Travis Preston (Scott Adkins) is a cryptozoologist still smarting from an unhappy previous expedition to track a prehistoric bear (A living one, no less) that saw him and his company get their arses sued by arrogant jerk hunter Harker (Dolph Lundgren), not to mention the loss of life of one of Preston’s crew. Now Preston finds himself approached to go on a new expedition as a prehistoric reptile has been spotted somewhere in China. So Preston gathers the remainder of his team (including Lydia Leonard and Nathan Lee) and heads off, only to find that Harker is already there and has set up shop with his whole crew and he won’t allow Preston access to any of the sites he’s already operating in. Looks like we have a little not-so friendly competition on our hands as Harker wants to kill the beast and Preston wants to capture and study it. James Lance plays a dorky Brit lawyer representing Preston’s mysterious new client.
No, not the corny John Cena-led “Rudy” meets “Billy Elliot” family-oriented wrestling movie. This 2014 film from director Eric Styles (Something called “Miss Conception” with Heather Graham) is a Chinese/UK creature feature with Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren. Sounds either awesome or spectacularly awful, doesn’t it? Yeah, it’s neither. Scripted by Andy Briggs (who has had a hand in relatively classy SyFy productions like the genuinely solid remake of “The Philadelphia Experiment”, the tolerable “Ghost Town” and “Dark Relic”) it’s pretty blah, and that’s the last thing you want out of a creature feature.
Scott Adkins, born a decade too late, has never taken off as a top action star. That’s mostly because action movies these days generally don’t star the types of action movie stars that flooded the genre in the 90s. So instead he is relegated to small roles in big films, and helming direct-to-DVD action movies. He’s a more than decent actor compared to the action stars of the 80s and 90s, but I have to say on this occasion he has not chosen the right action vehicle for his type of screen presence (Part of the problem may be that Adkins was apparently injured at the time and deliberately took a non-action role here). This is a swaggering, Indiana Jones-ish role, and Adkins is more your stoic, no-nonsense action star (Particularly effective in any of the “Undisputed” sequels or some of his work with Jean-Claude Van Damme over the years). So while he manages to be quite likeable (and is perfectly adept at punching people when required), he’s not well-cast in the role. The miscasting becomes even more obvious when the film’s human antagonist, Dolph Lundgren brings swagger and chiselled charisma aplenty, running off with the whole film as the arrogant prick game hunter. Lundgren proves yet again that he knows how to play bad very entertainingly (even in “Johnny Mnemonic” where he was terrible, but still the only amusing thing about the whole film), but I reckon he would’ve been perfectly fine in Adkins’ role as well. He’s terrific, the film is pretty mediocre at best.
I love a good cheesy monster movie, hell I enjoy bad ones too, but mediocre ones are unenjoyable and also rather difficult to review to be honest. This one’s a slight step above a SyFy movie (it’s attractively shot and at least has Dolph Lundgren’s fine work), as are the not-so-special FX, but the supporting cast is really weak, especially the Asian members of the cast who aren’t especially fluent or expressive in English (Yi Huang, as Harker’s hired scientist is especially uncomfortable in the English language). Brit actor James Lance just seems like he’s waltzed in by mistake, seeming more at home on an episode of “EastEnders” or whatever British soap you care to name. He’s out of place. Also, while the FX aren’t the absolute worst I’ve seen, the conception of the final creature is seriously inept. Initially it doesn’t look big enough to be a fearsome movie creature, it just looks like a large gecko. And then when the real final creature turns up to protect its young, the only thing that’s bigger about it is its head! Really dumb, if you ask me. I did however, like that the director obscures our view of the creature for much of the film. I kinda wish he did that with an earlier skirmish involving a giant bear, which…yeah, doesn’t look great. Capping things off is a terrible ending that doesn’t give satisfying just desserts to the antagonist. Did Lundgren have another shoot to get to and just left?
Neither good enough nor bad enough to be enjoyed on either traditional or ironic levels, this is a mediocre, rather cheap creature feature. Scott Adkins isn’t cast to his best advantage and most of the supporting cast struggle, but Dolph Lundgren is a more than able presence as the gung-ho, ruthless hunter. Not up to snuff I’m afraid Mr. Adkins, but the scenery is certainly nice. Next time, just let Adkins and Lundgren beat the shit out of each other, and forget about the monsters.