Thursday, June 10, 2021

Junesploitation 2021 Day 10: Scott Adkins!



    Oliver Harper's IN SEARCH OF THE LAST ACTION HEROES (2019, ROKU Channel/PLUTO) for the first time.

    A crowd-funded, fan-made documentary helmed by YouTuber Oliver Harper (whose love of action movies rivals our own Patrick Bromley's), this 140 min. love letter to the action movie genre, trends, performers, tropes and filmmakers through the decades (though it focuses mainly on the 1980's) patterns itself after Mark Hartley's "Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films." A few talking heads from that 2014 doc (Boaz Davidson, Sam Firstenberg, Alex Winter, etc.) re-appear here, but the main focus are the behind-the-scenes people and/or supporting actors action movie fans know by heart. Great anecdotes and stories are shared, and even if you know most of the trivia by heart ("Transformers: The Movie's" popular rock anthem 'The Touch' was composed with a Stallone vehicle in mind) it's nice to see/hear from the likes of Al Leong, Matthias Hues, Paul Verhoeven, Vernon Wells, etc. Ronny Cox is my personal MVP (funny and irreverent), but the segment in which Oliver edits Shane Black and Zak Penn's opinions about their work on 1993's "Last Action Hero" in point/counterpoint fashion is a standout. Kudos also to Harper for consistently underlining the influence of quality soundtracks in the better action movies (particularly Jerry Goldsmith's work) in making them timeless and memorable.

    So why is this doc here on Scott Adkins day? Of the handful of actual action movie stars interviewed on camera (Michael Jai White, Cynthia Rothrock, etc.) Adkins is arguably the biggest one still working and making them. His anecdotes about seeing Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies at a young age, playing ninja dress-up with his family, the Arnie/Sly rivalry of the 80's and how "The Matrix" was a watershed moment for the action genre made me like and appreciate Scott as both a performer and fan of movies. Oliver even dedicates a couple of minutes from the lengthy documentary to argue Adkins is the last action star working today, though that might just be Brits sticking up for one another. ;-) And hey, tons of great clips/movie suggestions here for the remaining days of JUNESPLOITATION! 4 BOOKS SHANE BLACK READ BEFORE WRITING HIS SCREENPLAYS (out of 5).

  2. EXTREME CHALLENGE (2001, YouTube). NOTE: Half of the movie's dialogue is in (badly) spoken English, half in Cantonese and/or Mandarin. During the latter there are no English subtitles, but feel free to turn on YouTube's English auto-caption to read some silly ways the algorithm interprets spoken Chinese. :-D

    'Power Net Show' presents "Y2K Worldwide Web Martial Arts Combat Championship! Golden Harvest tries (and spectacularly fails) to remain relevant for the 21st century with this bloodless, family-friendly take on "The Running Man." Dozens of men and women compete in a streamed (before the term was common) "American Gladiators"-meets-"Soul Calibur" fighting competition involving catapults, ropes, etc. The narrative splits between the show's producers trying to manipulate the results for maximum appeal to Chinese mainland audiences (which predicts Hollywood's current infatuation with appealing to Chinese audiences for their foreign box office tally) and two disciples of the same teacher headed toward a final showdown (with a female friend of both in the middle). Since there's no sports-like narration during the competition (or a heads-up to the audience about what the rules are) the events feel very episodic, disconnected and rather dull. Even not knowing what the Chinese leads were saying I was able to follow along, but the last act becomes super boring.

    Anywho, this is Scott Adkins' first movie role, a great indicator whether he makes an impression when the story and direction aren't focused on his disposable Isaac Borman character. He makes it up to the 38 minute mark before disappearing into the drink, which frankly is longer than I expected him to last. Feel free to stop watching "Extreme Challenge" after Scott exits the picture and has paid his first industry dues. Unless you're fluent in Mandarin/Cantonese there's little to nothing interesting to see afterward. 1.5 MANLIEST 90's MEN THAN MIKE TYSON (out of 5)

  3. Jesse V. Johnson's THE DEBT COLLECTOR (2018, Netflix) and THE DEBT COLLECTORS (2020, Amazon Rental/Netflix) for the first time. NOTE: On Netflix "Debt Collectors" is named "The Debt Collector 2," while in other platforms it goes by the former.

    Johnson is one of two directors (Isaac Florentine is the other) that Adkins seems to work with best. I'm saving Florentine's collaborations for later this month, because the "Debt Collector" movies are fascinatingly different despite being made and starring the same principals. Adkins plays French, a former UK military man who has fallen on hard financial times trying to keep his Los Angeles karate school going. So he accepts an offer to work for gangster-like criminal boss Tommy (Vladimir Kulich) in assisting debt collector Sue (Louis Mandylor) knock on people's doors to retrieve what they owe. Fighting, foot-chases, impromptu bootie calls and shoot-outs ensue, which bring French and Sue closer together despite being complete opposites. Who could see that one coming? :-P The 2020 sequel is more of the same but in a road trip fashion (L.A. to Vegas and back), with the collector duo and Tommy's run-ins with black motherfuckers Barbosa (Tony Todd) and Molly (Ski Carr) coming back to bite them in the rear end.

    I accidentally rented "Debt Collectors" from Amazon not knowing (a) it was the sequel and (b) both movies are on Netflix for "free." While I don't mind that Adkins got four of my dollars, it's a shame I had the first movie's meet-and-get-to-know moments between French and Sue undermined by seeing them act as frenemies in the sequel. Regardless, as much as I enjoyed seeing Scott beating ass (even in a boxing ring wearing gloves) Louis Mandylor and Vladimir Kulich stole the show for me. Kulich because to me he'll always be Buliwyf from John McTiernan's underrated "13th Warrior," and Mandylor because his chemistry with Adkins was entertaining as hell. Since French and Sue have to collect from all types (fathers of little daughters, salesmen, college kids, hippies, etc.) the rotating cast keeps throwing the filmmakers plenty of fodder for these two to interact with. It's like the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road Movies, but with high kicks and broken teeth. :-D

    And talk about two completely approaches to the same basic premise. The first "Debt Collector" feels like the "Lethal Weapon" of Tarantino-wannabe low-level criminal flicks, a fun time watching transplanted foreigners (whose presence in L.A. isn't made a big deal by anybody) cracking wise while chasing after gambling deadbeats. "Debt Collectors" (which backpedals hard the downbeat ending of its predecessor) goes the "Smokin' Aces" route, injecting way more in-jokes (Mal Reese from "Point Blank") and humor (doubling down on the "Ninja" gag from the prequel) that makes it feel like "Lethal Weapon 2" on "Deadpool" acid. You know who these movies are made for when we get a real-time, almost beat-for-beat re-enactment of the alley fight in "They Live" that feels organic to the narrative. 3.5 1971 CADILLAC COUPE DEVILLES (out of 5)

  4. Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013, dir. Isaac Florentine)

    The setup: 1. Scott Adkins is a totally badass ninja who lives a blissful life with a loving wife and a child on the way. 2. Two men attack him in the street but he fights them off. 3. In the middle of the night, the wife sends him to the store to buy chocolate. Guess what happens next?

    A pretty simple revenge plot, expertly choreographed fight scenes shot in long takes, and constant escalation in the level of violence. I'm ashamed to say this was the first movie I've seen with Adkins in the lead role. Turns out I need more Adkins in my life.

    My one complaint: the movie doesn't make it clear whether the title refers to a tear as in a rip in fabric or a tear as in crying.

  5. The Debt Collector 2, dir Jesse V. Johnson, 2020

    I just love French and Sue's realtionship.

    1. It's the highlight of the series, but l liked Sue more in the first "Debt Collector." By part 2 Mandylor sounds/acts more Italian than Australian. 🤯🙁

    2. I was thinking- wasn't Sue Russian in the first movie 😅. The First movie Debt Collector belongs to Mandylor and the second belongs more to Adkins. For me anyway.


    This is a DVD I picked up cheaply at a Big Lots store recently not knowing it would come in handy this month. Twenty-first-century action cinema is very unfamiliar territory for me, but Junesploitation is all about getting into unfamiliar territory. From this first taste of Scott Adkins, I will be looking into more of his films. Day of Reckoning is a lot of fun to watch. Having a vague memory of what the Universal Soldier franchise is about, it did not take long to understand the story. Rather than spoil anything, I will just state that Day of Reckoning is a satisfying action film that unfolds in unexpected ways. The film channels the machismo of 1980s action cinema, filling the screen with some extremely buff dudes for Adkins to defeat. The female characters are not very complimentary, restricted to the role of victim, stripper or prostitute. It seems like the budget was respectable for this type of film; nothing was cheap looking. Adkins was not sleepwalking in his role, either, putting into his performance the emotion that was necessary for it to work.

  7. Triple Threat (2019 - Jesse V. Johnson)
    I was looking forward to this day. When I searched for movies to watch on "Scott-Adkins-Day" of Junesploitation, I saw that TRIPLE THREAT advertised with him - and Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Tiger Chen, Michael Jay White and Michael Bisping (whose name isn't as big as those mentioned before, but he's good in his role) - what a cast. I also want to mention Celina Jade, who I didn't know of before but seems to feel home in this genre, and escpiacally give a shoutout to JeeJa Yanin, also unknown before to me, which has SPOILER AHEAD a really nice fight with Iko and probably the best death of the movie.

    Beside the cast, the plot is simple enough to follow with ease and complex enough to carry the film. The action, especially the fights, is a pleasure to look at and at the end, I was happy with what I've seen, despite some critics saying, they'd wish the cast would be in a more competent movie.

    4 out of 4 major action heroes beating each other to a pulp.

    A girl gets transported into the world of a side-scrolling video game, where Adkins plays the game’s square-jawed hero. So it’s like the Matrix, except it isn’t. I suspect the filmmakers are more spoofing kids’ movies, rather than making a genuine kids’ movie, yet I don’t know if that comes across. It’s very Nickelodeon-ish, except for some CGI blood in the fight scenes. The good news is that Adkins gets to loosen up and be funny in this, and he’s certainly the best thing in the movie.

    30 days of Chinese fantasy movies, day 10
    HEY LITTLE BONE (2020)
    Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Goblins and demons are at war with each other. A young goblin is tasked to recruit a powerful witch to join their side, only for that witch to be his long-lost love, and she now has amnesia. Then we flashback to the story of their romance, a timeless tale of love between a goblin trickster and magic-forest-spirit girl. There’s a little bit of a Terry Pratchett vibe here, in that there’s a lot of jokes and silliness, but below that there’s also a real story and emotional stakes. This movie is all over the place and not for everyone, but I guess I liked it.

  9. EL Gringo(2012)Dir: Eduardo Rodriguez

    Adkins is 'The Man', literally. A no name detective on the run with a bag of money ends up in a border town controlled by the cartel. Adkins shines here. Its another one of those movies that makes you wonder what Hollywood is doing ignoring this guy.
    The movie plays like a mash-up of Tony Scott and Robert Rodriguez with a small bit of post pulp fiction crime humor. The action scenes are well shot, kinetic and very fun. Christian Slater also shows up in the film and is Christian Slater. Also good was Yvette Yates Redick as ̶S̶a̶l̶m̶a̶ ̶H̶a̶y̶ Anna the town bar owner. Her and Adkins have chemistry and play well off each other. Issue is so many of her scenes seem directly lifted from Desperado its kind of distracting.
    The only other issue I have is the production is a bit Tony Scott light with frames missing, flashy title cards for characters and other editing tricks. It can get distracting at times but does fit the tone of the film and does not hurt what overall is a awesome little action flick. Well worth the watch and a great way to start Adkins day!
    Also props to the film makers for making a movie in Mexico post Traffic and not using a yellow filter. This is on Prime

    1. I need your constitution! I could not get past the editing in the action scenes.

    2. kinetic was my nice was of saying over cut. But yeah I found some of the action scenes easier to watch than the some of the exposition scenes.

      *Adkins agrees with you on the scenes

  10. El Gringo (2012)

    For the most part this is a fairly entertaining riff on The Man With No Name movies, with Adkins taking on virtually an entire town full of people as both a major drug cartel and a corrupt police force have put a target on his back. The main problem is the editing, particularly in the action scenes, which quickly crosses the line between disorienting and thoroughly nauseating.

    Adkins is solid as always, and he makes an appealing lead even when he’s kind of an asshole. Sure wish I could see what the hell he was doing when he got to put his most Adkins-y talents to work, but I think the editing here qualifies as a war crime. That viral clip of Liam Neeson hopping a fence to the tune of 13 cuts in 7 seconds from Taken 3 is a model of restraint compared to the shaky cam and stuttering cuts here and it’s a shame. While it wouldn’t have changed the world this still would have been a solid action programmer if you could get through it without having to take an entire bottle of Dramamine.

  11. Legacy of Lies (2020, dir. Adrian Bol)

    The complicated spy plot kept me from getting fully invested but Adkins is good here (as always) and his scenes as a dad are something you don't really get to see him do very often.

  12. Hard Target 2 (2016, dir. Roel Reine)

    Hard Target 2 Rules! Adkins stars as Wes "The Jailor" Baylor, a champion fighter who somehow ends up being hunted for sport by a group of crazy villains. Adkins gets to show off all his skills in this one, lots of great fights, great action, some pretty hairy looking stunts (that you can tell he does some/most of). It is wall-to-wall action, with tons of nods to John Woo and the original movie (multiple slow-motion dove shots). I loved it! Can't believe I've slept on this one for so long.

  13. SAVAGE DOG (2017, dir. Jesse V. Johnson)

    Starts out as a kind of competitive fight movie, which I'm not super into, but then turns into COMMANDO, which I am super into. The kills and violence are gnarly and great. Some good hand to hand fights and at least one pretty great one. Happy to have filled in this blind spot.

  14. Hard Target 2(2016) Dir: Roel Reine

    I haven't seen the original Hard Target in a long time but I think I may like this one more. Lots of nods to the OG my favorite being the motorcycle kick. Van Damme kicked one guy off his bike, Adkins in the true spirit of upping the ante in the sequel kicks two guys off at once. Here is hoping that there is a Hard Target 3 where Rona's big game hunter father comes looking for Wes. You can watch it on Tubi.

  15. Triple Threat (2019)
    Directed by Jesse V. Johnson

    Our man gets a special “and Scott Adkins” at the end of the credits, but he’s not one of the titular three. He is “Collins”, initially held captive at a “MI-6 Black Site,” and freed in a raid in the first few minutes by Tony Jaa and Tiger Chen. Uko Uwais’ (incredible in The Night Comes For Us, I haven’t seen The Raid) wife is killed in the raid, and he vows revenge. Uwais tracks down Jaa and Chen to kill them, but it turns out they were duped into the job by Michael Jai White, and they are after him as well. So Uwais, Jaa, and Chen become the Triple Threat, sometimes against each other (after lots of expository dialogue and flashbacks). Adkins is essentially second big bad after White, both leading a team of mercenaries out to kill a philanthropic heiress, and eliminate witnesses Jaa and Chen. Adkins struts through this, eliminating most of his opposition with automatic weapons, although at one point he executes a Schwarzenegger/Terminator homage on a windshield. Adkins acquits himself best in the final set piece where he fights Jaa and Uwais simultaneously. Tony Jaa looks like he’s got some road miles since Ong Bak, but he can definitely still bring the feet. No more than 2-3 minutes pass without an action sequence, this keeps moving, and works great. Every time they break the rule, and don’t have action, the seams start to show. Not great cinema (although this looks slick as hell), but it’s short, exciting, and knows exactly what’s doing.

    1. If you're able: Watch The Raid and the second one back to back. The first is basically like Dredd, but more brutal and fast. The second one has "epic" proportions. I don't want to give away to much, but especially the second one has some crazy scenes in it.

  16. Accident Man (2017. directed by Jesse V. Johnson)

    For this movie, Adkins did more than star as Mike Fallon, an assassin who specializes in creating deadly accidents. He also produced and wrote this adaption of Pat Mills and Tony Skinner’s comic book.

    After losing his girlfriend to another woman, Mike takes jobs and hangs out at The Oasis, a bar that’s owned by his mentor Big Ray (Ray Stevenson, the Punisher in Punisher: War Zone and Volstagg in the Thor movies). It’s a drinking establishment frequented exclusively by killers like Poison Pete, commandos Mic (Michael Jai White) and Mac (Ray Park), weapons creator Finnicky Fred, axeman Carnage Cliff and Jane the Ripper. Honestly, the quick worldbuilding scene in the beginning of the film is the best part, as all of these characters could be in several films.

    Unfortunately for Mike, he’s been set up by Milton (David Paymer), the person who sets up their kills, by an amateur killer who he easily dispatches. That was just to distract him as Mic and Mac were hired to kill his ex-girl, who got too close to exposing the seamy side of the oil industry.

    Now, Mike wants revenge. And he has plenty of targets, because everyone at the Oasis has been hired to kill him.

    I’ve never seen any of director Jesse V. Johnson’s films before, but now I’m going to track them down. This was an absolute thrill of a movie and I enjoyed every second. That means that I have to start checking out Adkins work as well.

    Thanks Junesploitation for introducing me to a whole new bunch of movies!

  17. Ninja (2009)

    One of my favorite aspects of Junesploitation are the days dedicated to actors or directors, especially ones I am not too familiar with. Scott Adkins has all the goods of an A-lister here in this messy, bloody fun flick. The violence is graphic, martial arts scenes are amazingly choreographed, and they don’t let a silly thing like plot slow the pace down at all. The fight on the subway definitely was a highlight. Today, I kneel to the church of Scott Adkins.

  18. The Brothers Grimsby-Unfortunately I'm recording a podcast on this this weekend so instead of watching an awesome movie I had to rewatch the movie where Cohen sucks poison out of Mark Strong's nutsack, and Strong gets covered in elephant jizz. It is what it is (and what it is, is maybe the worst thing Scott's been in). Cohen calling Scott "Ukrainian Ben Affleck" is legitimately funny at least

    1. Yeah, it's ok. But I was mostly left wishing it was better. Too bad because I do like Cohen and Strong a lot. But something just didn't properly click. I'm a sucker for rewatching comedies though, so I'll give it another chance in 10 years or so.

  19. Close Range (2015, dir. Isaac Florentine)

    Colt McReady is a badass. He rescues his niece from a Mexican cartel, kills a bunch of dudes and lures them back across the border where he dispatches more of them. Add to the mix a corrupt sheriff, a scumbag brother-in-law and a dozen cartel thugs and you’ve got a bare-bones action movie (why the movies freeze frames and gives all of the thugs names, I can’t be sure… it certainly doesn’t matter what their names are).

    When Adkins is in high gear, the movie is fantastic. His fighting is superb and the hits all feel very visceral. When the action stops, however, it movie really sags under the sub-par acting talent. It feels like a movie directed by the second unit, and when there’s no fighting going on I was just waiting for more action.

    Also, for some reason the foley really stood out. It felt WAY too cartoonish and present in the sound mix, especially when the violence feels very uncartoonish.

    Bonus ‘sploitation points for teeny tiny knife in the belt buckle.

  20. Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing (2006) & Undisputed 3: Redemption (2010) - Isaac Florentine

    Holy shit.
    I was expecting well choreographed, competently shot, hopefully well edited and pleasant to watch fights, along with charismatic characters, but... these still exceeded my expectations, by FAR. I like Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White's rivalry a lot in Undisputed II and it does a great job of setting the mood and establishing the stakes, but my god, the fight scenes in the sequel are just astounding. Everyone involved here knows their shit and is determined to deliver, and this is just exhilarating to witness as a viewer. I also want to mention that Adkins (who's evidently never heard of any law of gravity whatsoever) pulls off the shift from antagonist to leading man admirably, which says a lot about his talent as an actor.
    I would absolutely love to see those two on a big screen, with an audience.

    The Debt Collector (Jesse V. Johnson, 2018)

    Very, very funny and enjoyable in its first two thirds, until the movie starts getting darker and more serious and loses a bit of its charm for me. It's still very well acted (the Adkins-Mandylor reluctant duo works wonderfully) and engaging, I just find myself wishing it had stayed on a lighter path. I'm looking forward to watching the sequel!

  21. Ninja: Shadow of a Tear (2013)

    I'm so out of touch with the modern action movie scene that two weeks ago I didn't know who Scott Adkins was. Then the week before June I checked out the first Ninja movie, and today I watched the supposedly far superior sequel. And I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, so I'll just say this super slick brand of action is not really my cup of tea. I'm glad that everyone else seems to be having a good time, though. Clearly, it's a "It's not you, it's me" type situation.

  22. Avengement (2019)

    Holy shit! You guys NEED to watch this one. (Like, if you haven't already...)

  23. Avengement (2019)

    This movie definitely kicks some ass. I love the structure and all the fight scenes hit hard. For someone new to Scott Adkins' work, it was a great introduction!

    1. I agree. This was my introduction to Mr. Adkins, and now I know why he gets his own Junesploitation day. The structure felt like it could have been adapted from a stage play, albeit one with a tremendous fight sequence every four minutes. I would definitely enjoy a night at the theatre for Avengement, a play in 3 acts, complete with Chekov’s shotgun.
      Thanks for the intro, Junesploitation.

  24. Eliminators (2016, dir. James Nunn)

    With a standard plot of Scott Adkins trying to save his daughter with a psychotic hitman on his tail, hired by a crime lord he tried to bring down while undercover, this flick has a ton of fun to offer. Lots of intense action sequences and great fight scenes, and a decent enough emotional core. There’s a bit of a slow 2nd act problem, but I can’t complain about a movie that starts and finishes so strong.

    It’s been really fun seeing everyone watching Adkins movies today!

  25. Undisputed III: Redemption(2010) Dir: Isaac Florentine
    To quote @hibachiJustice "one of the greatest martial arts films of the last 20 years." and " This is the movie where Adkins truly is the human special effect."

    This dude is an Adkins expert folks. He knows what he's talking about. the movie is for sale and rent everywhere

  26. Zero Tolerance (2015) - Despite the cover art, this is far more a Dustin Nguyen film than a Scott Adkins one. It's fine, and both are good, but I'm sure there are better examples of Adkins's appeal out there.

  27. El Gringo (2012)

    Wanted to go with some Adkins I hadn't seen before and as I mentioned on Twitter, Christian Slater being among the cast made this feel like the right selection. As others have mentioned the editing here is a problem but it's a solid movie aside from that. Also somewhat distracting, but much less of a complaint is that it looked like they sprayed Yvette Yates down immediately prior to every single shot she's in.

  28. The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud (2021)
    Dir. Martin Owen

    A little bit of Never Ending Story, Last Star Fighter, Jumanji, Street Fighter mix with some 80's synth thrown in. Adkins is great as the video game hero and has those Ryu style movements down. It's a little bit stupid, pretty silly but still very fun, knows what it is and doesn't take itself too seriously and everyone involved seems to be having fun.

  29. Undisputed III

    Fight scenes oh so clean.

  30. Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing (2006)

    Been really busy, and just getting around to posting now. Watched it but fell asleep, and finished the next morning. Not the best way to watch a movie, and only due to how tired I was, and not because the movie wasn't exciting. The fight scenes were just great. I don't know how Adkins can do those spiny kicks. Wish we had gotten more of Adkins and less of Jai White, but from what I understand Adkins becomes the bonafide star of the next one.