Review: Adkins, Mandylor and Johnson Deliver a Second Round of Brutal Action Cinema with Rapid Fire One-Liners in DEBT COLLECTORS!

By: John M Jerva


STARRING: Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Vladimir Kulich, Ski Carr, Mayling Ng, and Marina Sirtis

DIRECTED BY: Jesse V. Johnson

Debt collectors French and Sue get to work doing what they do best – cracking skulls and breaking bones – as they chase down the various lowlifes who owe money to their boss, Tommy. They’re summoned to Las Vegas to collect from a dirty casino owner, who happens to be a vicious ex-lover of Sue’s. Meanwhile, a notorious drug kingpin is on the warpath to kill French and Sue to avenge his brother’s death. Facing danger from all angles, the pair will have no other choice but to fight their way out of an explosively dangerous situation.

THE REVIEW: By this time, action fans should know what they’re going to get from a film that stars Scott Adkins and is helmed by Jesse V. Johnson, at least the serious fans should know. When you see both men’s names attached to a project, you know that there is going to be some epic and brutal action sequences along with intriguing characters and a way above average storyline to compliment the chaos on screen. Dating back to 2005 when Adkins made a small appearance in Johnson’s Pit Fighter, the two have now gone on to collaborate on six more films and even though Adkins didn’t do anything action oriented in that first film, both star and director have definitely made up for that in the last few years as they have dished out some of the best action oriented projects that feature Adkins at his all time best both action wise and dramatic wise.

Add in the always game Louis Mandylor and you have the secret recipe for a rousing good time at the cinema. With their seventh and latest venture, the sequel Debt Collectors, all three men have once again pulled out all the stops in a follow up that wasn’t even probably supposed to happen if you know how the first entry ended. It didn’t look good for our anti-heroes French (Adkins) and Sue (Mandylor) as both men looked like they were about to meet their maker. But if you saw my interview with Adkins this past December for Ip Man 4, then you know that you technically didn’t see either man die. Although, technically Sue died twice on the operating table but hey it wasn’t his time yet.

That’s a good thing as the success of the first film The Debt Collector has paved the way for a second round of brutal action cinema with both Adkins and Mandylor returning as one of the best buddy team ups in recent action genre history. The sequel, which is now titled Debt Collectors, as there are two of them you know, is another solid and crowd pleasing effort from the team trinity of Adkins, Mandylor and Johnson and by this time they are comfortable working with each other so we as an audience just have to sit back, relax and watch the fist, feet and bullets fly in epic and grand indie action cinema fashion.

As Debt Collectors opens, we see that French, who has survived his wounds from the finale of the previous outing, is pretty much in the same predicament that he was in with the first film as he is working as a bouncer in a dive bar that is owned by the awesome 90’s genre favorite Nils Allen Stewart in a great cameo. French is in the middle of eating his lunch when, you guessed it, some less than desirable types led by another 90’s genre fave Anthony De Longis want to start some shit with our wayward and relunctant hero. This, of course, leads to an altercation where we get to see Adkins lay out the horde with a series of lethal moves and during the skirmish he fails to notice that Sue (Mandylor) has entered the establishment and is watching the whole thing unfold.

Once French sees his presumed to be dead partner, he is shocked to say the least and after he handles the trash, he learns that Sue once again is in need of his services as he informs French that he would like him to help him with three Vigs that owe money to Tommy, once again played by Vladimir Kulich. There is more to the story than meets the eye but French reluctantly agrees to come along and the two are off once again for the adventure of a lifetime that will most certainly be dangerous to say the least as it will end with a lot of bodies hitting the floor.

Debt Collectors once again knows what type of film it wants to be and those who seek it out will know what they’re getting into as French and Sue go after each Vig which will unfortunately lead them into run ins with the worst of the worst the criminal world has to offer. Along the way, blood will flow, bones will be broken and fans will be treated to some of the best stripped down and brutal fight action this side of, well, the first film. Adkins gets ample opportunity to show off the moves that has made him an action star and even though the action is more grounded than his Undisputed films, fans will still get to see him do what he does best and see him do it like nobody else can. A real treat this time around is that we get to see Mandylor’s Sue get in on more of the fight action even though he informs French from the beginning that he has denounced violence and wants to make his life better. Yeah, that doesn’t last long.

Besides the top tier action sequences, the real reason behind the success of these films is the chemistry of Adkins and Mandylor. Where they struck buddy action movie gold the first time around, here it is even better because they are more established as characters and we the audience know them well. It’s like being reunited with two old friends. A reunion that comes with a lot of violence of course. Adkins and Mandylor work so well off each other that it seems almost effortless for both of them. Watching these two in action, you’d swear that they have done at least 10 films together. I’m a big fan of Riggs and Murtaugh but I think I’m an even bigger fan of French and Sue and you should be too.

The script, which was once again written by Johnson along with his longtime creative partner Stu Small, is chocked full of one liners that will make you smile from ear to ear. The one liners come at you at a rapid fire pace and they include such fine interactions as Sue seeing French’s little compact car for the first time and telling him that it is essentially a wheel chair with a roof on it to which French replies without even thinking that it doesn’t guzzle gas like a battleship, it’s clean, it’s quiet and it doesn’t smell like your ass. Priceless. That’s just a little sampling of the comedic timing these two have working off each other and it only gets better from there. Adkins and Mandylor have a great deal of respect for each other off screen and that just translates all too well on screen.

Another aspect that I like with this sequel is where Adkins’ French was more of the lead protagonist in the first film. Here with the follow up, Sue is more in the driver’s seat as we learn a little more about him and his relationship with Kulich’s Tommy. This leads to some of the finer dramatic sequences of the film and Mandylor is spectacular in these weightier scenes where he essentially throws himself out there for all of us to see. Adkins compliments him wonderfully and with any other actor it probably wouldn’t have worked as well.

Just like the original, we are treated to a great and quircky supporting cast which include Star Trek’s Marina Sirtis who plays one of the Vigs that French and Sue must collect from but also has a sordid history with Sue. Other great cast members include Ski Carr as the crime boss Molly who wants vengeance from Sue and French for reasons that I won’t spoil. Genre favorite Vernon Wells (Commando) also makes a great cameo as another in debt client and Mayling Ng who plays the brute enforcer Britt who is just as, if not more tough as the men in the movie. Vladimir Kulich is great again as Tommy and even though we don’t get to see him as much, he still leaves an impact on us.

I’ve touched upon the action already but it is important to hammer the point across that Debt Collectors delivers on all cylinders and has the trademark Adkins/Johnson mayhem that we are all used to as this is their sixth full collaboration. There is equal parts firepower and fisticuffs and the highlight has to be the back alley duel that erupts between French and Sue that is a direct homage to brawl in They Live between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David. It’s both fierce and dramatic and both Adkins with his MMA skills and Mandylor’s boxing technique are up to the challenge in the extended sequence that deivers an exclamation point on their rocky relationship. It’s like watching two brothers go at it and even though it ends in a stalmate, there is a new level of respect that is earned between both men. It sure is fun to watch and the audience should see the time and effort that was put into it. Famed fight coordinator Luke LaFontaine delivers again and with this being the sequel, he amps up the ferocity to a max.

The finale is bullet riddled once more and even though there isn’t an empty handed confrontation to be had, Johnson still punctuates the violence that has been evident throughout the entire film with a blistering and fast paced firefight that includes even explosions and more dramatic value that enhances the physicality on screen. Another great aspect of this film is that it’s done by people who know the genre and it’s done with tactical effects and stunts just like the good ol days. In this day and age of huge CGI blockbusters, it’s nice to know that there are still filmmakers out there that know there is still an audience for these kinds of old school, throwback action spectacles.

I won’t divulge any spoilers but I will say that the ending to this film is a lot more easier to swallow than the original and it sets itself up nicely for another entry which would certainly be welcome from this reviewer and here’s hoping that it happens. Let’s hope this becomes the franchise it should be.

All in all, Debt Collectors is as advertised. A bare knuckle, take ’em out action thriller that has Adkins in fine action form and Mandylor oozing gravitas. From my interview that I conducted with both Adkins and Johnson, they mentioned that they are in the process of developing another project that will out do anything they have done before. What this means is that I believe the one-two punch of this creative action team will last for a long time and with Debt Collectors, they once again prove that they are the ones to beat when it comes to bone crunching, adrenaline delivering epics that leave you sweating from the get go. We all need to support indie action projects like this one so we get more amazing content like this in the future from men and women who know how to shoot action and know what we as an audience are starving for.

Adkins, Mandylor and Johnson have done it again and here’s hoping that Debt Collectors turns into the franchise that it and the people who make it so rightly desreve.

Don’t forget to check out my exclusive interview with Scott Adkins and Jesse V. Johnson on The Action Fix Podact!!



Debt Collectors Hits Home on May 29th on Digital and VOD and June 2nd on DVD!

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