Shitty Movie Sundays: Castle Falls

Dolph Lundgren is amongst the most reliable action movie stars to grace the pages of Shitty Movie Sundays. Nary a year has gone by since the 1990s when he hasn’t starred in some low budget b-action fare. Sometimes, he even directs.

Castle Falls, from 2021, sees Lundgren helm a screenplay from Andrew Knauer, whose biggest splash in Hollywood was penning Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s comeback film, The Last Stand.

Lundgren takes the rare second billing in this flick, playing a prison guard named Richard Ericson. Top billing goes to Scott Adkins, playing an MMA fighter named Mike Wade, who has aged out of the sport, and is left dead broke and homeless in Alabama.

Wade takes a day labor job doing demolition work at Castle Heights Hospital in Birmingham (played by the former Carraway Methodist Medical Center), prepping the building for implosion. Meanwhile, at the prison where Ericson works, a prisoner named Lando (Eric Gray) is in something of a pickle. Before he went in, he stole a huge pile of cash from drug kingpin Damien Glass (Robert Berlin). As fate would have it, Damien is incarcerated in the same prison, and he is making Lando’s life hell.

As fate would also have it, before his arrest, Lando stashed all the cash he stole, three million bucks worth, somewhere in Castle Heights. As fate would also, also have it, Lando, while recovering from a nasty shanking in the prison infirmary, sees a television news report covering the impending destruction of the hospital, and with it all of his ill-gotten gains. In a desperation move, he makes a bargain with Ericson: safety from Damien, in exchange for the exact location of the stash. Castle Falls movie posterThere are many, many people who would take that bargain just on the amount of cash, alone. But Ericson has a reason that keeps him in good graces with the audience. His daughter has cancer, and his health insurance won’t cover her latest treatments.

Meanwhile, Damien has picked up on Lando’s proposal through the prison grapevine, and uses his connections to the outside to set fellow criminal mastermind, and brother, Deacon Glass (Scott Hunter), on Ericson’s trail.

Fate, that dastardly devil, intervenes again. On the last day of work before the hospital is imploded later that evening, mere minutes before the end of his shift, Wade finds the cash stuffed in a cabinet. Three million bucks would do much to address his problems, so he takes it. But, before he can flee the hospital, Ericson arrives to search for the money, followed closely by Deacon and his motley crew of thugs. The scene is set. A game of cat and mouse follows, with Deacon hunting Ericson and Wade, who ally themselves out of necessity. And the clock is ticking. In an hour and a half, a button will be pressed, and Castle Heights will be a pile of bricks and dust.

Here is where some suspension of disbelief is required of the viewer. I don’t know how rigorous security is around a building that’s about to be imploded, but I’m pretty sure it consists of more than just one red-headed hick with a poor attention span. But, that’s all the security we see in this flick. Despite much gunplay and other noisy activity, the players’ shenanigans in the doomed hospital never raise the alarm. That helps the movie happen, though, so it’s forgivable.

In fact, much can be overlooked in this movie. Despite the low budget, the lack of big stars, and the mediocre acting talent, Castle Heights is an engaging little flick. Make no mistake, it has earned its spot in the Watchability Index, but its moments of filmmaking competence cannot be ignored. This was the seventh film Lundgren directed, and he showed flashes of storytelling prowess. Just flashes, but his progress as a director is evident when compared to The Defender. This movie has an even pace that was lacking in that first effort at directing.

Adkins was also a pleasant surprise. He’s been bouncing around the b-movie world since the turn of the century, an also-ran martial artist who never got a big break. Yet, his down-on-his-luck protagonist is sympathetic and believable. He’s not the invincible hero one gets in action movies like this. He takes his lumps, and his skills never become superhuman.

Hunter is also as fine a villain as one could expect. He’s nasty, relentless, and willing to sacrifice everything and anybody to get the money.

A great setting, a decent story, some good performances, and satisfying action set pieces make Castle Heights a welcome surprise. When a shitty movie doesn’t supply those moments of filmmaking mirth that we mutants love so much, the least it can do is be entertaining. Castle Heights takes over the #187 spot in the Index from The Humanity Bureau.

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