By: John M Jerva

REVIEW: Legacy of Lies

STARRING: Scott Adkins, Honor Kneafsey, John Hale, Yuliia Sobel, Marco Robinson, Leon Sua and Anna Butkevych.

DIRECTED BY: Adrian Bol

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS Scott Adkins (The Expendables 2) stars in this pulse-pounding global spy-thriller. A decade ago, agent Martin Baxter quit MI6 after his wife’s tragic murder in an operation gone wrong. But when Sacha, a beautiful journalist, asks for help solving an old case, Martin finds himself in the crosshairs of both UK and Russian intelligence. Now, with his daughter held captive by the KGB, Martin has just 24 hours to deliver the secret case files — which means risking both Sacha’s life and his own.

THE REVIEW: There has been no denying that Scott Adkins has been a bona fide action star for years now and ever since he made an impact in his first film Special Forces where he had his first substantial role in an action film, he has been at the top of the mountain in the direct to video kingdom where only the strong survive. Adkins has certainly been a fan favorite and his legions of fans have been with him every step of the way.

In the last few years though, Adkins has been evolving into so much more than an action star and ever since hooking up with filmmaker Jesse V. Johnson, the actor has been honing his dramatic acting chops with meatier roles that offers audiences more than just his patented Guyver Kick. Sure, the jaw dropping action is still there but Adkins has now transcended to a star of greater proportions. This all culminated with Avengement which was a career defining film that signaled that Adkins brings more to the table then ever before. His role of Cain Burgess will be his most iconic one to date mark my words and I think people will best know him for that one besides Yuri Boyka who put him on the map.

With that we have Adkins’ latest vehicle and this time he is tackling the spy genre in Legacy of Lies. Director Adrian Bol takes the helm this time around and with it he continues the pattern of bringing out the best in the actor and giving audiences so much more than fisticuffs.

Adkins plays Martin Baxter who is a former MI6 operative who has gone off the grid ever since a botched mission claimed the the life of the woman that he loved. Baxter has been lying low ever since and taking care of his daughter Lisa (Kneafsey) although he is definitely not father of the year material as he drinks heavily and has liasons with call girls when his daughter is in the next room. Things are not great to say the least and Lisa wants nothing more than to stay in one place as she has grown world weary. Oh and there is also the fact that Martin uses his daughter’s expertise in gambling to make money on his MMA fights so, yeah, there’s that.

Things change however when a reporter named Sacha (Sobol) comes calling and asks for Martin’s help. It seems that her father and Martin were acquaintances at one time and he was murdered for some rather sensitive info about nerve agents that he had which multiple countries would kill to get their hands on. The Americans, Brits and Russians all come calling and now Martin must enter this shadow world that he left behind and dust of his particular set of skills as he must protect his Lisa, Sacha and the delicate info from getting into the wrong hands. Baxter must now run a gauntlet of professional killers and stay one step ahead to keep himself and those around him alive.

Legacy of Lies doesn’t bring anything new to the spy sub genre but it doesn’t have to as once again Adkins takes the film and puts it squarely on his shoulders. Bol knew what he was doing when he sought the action star out as he would be able to bring multiple layers to the role and elevate the film from obscurity. The film does serve up some nice twisty turns in the plot and it moves at a brisk pace with a running time clocking in at around 100 minutes so it never overstays it’s welcome and serves up the desired amount of adrenaline to satisfy Adkins’ demographic.

The film continues the streak of the flawed hero or anti-hero that is popular in today’s action films as Adkins’ plays Baxter as damaged and resentful. He’s hardly perfect and the mistakes he’s made have shaped him into the person he is which is anything but heroic at least at the onset of the movie. He quickly pulls it together of course and becomes the man that is needed to take on the evils of the world when his child is put in harm’s way. If anything he’s a dad and if you’re one also like me then you know that no one messes with your family.

With a modest budget, the film has a very polished look to it and I would dare say that it looks just as fine tuned as anything that you would see at your local cineplex. Is it perfect? Of course not but smaller films like these are a true testament to the people wh love to make them. Bol inserts himself into the league of directors that can shoot action with the best of them. This was his first film to direct since 2008 so there is a little rust but for the most part, Bol excels and turns his passion project into a viable action vehicle for Adkins who stepped in to save the day when the film needed a bankable action lead to secure funds. I could not think of a better man.

They say you’re only as good as the people around you and here Adkins is given a great supporting cast which features the one-two punch combo of young actresses in Honor Kneafsey who plays Lisa and Yuliia Sobol as Sacha. Kneafsey is a scene stealer in the role of Baxter’s daughter who is wise and adult beyond her years. Kneafsey really brings a stand out performance and holds her own just fine in every scene she is in. The best part that I found humorous about her is how knowledgeable she is on betting on sports and she shares some good scenes with Anna Butkevich who plays the ruthless Russian agent Tatyana. Sobol on the other hand plays it low key and she has some stellar chemistry with Adkins as she spends most of the film with him. Adkins has a daughter and son in real life so he excels in these quieter scenes with his to young co-stars and that is what gives the film its heart.

Now it’s the action that really makes this one stand out from other spy thrillers and the best way I can describe it is that it’s the Bourne franchise done right. Once again, Tim Man was recruited to put his flair and expertise on the action and just like the other films he did with Adkins, this one definitely has the cheddar to satisfy the masses. Now the above statement is not a knock against the blockbuster films which starred Matt Damon and I enjoyed them all but it’s no secret that those movies took their lumps from the action community due to the shaky cam effect that was used to film the action set pieces. While I didn’t mind them, I can see how many people did not find favor with the way they were shot as you really have to concentrate to see what’s actually happening. That isn’t the case here as Bol makes sure that the camera is wide enough to see all the hits and shots in the movie’s more exciting sequences.

Adkins, as awalys, elevates the fight scenes and shootouts as he does in all his films and fans should take to them as they are clear and presented perfectly in view allowing us to see Adkins move like he does. The highlights of the film were the nightclub shootout and Adkins’ one on one brawl with Leon Sua who plays rival spy Edwards. The nightclub scene is a great mix of fisticuffs and firepower with Adkins displaying some “Gun Fu” and channeling his best John Wick as he goes back and forth between his gun and his hands and feet as he storms through the bad guys. It truly is an exciting scene and demonstrates just how much of an expert Adkins is on screen when it comes to the physicality and the choreography on hand. It helps that Adkins is a pro as is Man and the two make an unbeatable combination when it comes to the high-octane goods.

While speaking to Scott for our interview, he mentioned how John Wick has changed the landscape on how things are done when it comes to action now and here he serves up his best arguement and shows the world he has what it takes to star opposite Keanu Reeves in an entry of that popular franchise and give Reeves all he can handle like Mark Dacascos did in the last film.

The one on one affair between Adkins and Sua is arguably the film’s best fight and it’s the longest giving both combatants the chance to display their skills. Sua‘s Edwards clearly gives Baxter the most trouble and even though there are no extreme moves, it’s a brutal and gritty altercation that features some really intricate moves that require more than one viewing to see everything on display.

Another standout in the movie is an MMA cagefight where Adkins takes on stunt pro Stanciu Florian. The fight isn’t Boyka-esque but it fits the movie perfectly as it is shot in a more realistic tone and both men give as good as they get. I will get a little spoilery here so beware as it was sureal to see Adkins come up on the short end of the match. Fans might be a little diappointed in the fact that Adkins doesn’t channel Boyka but I am enjoying his more recent action scenes for their realism like the recent Debt Collectors which also showed off a more brutal and down and dirty style.

All in all, Legacy of Lies is another solid notch on Adkins’ belt of films. I read an interview with him where he stated that as he gets older, he’s looking for films that tell a great story, have meaningful characters that the audience will become invested in and the action serves a purpose and just isn’t done for the sake of action. In a time of CGI laden blockbusters, Adkins is one of the last, great action heroes who will always keep it real on screen because he knows that’s what his fans want to see and that’s him and no one else kicking ass on the screen. Just like Jackie Chan, Adkins wants everyone to know that it’s him and that is the reason why he is unmatched in action films. Legacy of Lies is what is advertised and it may not be of blockbuster status like those other films I mentioned but I would love to see it be a franchise of its own as the ending is left open for something further. This film is further proof that Scott Adkins is a force to be reckoned with in the film industry and that he deserves to headline bigger budgeted films. He’s the complete package and it’s high time the whole world knows what we have all along…Scott Adkins is the real deal.

VERDICT: 3.5 OUT OF 5 STARS

ACTION-FLIX APPROVED!

Legacy Of Lies in now available on DVD and Digital from Lionsgate Home Entertainment!

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