Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Cast: Scott Adkins, Ashley Greene, Michael Jai White, Amy Johnston, Ray Park, Ray Stevenson, David Paymer, Nick Moran, Perry Benson, Ross O’Hennessy, Roger Yuan, Lee Charles, Tim Man, Brooke Johnston, Leon Finnan
Running Time: 105 min.
By Paul Bramhall
With a new year upon us in the form of 2018, there are 2 things that I can safely guarantee. One is that we’ll be getting more Scott Adkins movies. The other is that we’ll be getting more comic book movies. What I didn’t expect though, is for the 2 to be combined, but that’s exactly what we have with Accident Man, the UK’s busiest martial arts star’s latest action kick. For those not familiar, (which I confess, includes myself), Accident Man was a character created by Pat Mills in 1991, which featured in the UK comic Toxic! While the comic lasted less than a year, Accident Man proved to be one of its most memorable characters, about a hitman by the name of Mike Fallon who specializes in making his hits look like accidents.
As it turned out, Adkins is a huge fan of the comic, and stated it was his passion project to bring the character to the screen. Needless to say, when action stars pursue their passion projects, it often leads to interesting results. Just ask Warner Brothers, who threw a heap of money at Steven Seagal to make his magnum opus, expecting a hard boiled action flick, and instead received an Eskimo friendly eco-thriller with On Deadly Ground. Or Jean Claude Van Damme, who made his labour of love, (ironically) titled Full Love, back in 2010, which after various title changes, re-shoots, and edits, has yet to see the light of day. Adkins may not be directing like the Seagal and Van Damme of yesteryear, however it is his first time to take on script writing, and also step into the role of producer.
Directing duties are taken up by Jesse V. Johnson, delivering the second movie from the pair in less than 12 months, the first being Savage Dog from 2017. Adkins and Johnson appear to have struck a successful working partnership together, and the amount of productions they’re working on is becoming easy to lose track of. When Savage Dog wrapped, timing suggested that the next movie they were working on to receive a release would be Triple Threat, an all-star action extravaganza which pits Adkins against Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, and Tiger Chen. However since coverage started on Triple Threat, both Accident Man and The Debt Collector appeared on peoples radars, and look like they’ll be seeing the light of day first.
Combined with Twilight Zodiac, Sinners and Saints: Vengeance, and Incoming, 2018 promises to be a year when fans of Adkins will never have to wait too long to get their next fix. His choice to work so much with Johnson would indicate that, much like his previous pairing with frequent collaborator Isaac Florentine, Adkins has found a director (himself a stuntman) who knows how to use his skillset. For all intents and purposes, Accident Man is a movie which proves that theory. The direction is more confident, the pacing sharper, and Adkins is visibly in his element as a cocky foul mouthed hitman, finally able to use his actual British accent for a change.
Indeed not since Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning has a Scott Adkins flick felt like a real cinematic piece of storytelling. Sure, I’m not taking anything away from his role as Boyka in the Undisputed series, or even the previously mentioned Savage Dog, but at the end of the day, the narrative in those productions only serves as filler to the action scenes. Accident Man is a different beast, and I’d dare be so bold as to say it has more in common with British crime flicks such as Layer Cake and Sexy Beast, than it does the likes of Close Range or Ninja.
Adkins the script writer turns out to be capable of writing lines as crisp as his kicks, with a deliciously filthy script that is littered with dirty jokes and language which is not for the easily offended. Taking place on the streets of London, the heavy use of British slang, and some of the most un-politically correct dialogue you’ll hear this year, may leave some Adkins fans scratching their heads as to what they just watched, but really, that’s ok. Accident Man is the Scott Adkins show, not just Adkins the martial artist, but Adkins the actor, delivering a screen presence and charisma which has occasionally been hinted at, but never fully realised until now.
In some ways Accident Man can be viewed as the UK equivalent of John Wick, only with less guns and more, well, fists, kicks, axes, katanas, and band aids (you’ll understand once watched). Adkins hangs out in a spit and sawdust pub called The Oasis, “a pub for hitmen” as he calls it, were the local hitman community can drop by for a pint, a game of darts, and to pick up the details of their next job. Much like The Continental from the John Wick movies, inside the walls of the pub there is to be no killing, and in a decidedly British manner, no spitting. It’s in the pub we get to meet the supporting cast of other hitmen (and women), which include a pair of ex-special forces soldiers played by Michael Jai White and Ray Park, a constantly enraged man mountain played by Ross O’Hennessy, and a katana wielding “right nasty bitch” played by Amy Johnston.
The pub is run by former hitman cum barman Ray Stevenson, recognizable as Frank Castle in 2008’s Punisher: War Zone, who enforces a policy of never knowing who the client is, or what the reason is behind the hit. However when Adkins’ pregnant ex-girlfriend turned lesbian is murdered by one of their own, it sets him on a warpath against his former colleagues, leading to a series of escalating showdowns as he attempts to reveal the truth behind why she was targeted. In any other movie, this would likely consist of CSI style scenes of investigation, but this is a Scott Adkins movie, so instead it consists of a series of joyously violent fight scenes. The fight action is choreographed by one of the best choreographers working today, Tim Man, here working with Adkins for a 4th time after Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, Eliminators, and Boyka: Undisputed.
As expected, Man also gets in on the action to take on Adkins, here as a motorbike riding triad member. It provides the movie with its only kung fu showdown, as Man humorously applies old-school kung fu posturing into a contemporary setting, only to be confronted by an aggressive and clearly more skilled opponent. This isn’t the only re-match Accident Man gives us though, with one of the highlights being a fantastic two versus one, which pits Adkins against Michael Jai White and Ray Park. It’s a hard hitting fight, even though Jai White is visibly carrying a few extra pounds than we’re accustomed to. Combined with the Adkins versus twins fight from Boyka: Undisputed, it feels like Tim Man has developed a real talent for choreographing two versus one showdowns.
The sustained finale ultimately culminates in an Adkins versus Amy Johnston throwdown which is a pleasure to watch. Johnston, a stuntwoman who’s been making inroads to being an action lead, has so far been lumbered with unremarkable roles in the likes of Lady Bloodfight and Female Fight Squad, but here really gets to shine. Starting off open handed, before brandishing her weapon of choice in the form of a katana, despite the obvious difference in size they go at each other with a convincing level of ferocity and impact, with plenty of painful blows and cursing thrown in with equal measure. Needless to say, much like most of the language, Accident Man concludes its affairs with a burst of suitably bloody violence.
It should go without saying, but Accident Man is a movie which deserves to find an audience far beyond those who are only clocking in for another Scott Adkins action movie. It feels like a Guy Richie inspired crime flick just as much as it does a slice of action goodness, and it’s a testament to the script when the most intense scene belongs not to an exchange of fists and feet, but to a conversation that takes place over the bar. Throw in a soundtrack featuring the likes of The Jam, a look that far belies the budget being worked with, and a character called Finicky Fred, what you’re left with is 100 minutes of pure unadulterated entertainment. Oh, and if you don’t know what defenestration means, then this is the movie that’ll teach you.
Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10