Sunday 8 January 2023

Netflix And Chill: Avengement (2019)

There are many films you could choose if you want to watch action star Scott Adkins kick people in the face. It's basically what he does best. I'd struggle to think of a film that is both as entertaining and brutal as Avengement though, which now holds the record for making me wince the most times in a 90-minute period.

Adkins is Cain Burgess, a man who has escaped from prison to settle a score against his brother (Craig Fairbrass) and the thugs who work for him. Cain is quite the sight to behold, his face covered in scars and his mouth full of metal dentures. He's been in prison for quite some time, and almost every day has seen him fighting for his life. Just what he did to end up there, and why he has had a big target on his back, is part of the backstory that we get when Cain locks himself in a pub with a group of men who work for his brother.

Directed by Jesse V. Johnson, who also helped to co-write the screenplay with Stu Small (a working relationship that has delivered a a good handful of other worthwhile Adkins movies), there's no better word to describe Avengement than savage. It's also bloody well put together, giving the main character a decent enough framework for a number of impressive set-pieces. Although it's often very grim, there's enough humour laced throughout to keep reminding viewers that it IS a piece of action entertainment.

Always ready to do whatever it takes in order to survive, Adkins is often animalistic in the lead role. The heavy scarring and change to his usual physical appearance, accompanied by a mood of absolutely no fucks given, have him making people nervous before he even throws a punch or a kick, and Adkins has fun in the role, revelling in playing someone so antagonistic and spoiling for the inevitable fights coming his way. Fairbrass is good in his role, playing someone who casts a long shadow over the film even when he's not onscreen. It's not really out of his comfort zone, but it's a good bit of casting. You also get Nick Moran, still ready to give attitude and plenty of chatter, even when it probably won't be good for his health, and there's a fun, nervy, turn from Thomas Turgoose, as well as Kierston Wareing's brassy barmaid who wouldn't look out of place working behind the bar of The Queen Vic. Mark Strange and Leo Gregory are also caught up in the violence, as are a number of actors who excel at portraying characters who could easily be named something like "tough nut #2".

In case you hadn't realised already, this is not for the faint-hearted. While the fights are largely a collection of the usual moves, there are some bursts of violence here that rank as some of the gnarliest I have ever seen, including an eye-watering, and graphic, riff on the horrendous curb sandwich. 

I'll finish with this warning, although it may be too late for many of you. If you like the sound of Avengement then try to see it before seeing the trailer, which reveals far too much. Okay, you don't choose a Scott Adkins vehicle for complex plotting and emotional nuance, but this certainly does a better job than most in creating just the right motivation for the main character, and delivering one of the scariest potential antiheroes in a long time.


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