Thursday, August 23, 2018

I Am Vengeance: Stu Bennett Rolls into Town

Devotion is an out-of-the-way English village, but you can find its ilk in plenty of 1980s Cannon action movies. Shunned by hope, it has become the home turf of a gang of ex-military drug-runners. Yet, it only needs one lone hero to start cracking skulls at High Noon to re-establish justice and order. John Gold will be that man in Ross Boyask’s I Am Vengeance (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Frankly, it had been a while since Gold had seen his former brother-in-arms, Sgt. Daniel Mason, but when he hears of his murder, the mystery mercenary jumps in his mint-condition muscle car and drives straight for Devotion for some payment. Mason and his equally dead father had been investigating Hatcher and his men, a former unit assigned to Afghanistan, who parlayed their poppy connections into a burgeoning narcotics empire. Not being the subtle type, Gold announces his intentions in the local pub as soon as he arrives.

From here on out, the narrative does not get much more complicated. Gold picks up Sandra, a drug-addicted party girl to guide him through Devotion’s seedy underbelly. Of course, Hatcher expects her to inform on Gold’s whereabouts, but the tall guy reckons as much anyway. Gold also manages to befriend Rose, the cafĂ© proprietor and possibly the only decent citizen left in Devotion, but his relationships will remain strictly professional.

Nobody would call I Am Vengeance ambitious, but it is clear a lot of thought went into presenting former wrestler Stu Bennett (a.k.a. Wade Barrett) in his action leading man debut. The story is as straight forward as an 80’s Bronson film, but he is surrounded by a top-notch ensemble of thespian-athletes, starting first and foremost with former British kickboxing champion Gary Daniels as Hatcher. He definitely still has the moves and physicality to be a more than convincing nemesis. Likewise, Bryan Larkin and Wayne Gordon make worthy sparring opponents. However, Anna Shaffer is an awkward distraction as Sandra, the vapid, druggy, wannabe Dr. Who companion.

Bennett/Barrett can strut the strut, plus Wikipedia says he is a fan of Margaret Thatcher, so how can you root against him? It is also cool to see Daniels can still get the job done old school style (considering he is an action movie veteran older than many of us Eighties kids). It doesn’t have the same grungy exploitative purity as vintage Cannon films, but we can still relate to it on that level. Recommended as a guilty pleasure for late nights or Saturday mornings, I Am Vengeance opens tomorrow (8/24) in New York, at the Village East, with a simultaneous VOD release.