Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Avengement: Scott Adkins is Miffed

They are the low-rent British Michael and Fredo Corleone, but they are considerably more deadly. Cain Burgess (dig the subtlety of his name) blames his older brother Lincoln for his incarceration and the 20,000 Pound prison bounty on his head, so when he escapes from custody, he is eager for a family reunion. However, he was bones to pick (break) with some other acquaintances as well, so the younger Burgess Brother will have to be quite the busy beaver in Jesse V. Johnson’s face-stomping Avengement, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Lincoln Burgess is a slimy gangster, who preys on the financially desperate through his predatory loan enterprise. Cain Burgess was not a bad bloke really, before he got nicked. Old Cain was supposed to take a dive in the ring for Lincoln’s outfit, but he knocked the other guy out instead. To make amends, he was supposed to pull a snatch-and-dash job targeting one of Lincoln’s “clients,” but things go tragically wrong. Condemned to the harshest prison in England, Cain essentially has to fight every second he is not in solitary. It makes him hard and scary looking. It also makes him rather disappointed in his brother Lincoln when he finally learns why everyone is out to get him.

Alas, Burgess and his police escort do not reach the hospital in time while his beloved mother is on her death bed. However, the field trip offers an opportunity for escape. Soon, Burgess finds his way to his older brother’s social cub, where he takes the low life thugs present hostage, if such a term can even be applied to such seedy rabble. As he waits for Lincoln to arrive, Cain catches everyone up on his activities through a series of flashbacks.

Wow, Avengement is about as brutal as an action movie can get while still being entertaining. Martial arts star Scott Adkins and director Johnson have worked together on a number of solid B-movies, but they really kick it up several notches here. Frankly, you really have to give Adkins credit for taking on this role. Technically, Cain is the good guy, but he is also an absolutely ferocious animal, who will be on both ends of some spectacularly bloody beatdowns. Of course, Adkins has the chops, but Johnson never whitewashes the reality of prison combat. Guys like Schwarzenegger and Seagal would never have the guts to play such a feral, blood-soaked part.

Adkins’ physical commitment is impressive. Consequently, just about everyone else withers under his glare, but at least Craig Fairbrass is more than convincingly thuggish as Lincoln. Unfortunately, Louis Mandylor, who was such a kick working with Adkins and Johnson in Debt Collector, is totally wasted as the honest Det. O’Hara.

Avengement definitely represents Johnson’s best stint as a director and some of Adkins’ best acting work, so far. Regardless, the fights are what are most important—and they are bracingly intense. This is definitely a film that will scare punky kids straight. Highly recommended for action fans, Avengement opens this Friday (5/24) in LA, at the Monica Film Center.