3 out of 5
Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson
A purposefully scuzzy throwback to 80s action/comedy duo flicks – think Walter Hill – updated with modern martial arts flair and gusto thanks to stars Scott Adkins and Louis Mandylor.
Be prepared about that throwback, though: this is not done with an eye on trying to maintain modern awareness, as the language ain’t sparing, and the camera (and characters) happily lingers on the various slim and bikni’d girls featured. There’s even a dose of ‘like what you see?’ robe-dropping nudity, which was sort of a staple of these things back in the day. I’m not making a claim that the genre / era is a grand or golden one, but I appreciate that Johnson and crew knew what kind of flick they were making and… made it.
If there is an extra layer to things, though, it’s in how the violence is handled: while the majority of the movie plays out like a buddy comedy, with scuffles shot for thrills and laughs, Adkins gets the crud beaten out of him consistently, and maintains the wear throughout the flick – limping, bleeding, clothes ruined. There’s an attempt to push this into a darker direction by film’s end – something director Jesse V. Johnson tries to hint at by cutaways to cattle being raised on a farm for slaughter – and it’s sort of a tonal whiff, especially coming on the heels of an unintentionally unimpressive bullets-flying battle in which people seem to miss each other when firing their guns from only a few feet away… but the effort is at least there to make it align with where the flick was going.
Prior to that, Adkins and Mandylor as our odd couple debt collectors are fantastic. Adkins needs cash and so takes the gig; Mandylor is the grizzled vet, decrying when Adkins mishandles his Coup de Ville and making sure to let Scott take point on any debts where a brawl with some Big Bad is required. The fisticuffs, taking place in various scummy joints around L.A., are brightly shot and choreographed well, and timed with just enough doses of banter to keep a small smile on yer face throughout. There are even some moments of extended exposition worked in that allow Scott and Louis to add some depth to their characters, which would absolutely not be required in a standard entry in this genre.
Outside of that, the plot is mostly non-existent, but that’s not what we’re here for. The Debt Collector is a proudly trashy DTV-type flick, showing off some flashes of intelligence to set it above the pack whilst kicking yer teeth in.