'Avengement': Film Review

AVENGEMENT Still 1 - Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films
Not for pacifists.

Scott Adkins plays an escaped convict out for revenge in his latest action vehicle directed by Jesse V. Johnson.

You can't accuse director Jesse V. Johnson and actor Scott Adkins of not giving their fans what they want. The latest effort from the collaborators on several action films, including Triple Threat and The Debt Collector, runs 90 minutes, and the vast majority of that running time showcases the bone-crushing, brutal fight sequences that action movie aficionados live for. By the time the film ends, your testosterone level will likely have gone up and you'll feel as exhausted as the leading man looks.

The British action star plays Cain, whose biblical name reflects a key plot element. As the story begins, he's a hardened, visibly scarred prison convict who's been granted a furlough to see his dying mother. Unfortunately, he arrives too late: She's already dead and laid out on a slab. Incensed, he takes the opportunity to escape, proving in the process that the six-man security detail assigned to him wasn't nearly enough.

Cain makes his way to a secret London pub populated only by a female bartender and a small gang of criminals led by Hyde (Nick Moran), who doesn't recognize him at first because of Cain's extensive facial scarring. Holding the men at gunpoint, Cain proceeds to regale them with the tale of how he ended up this way. He was sent to prison because of a fatal accident that occurred while he was performing a criminal assignment for his loan shark brother (Craig Fairbrass) who promptly betrayed him. During the ensuing seven years, Cain had to repeatedly fight for his life, being the subject of brutal attacks that included having his jaw smashed and homemade napalm being thrown in his face. After the former incident, he was outfitted with metal teeth that make him look like Jaws from the James Bond films.

Avengement includes many scenes of Cain arduously training as he painstakingly transforms himself into, as he puts it, "a hardened rusty nail" in prison. But it's the nearly nonstop fight scenes that fully showcase Adkins' physical prowess and martial arts skills. While they lack the balletic grace of those in the John Wick films, director Johnson and his collaborators stage them cleanly and highly effectively, providing a spatial coherence that gives them maximum visual impact. The sound effects people also deserve kudos, if only for working overtime to deliver the endless thuds of punches and kicks being landed.

The screenplay, co-written by Johnson and Stu Small, is smarter than it probably needs to be, relating its violent tale in nonlinear, time-jumping fashion that results in interesting narrative details along the way. Portraying his most complex character to date, Adkins delivers a ferocious turn that proves visceral in its emotional as well as physical intensity. While he's not likely to be up for any acting awards anytime soon, he proves here that he's more than just a chiseled body and, at least in the case of this character, a not very pretty face.

Production companies: Bleiberg Entertainment, Compound B, Dreamstage Films
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Cast: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose, Nick Moran, Kierston Wareing, Jane Thorne, Daniel Adegboyega, Louis Mandylor
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Screenwriters: Jesse V. Johnson, Stu Small
Producers: Joe Karimi-Nik, Ehud Bleiberg
Executive producers: Nicholas Donnermeyer, Scott Adkins
Director of photography: Jonathan Hall
Production designer: Felix Coles

Costume designer: Lindsey Archer
Editor: Matthew Lorentz
Composer: Sean Murray
Casting director: Jeremy Zimmerman

87 minutes