(Original Publication Date: August 26th, 2018) By: John M Jerva
REVIEW: I AM VENGEANCE
STARRING: Stu Bennett, Anna Shaffer, Mark Griffin, Bryan Larkin, Kevin Leslie, Keith Allen and Gary Daniels
DIRECTED BY: Ross Boyask
Official Synopsis: When ex-soldier turned mercenary, John Gold, learns of the murder of his best friend, he sets off on a mission to find out what happened. What he discovers is a sinister conspiracy and he sets about taking down those responsible one by one
THE REVIEW: It’s no secret that I have been waiting for I AM VENGEANCE ( A.K.A. VENGEANCE) ever since I first posted about it a few years ago. The idea of seeing former WWE superstar Stu Bennett, who went by the name of Wade Barrett in the ring, starring along with fellow British ass kicker Gary Daniels, who has been one of my favorite action stars for years, was more than awesome. The possibility of seeing the two go toe to toe was simply to much to take. Now, we finally have the film in our hands as I AM VENGEANCE has finally debuted this past weekend in select cinemas and Digital platforms. Was it worth the wait? Well I’m going to spare you the suspense and come right out and say that it was one of the most entertaining and old school kick ass films I have seen in a long time. After serving bad guy duties in the recent hit ELIMINATORS with Scott Adkins, Bennett is front and center and in full on anti-hero action mode as John Gold, an ex-spec ops soldier who now works outside of the military doing what he does best…kicking the shit out of bad people. Ever notice how some of the best action heroes have the first name John. I like that name.
We first meet Gold as he is tearing through a gauntlet of baddies in order to save a woman who has been kidnapped. Gold dispatches his assailants with relative ease in a brutal display of raw power and force. After the mission, John discovers that one of his former comrades, Daniel Mason (Leslie), has been murdered in the small town of Devotion along with his father Dougie (Allen) and mother. It seems that Daniel and his dad were on to a group of ex-special forces soldiers led by Sgt. Hatcher (Gary Daniels) who have taken over the town and the local drug trade. We know from the beginning that they are the bad guys and that they have the town in the palm of their hands. Devotion isn’t the town it used to be as the residents who are left to live there cower in fear of Hatcher and his team. Before you can say retribution, Gold is on his way in his classic GTO to serve up some good ‘ol fashioned pain and violence on all those responsible. When he arrives, Gold wastes no time in announcing his presence and letting everyone there know that he wants answers and he will get them. Along the way, Gold teams up with a local named Sandra (Shaffer) to get the answers that he is looking for and as it turns out, Sandra knows more than she is letting on about Daniel’s murder.
I AM VENGEANCE is the second of two kick ass British action flicks I have seen this month as OUTLAWED from Adam Collins was the first. Just like that indie flick, I AM VENGEANCE serves up the excitement and announces Stu Bennett as another contender for UK action star of the year. Bennett is a force of nature and when he walks into a room, you notice him right away. Bennett was spectacular as the the deadly assassin Bishop in ELIMINATORS and here he shows us that when it comes to playing the hero, he is more than up to the task. Bennett plays Gold with a sort of in your face charm and he shines in every action sequence. Being an old pro from wrestling, Bennett knows how to excel in the fight scenes and brings the lethal fisticuffs just as good as anyone out there at the moment. I can’t help but go back to a quote from one reviewer who says that “if The Punisher was British, he’d be Stu Bennett.” The phrase alone says it all. Bennett has that something special when it comes to these types of roles and this film and ELIMINATORS is proof positive that he is legit.
Now, if you know me and follow my website, then you know that I am a super Gary Daniels fan and have been watching everything that the former kickboxer turned action star has been in since the early 90’s. Daniels literally paved the way for future British shit kickers like Bennett and Jason Statham and now in his 50’s, Daniels can still move with the best of them and if you compared footage of him nowadays with ones from the past, you will see no difference. He’s that good and still is. Here, he plays the menacing role of ex-soldier turned drug runner Hatcher and even though I prefer him on the side of good, it’s always fun to see him have a little fun as the heavy. Daniels is one of the best kickers in the business and here he gets to showcase his talents once again and I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time.
The rest of the cast excels as well including Anna Shaffer who plays the reluctant Sandra. Shaffer plays her with a certain road weary innocence and even though she has her issues, you can’t help but like her and want to see her win out at the end of day. Hatcher’s crew which includes Bryan Larkin as the menacing Marshall, Fleur Keith as Barnes, Wayne Gordon as Stockwell and Alan Calton as Lambert all have fun with their evil roles and all get to take on Bennett in empty handed combat. Sapphire Elia is terrific as Rose, one of the town’s actual good people who takes a liking to Gold. Mark Griffin is spot on as Frost, the mysterious stranger who is there to keep tabs on Gold and eventually bring him back in when all is said and done. You never fully know who he works for but you know that he is important. You’re only as strong as the people around you and here Bennett is in some really good company.
Director Ross Boyask, who is known for helming the awesome indie action pics 10 DEAD MEN and LEFT FOR DEAD, knows what the audience wants and gives it to them. He keeps things moving at a nice brisk pace and never lets too much time go by without giving as an action sequence to sink our teeth into. Boyask knows what kind of film he has made and he makes sure we know what kind of ride we are in for from the word go. One interesting tidbit about Boyask is that he directed an action short film back in 2001 that starred a yet unknown Scott Adkins which I am still trying to find to this day. Would be nice to see the two hook up again for a longer action flick. Boyask is quietly building a nice arsenal of action films to his credit and I, for one, would love to see what he has in store for us next. A tip of my Cleveland Indians hat to you sir.
Another great aspect of the film is the stellar score by Greenhaus. It throws it back to the days of old when Tangerine Dream and others filled our action films with some great synthesizer led music. It almost has a horror film feel to it in some parts similar to John Carpenter’s iconic themes which kind of makes Bennett’s Gold look like a vengeance seeking version of Michael Myers. To say that I loved that aspect of it would be a drastic understatement.
Now, of course, we have to talk about the action and with I AM VENGEANCE, we get an awesome array of fisticuffs and shootouts with each action set piece building towards the next one as Gold takes on multiple adversaries in numerous beatdowns which highlight Gold’s invincible demeanor. It is only at the end when he takes on Larkin’s Marshal that he finally meets someone truly worth fighting. The climax of the film is a hail of gunfire and explosions as Gold executes his one man mission to finally take down Hatcher and his army and we are treated to some fierce firepower as well as Gold carves his way through Hatcher’s henchmen on his way to the eventual showdown with the main man responsible.
The final fight between our two titans is certainly worth the price of admission alone as Bennett and Daniels engage in mortal combat where only one man will be left standing. It’s a fight that will please fans as both men get ample opportunity to showcase their skills and it is brutal and realistic while highlighting some of Daniels’ flash against Bennett’s sheer brute force. I had been waiting a long time to see this one and it met my expectations and more. A lot of times, you watch a film where a fight has been hyped only to be letdown in its eventual execution but her fight choreographer Andrei Nazarenko delivers a standout that will be viewed many times by me in the future guaranteed!
To sum it all up, I AM VENGEANCE is the gritty, punch you in the face with no apologies action film you have been waiting for and Stu Bennett has officially thrown his hat into the ring for contender of a new breed of action hero. Bennett’s John Gold is like this generation’s version of Dirty Harry in the sense that he is a get it done by any means necessary type of protagonist and his sense of justice is on a higher plain then most people. Gary Daniels proves once more that he still can deliver the smack down unlike anyone else and he is most definitely an icon in the action and martial arts genre. Director Ross Boyask pulls out all the stops and gives us a 93 minute thrill ride that shows us that the one man army film is still in good hands!
VERDICT: ACTION-FLIX APPROVED!!!
I AM VENGEANCE is now on Blu-Ray and DVD!