4 out of 5
Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson
I’m still working my way though director Jesse V. Johnson’s teamups with actor Scott Adkins – as well as Adkins’ oeuvre – but Avengement has shot to the upper tier from both their resumes. It’s a pretty lean flick, as these B-movie rumbles tend to be, and I was admittedly expecting something more grindhouse given the styling of the titles and the Carpenter-style minimalist music, but Avengement certainly isn’t lacking in its own particular type of grit, led by a silver-grilled Adkins as Cain, fresh out of a prison break, holding his brother and mates hostage in their club bar while he catches them up on his last few years’ incarceration and what’s brought him there – shotgun a’totin’ – today.
Cain is a great character, and Adkins revels in him, flashing us the ugliest, grimiest, meanest over-the-shoulder glance as an introduction to let us see his teeth and various disfiguring facial scars. Cain walks with permanent attitude, and when he takes on roomfuls of dudes at several points in the flick, you believe it; you believe his animal ferocity in rolling with getting shanked and bludgeoned and using the pain to flip it around and beat people senseless. To the latter point, as the flick plays coy with Cain’s motivations at first, there’s the suspicion that we’re going to see that he’s secretly a good guy… but he ain’t. Yes, we eventually flash back to when he wasn’t a mess of scars, to the inciting event with his brother, and learn about a moral code that’s gotten him into some trouble, but once he’s in the joint and adapts to having his life on the line day by day, well… yeah. Not a good guy.
Some of the fights get a tad repetitive, as we’re limited to prison house sets and scuffles, but that’s where the flick brings out its secret weapon: a well-paced, well-told story. The whole flashback routine obviously isn’t a new device, by Johnson (with a co-script from Stu Small) keeps everything moving and story tidbits fed to us at just the right rhythm. The fighting is similarly short and brutal and sweet, excepting some choice extended moments for impact, and the director reigns in some of his cheesier action tendencies for just capturing good angles and good flashes of gore.
True true – this is still a B-movie, and there’s nothing wholly unique or special about it, but this is a solid team working together, delivering some top-shelf trashy entertainment.