Review: THE TAKE DOWN- Stunt Pro Jack Jagodka Runs a Gauntlet of Assassins in the Tightly Paced & Action Drenched 2017 UK Indie Effort

I was always meaning to watch the UK indie action-thriller The Take Down (formerly known as Amber) when it first hit but unfortunately it was just a casualty of the times and even though I had promoted it heavily during its conception and festival run where it garnished dozens of awards, it sadly slipped through the cracks. I am here to rectify that post haste as the actioner from stunt professional turned filmmaker David Newton is a tightly paced thriller that overcomes its low budget shortcomings starring another stunt professional in Jack Jagodka who makes his debut lead action hero turn here after serving as stuntmen to countless productions throughout the years. If one can overlook the flaws that come with these types of stripped-down productions, then The Take Down will most assuredly entertain with non-stop beatdowns and shoot outs coupled with dramatic beats that serve the plot well.

Jagodka stars as UK government hitman Jack who works for Eastwood who is a high ranking official in the government. Jack is a steely eye professional who makes the unfortunate mistake to make a mistake when on a kill mission to take out a rival official who has turned against him. Jack carries out his assignment but kills the son of the target at the same time leading to become a wanted man within his circle of employers. You see, Eastwood has a strict “no mistakes” clause when working for him and if you break it, well let’s just say it’s curtains for the individual in question.

This puts Jack on the run from Eastwood, but he has an ally in government handler Hawkins who wants Eastwood in a bad way as the latter has been selling UK government secrets to the highest bidder. Hawkins sees an opportunity in Jack and offers him a deal that if he can take out Eastwood in 12 hours, him and his daughter Amber will be free to live their lives. Things go from bad to worse however as Jack is forced to run a gauntlet of assassins sent by Eastwood and worse yet, Amber is also in the crosshairs as well which makes things extremely difficult for the elite killer who must not only have to contend with Hawkins and Eastwood but must also see that his daughter is safe from the danger that has been unleashed. This all culminates in a furious finale where Jack must use all his particular set of lethal skills to stay alive and keep Amber safe as she is now a pawn in Eastwood’s sadistic game of cat and mouse.

The Take Down makes no excuses for the kind of movie that it is and like I stated earlier, it is a low budget product of indie action cinema, but this helps the film in the long run as it doesn’t have to conform to the norm of big budget Hollywood especially when it comes to the big bang climax. I saw one review for this film which tore it apart as the reviewer just didn’t get what this type of film is about and with limitations it still matters to satisfy with poignant drama seasoned with brutality throughout. Yes, this isn’t Citizen Kane, and the plot is worn to say the least, but everyone involved goes all in from the opening credits to the ending crawl.

In the lead, Jack Jagodka looks the part and has the physical stamina and prowess that the role calls for. Jagodka is mostly known for performing stunts for films without having to speak so here, his performance does come off wooden at times as he is basically learning as he’s going with his first lead role but I did feel he conveyed the torment that his character was going through. I was able to look past his flaws as when it came time for the action, which there is plenty of, Jagodka runs the miracle mile for the 91-minute running time selling the movie’s numerous fisticuff filled moments coupled with handling heavy weaponry and using it on many of occasion. Jack’s long and exuberant career in the stunt world serves him and the audience well here as he is more than up for the task of taking on countless bad guys.

Director David Newton, who is also known for his stunt prowess, makes his feature directorial debut here and proceeds to weave a tightly paced thriller that works with what it has at its disposal. Newton knows how to utilize Jagodka and employs a host of UK action talent to back him up and deliver the goods. The movie features such talent as Katrina Durden, Laurent Plancel and Jean-Paul Ly who all get their moments to strut their stuff although Plancal is probably the most criminally underused of the crew as he only shows up for a minute at the beginning and has a fight with Jagodka that is over essentially before it gets started. Both Durden and Ly are also only in the film for one scene, but they at least get a longer time frame to showcase their martial talents.

As Jack’s daughter Amber, Connie Jenkins-Grieg probably gives the strongest performance of the movie, and she doesn’t speak a word as she has turned mute after her mother tragically passed away years earlier. This has made the bond between father and daughter stronger however as Jack has a special way of communicating with Amber and he would do anything to ensure his child’s safety. Amber also gets to have what is probably the most standout moment in the film which hails at the conclusion, but I won’t spoil anything here.

Kevin Mangar also provides a stellar performance as the callus Eastwood, and he is just as slick and self-assured as he is cold and calculating. Mangar’s [performance is polished, and he is able to pull the lesser talented Jagodka in when it comes to the film’s dramatic moments. He makes Eastwood the devil in a three-piece suit, and he essentially is the worst kind of evil as he is sociopathic to a point. Vanessa Coffey also delivers a fine outing in the lesser role of Hawkins and even though she is given limited screen time as opposed to her co-stars, she makes the most of it and has a very interesting character arc to boot.

Now this si an action-thriller and action it definitely has as it fills the length of the film from the word go. Sure, there is some pacing issues to be had and some of the quite moments drag for a little too long, but the physicality peppered throughout is well shot and lighted which made me quite happy while watching. It just goes to show you that Newton might not be a master of all things when it comes to filmmaking but this action thing he does well as Jagodka is put through the ringer having to fend off waves of attacks after attacks. Jagodka gets ample opportunity highlight his martial skills and I liked that the fights were more grounded in nature with joint locks, takedowns and blocks and parries all executed quite well by the participants.

The highlight, besides the extended finale, is when Jack takes on Chan, another assassin played by action phenom Jean-Paul Ly. The two have a superb albeit brief altercation where Ly does get to present some of his more extreme martial arts moves with his kicking prowess. I was a little disappointed that their brawl was brief, but it did satisfy when it was going down. Durdan’s melee with Jack is also worthy as well and Durdan gets to employ a little femme fatale to her moves and executes a few nice kicks of her own which one you can see below.

The finale is a twenty-minute barrage of bullets and lethal submissions as Jack assault’s Eastwood’s compound, and it should satisfy those looking to fix their cravings for all things violent. Jack does his best one-man army impersonation as he takes on a host of soldiers on his way to his inevitable showdown with Eastwood which ends the only way it could have. I was thoroughly impressed with the extended ending and for a smaller scale film, it was a nice surprise.

I will warn you that the movie’s ending does pack a surprise and how it ends was fitting but it is ambiguous so if you like an ending wrapped with a bow, then you came to the wrong place. I, again, was happy with which character made the final impact as the film at one time was called Amber so I’ll let you do the math on that one.

All in all, The Take Down has noticeable flaws, including suspect acting and lackluster special effects, but it doesn’t hamper the proceedings at the end of the day as the stunt work, action and drama on hand all serve a substantial purpose. Jagodka is rough around the edges in terms of action as this was his first effort in a big role, but I would like to see him excel in the future as he, of course, has the action aspect down pat. If the viewer goes in knowing that this is an action-thriller on a budget and tight shooting schedule, then they will have fun with the final result. There’s enough bullets and fists and feet to be had and the talent involved all bring their A game in the physical department although I was pleased with the dramatic aspects as well. A solid effort and one that should be viewed if you like all things action.

VERDICT: Story: 1 Out of 2, Pacing: 1 Out of 2, Action: 1.5 Out of 2, Characters: 1 Out of 2, Enjoyment: 2 Out of 2


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