STARRING: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose, Nick Moran, Kierston Wareing and Louis Mandylor
DIRECTED BY: Jesse V. Johnson
THE REVIEW: Back in 2005, director Jesse V. Johnson cast Scott Adkins in a small role in his off the hook action-thriller PIT FIGHTER. Then not as known, Adkins served up a fine performance although the role did not involve any fighting or action. Little did we all know that that one film would spark a friendship that would lead to one of the most prolific partnerships in action cinema as Adkins and Johnson have now gone on to do five more films together with each being more meatier and adrenalized then the last. With SAVAGE DOG, the two proved what they were capable of and that is that they are strong separately but they are unstoppable together. ACCIDENT MAN, THE DEBT COLLECTOR and TRIPLE THREAT would follow and with each epic film, the one-two punch of this go to team of action delivered the goods to the masses who crave their action films with meat on its bones.
Now with their sixth film, AVENGEMENT, we not only have a low down, brutal and bloody British gangster drama filled with some of the most unforgiving fight choreography that you will ever see but we also have the film that is Adkins’ career defining best. With AVENGEMENT, Adkins is proving to the entire world what his legions of fans already knew and that is he is a force of nature in the action genre. Adkins not only dishes out some of his most ruthless fight action to date but he also turns in a tour de force performance for the ages and with the action star possibly putting Boyka to rest, I think he has created a new anti-hero that is worthy of succeeding that iconic character. With Cain Burgess, Adkins has found his canvas to paint a barbaric and grit filled character that will easily satisfy his fans who are loyal to the max. This is the film that proves to anyone that Adkins is worthy of headlining a major Hollywood picture. He’s that good and add the fact that he is a human highlight reel in terms of action, then what you have is the complete package. I say this as someone who already knew that ever since I first saw him back in SPECIAL FORCES in 2003. The man is a star…pure and simple.
As story goes, AVENGEMENT is pretty simple but the way that Johnson, who co-wrote the script with longtime friend Stu Small, delivers it with a fresh new take and doesn’t show off his hand to early. The story is told in a succession of flashbacks as Cain, while on furlough from prison to see his mother who is dying of cancer, breaks free from his detail to return to his own haunting grounds and deliver some much needed payback to those that did him wrong with his brother Lincoln Burgess (Fairbrass) being the main target. Cain, while doing a special job for his brother, gets caught when it goes sideways and is forced to serve a hard prison sentence. While on the inside, Cain is forced to defend himself from all angles as he is continuously assaulted by wave after wave of inmates. Why is their a target in his back? Well that’s the million dollar question and one that Cain wants to find out. With vengeance in his sights, Cain invades a local bar frequented by Lincoln’s cronies and proceeds to hold them all hostage while he waits for his brother to face him once and for all. While waiting, Cain tells them his infamous story of who and what made him into the cold-blooded killer he has become.
AVENGEMENT is one hell of a movie to put it in the most simplest terms. It merges many different genres and molds them into one cohesive story that is both beautiful and brutal at the same time. It is a gangster movie, a searing prison drama, a full on martial arts fight flick and a blood soaked horror movie all rolled into one. Johnson, who has cut his teeth in the industry for years as a stuntman, fight coordinator and now director, knows how to not only make an exciting action film but he makes action films with powerful stories, characters and consequences. There usually isn’t a rainbow at the end of a Jesse V. Johnson film but fans wouldn’t want it any other way. Johnson shows us that life isn’t all cupcakes and unicorns and the characters in his films usually get what’s coming to them. Johnson has crafted the genre of unforgiving cinema and since teaming up with Adkins, the two have brought out the absolute best in each other.
As stated before, Cain Burgess is the new anti-hero to replace Yuri Boka in Adkins’ arsenal of epic characters. What makes his performance so great and mesmerizing is how he transforms himself from naive boxer to full on rampaging beast. Cain Burgess wasn’t always like this. Once he took the fall and went away, he had to hone himself into a lethal weapon or what he calls himself, “a hardened rusty nail.” The transformation itself is a sight to behold and it is, dare I say, Oscar worthy in its delivery. I sincerely mean that. His performance is just as good as any other man who has been nominated for best actor. This isn’t an easy thing to do but Adkins carries it off and carries it off with spades. Fans have never, EVER, seen him like this and I commend the man for taking such a bold role. It is truly a career defining role.
Now make no mistake, AVENGEMENT is indeed a fight film from beginning to end and it is loaded with some of the most devastating action set pieces ever captured on film. Each scene of blood drenched fisticuffs is more chaotic then the last and there are many cringe worthy moments that might just make audience members look away. You feel each hit and with every punch and kick, the force of impact is biblical. Adkins is in fine form as always and even though the choreography is more stripped down and dirty there are still little nuggets of flash that will make fans grin from ear to ear. Blood is spilled in buckets and I lost count as to how many times blood hit the camera or a wall when someone got pummeled. Adkins gets to let it loose with some of the UK”s most prolific talent like REDCON-1’s Mark Strange and Greg Burridge who is just a sheer brute. This is hardcore, unflinching action cinema in all its glory. I tip my hat to Dan Styles and Luke Lafontaine who were responsible in creating all this wonderful bloodshed and both men had small roles in the film as well but unfortunately met grim fates at the hands of Burgess.
The supporting cast are all on top of their game as well and the always dependable Louis Mandylor (who also starred with Adkins in THE DEBT COLLECTOR) sizzles in a small, supporting role as Detective O’Hara who tries to get Cain to roll over on his criminal brother Lincoln. Mandylor oozes on screen gravitas and this is no exception. Craig Fairbrass once again brings his A game as Lincoln Burgess and portrays the character with a low key amount of slime and filth. He’s not over the top but instead he is like a tiger lying in wait. One of my favorites was Kierston Wareing who plays the bartender Bez. She may just stand behind the bar for the length of the film but she dishes out some of the best lines in the movie.
To sum it all up, AVENGEMENT is another jolt of gut wrenching action movie making from the team of Scott Adkins and Jesse V. Johnson. These two have certainly hit their stride and we can only hope that their collaborations will continue into the far future. When you see both men’s names attached to a project, you just know that it will be epic and balls out and it is a wonderfully relentless and bone crunching assault on the senses. Adkins turns in his career best role and proves over and over that he is this generation’s leader in action cinema. Jesse V. Johnson knows what the audience wants and he continuously gives it to them with action that is coherent and breathtaking and makes you think all at the same time. If I had to say it all in one sentence…AVENGEMENT is indeed essential viewing for any serious action fan!
VERDICT: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
AVENGEMENT is now in select cinemas and on Digital and VOD from Samuel Goldwyn Films