3 out of 5
Directed by: Isaac Florentine
This is incredibly standard VOD fare: a string-thin plot that gives us an excuse for a steady, 90-minute flow of fisticuffs starring our solid, lovable VOD star Scott Adkins; but thanks to director Isaac Florentine’s keen sense of shot construction and the flick’s dedication to using its main set piece – a house that’s the center of a pursue-Adkins siege – the movie overcomes limitations imposed by its duller points.
We open smashingly: Scott’s all angry and menacing looking and busts his way into a locked-down facility with single-minded awesomeness that lends itself to fun bursts of fighting. He rescues a girl – his sister’s daughter – and drives her back home, where he confronts drug-dealing daddy and a crooked cop for being layabouts in league with the cartel, then starts packing up sister and niece to hit the road. Alas, it seems that during the opening rescue, Scott inadvertently picked up a MacGuffin – a flash drive containing “gang shit,” as he amusingly describes it later on – and thus said gang / cartel is on its way.
That Florentine takes the time to do title cards for each gang member is one of the film’s several silly filler moments, the kind of stuff you feel like was included just to pad the runtime to movie length. This also includes a pointless gambit with some deputies that takes Scott away from the house, and equally pointless cop / cartel bickering. Because very little action elsewise goes on during this, it’s nearly enough to kill the good will earned by the opening, except: Scott maintains a hilariously prickly demeanor throughout which lends itself to chuckly dialogue, and Florentine, again, has a good eye for when to use slo-mo, when to use more wild framing, and when to just keep the camera fairly steady, so the blips of momentum featured in this section trail us effectively along.
…To a really fun centerpiece! Yes, it’s just a long-ass attack-the-house sequence, but Florentine and Adkins don’t cheat it: a lot of times you get some shootouts in the doorway before, I dunno, someone blows up the house, or there’s a lot of creeping about that doesn’t seem quite possible, but in this case you get a real sense of space of the building, and it gets shot, effectively, to shit: through walls, through ceilings. Bad guys don’t stay down with kicks to the head, either: they wake up, keep shooting, until Scott can put ’em down. Once you realize that the movie isn’t necessarily an Adkins martial arts feature but rather just about utilizing the, eh, Close Range of this setting, the flick really opens up and becomes pretty damn entertaining.
There’s an opening blurb about samurais that’s incredibly odd, and a Western theme throughout that’s never really earned except people wear cowboy hats, and the final staredown – i.e. are you going to try to pick up that gun? – is ridiculously long, like, just to remind us that this is still a dumb ol’ VOD flick. But overall, I had a good, Adkins/Florentine-filled time.