face pops up whenever oblivious Johansen keeps saying that their police pals are the way to safety. It’s like Warwick Davis’ wide-eyed looks during iconic scene from HBO’s Life’s Too Short where Liam Neeson (playing himself) walks into Ricky Gervais’ office and says he wants do comedy.

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