UK Release Date: 16th April 2018
Runtime: 101 minutes
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Writer: Stu Small, Scott Adkins
Starring: Scott Adkins, Ray Stevenson, David Paymer, Ashley Greene, Amy Johnston, Ray Park, Michael Jai White, Perry Benson, Ross O’Hennessy
Synopsis: A hitman turns his back on his fraternity of fellow assassins when he discovers that his ex-girlfriend has become a target for one of their clients.
Around halfway through Accident Man, a character quotes Churchill in the midst of an interrogation, describing a particular problem as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. It’s at that point that Scott Adkins seethes the words “riddle me this, you twat” and clocks the bloke over the head with a metal bat. That’s the sort of film this is. It’s a no-nonsense British thriller set in the world of high-end contract killing. From a character and plot perspective, it’s the usual brand of meat-headed testosterone overload. However, it deserves credit for some of the most tightly choreographed and inventive fight sequences in recent years.
Much of the credit for that must go to two people. The first is fight co-ordinator Tim Man and the second is his regular collaborator Adkins, who co-wrote the movie and also stars as assassin Mike Fallon, known for his ability to make his crimes look like accidents. He begins to question the tight-knit community in which he exists when his ex-girlfriend is murdered and her new lover Charlie (Ashley Greene) believes there’s something suspicious going on. Mike soon discovers a conspiracy running through his organisation and stretching into the political world.
If you think that sounds like a hopelessly generic setup for a direct-to-DVD actioner, then you’d be absolutely right. This is a paper-thin story that never adds up in any meaningful way. Certainly, by the time the third act comes around, it’s essentially a construct to allow an array of goons to come flying at Adkins so that he can swat them away over the course of some increasingly elaborate fight sequences, infused with everything from Taekwondo to Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The result is a consistent thrill ride, even if it doesn’t even come close to feeling satisfying from a character perspective. People are largely confined to such archetypes as “a right vicious bastard”, with names like Big Ray (Ray Stevenson) and Carnage Cliff (Ross O’Hennessy).
It’s clear from the first scenes of Accident Man that almost 100% of the care and attention in the movie was geared towards the fights. Every explosion of violence is exquisitely put together, with the perfect combination of realistic brutality and balletic beauty. A particular three-way battle between Adkins and martial artists Michael Jai White – the first black superhero, in Spawn – and Ray Park – best known as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace – is an adrenaline blast of joy. The three performers did it all without doubles, and the result is a face-off of flying fists that is as bruising as it is physically impressive.
Depending on the strength of your stomach for lazy homophobia – a lesbian character is called “dyke” with infuriating regularity – and blokey nonsense, you may find a fair bit to enjoy in Accident Man. It’s not a particularly engrossing story and there are bizarre narrative turns, not least a 15-minute flashback sequence that kills the momentum of the movie stone dead, but it excels in its action and, for those scenes alone, it’s probably worth splashing out a few quid for the DVD.
There’s a commentary track with writers Adkins and Small, as well as a couple of featurettes about the assassins and the fight choreography. The latter is very interesting and could have been much longer, to give a real insight into how the violence worked on set.
Pop or Poop?
If you were to open up the nucleus of Accident Man and take a look inside its centre, all you’d find is sawdust. This is a film almost exclusively – with one, katana-wielding exception – about men living in a macho world of violence. It’s only saving grace is that it’s injected with precision-tooled sequences of some of the most impressive brutality committed to recent cinema, with Scott Adkins the physically spectacular star at the centre of it all.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
Accident Man is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.