Wil Jones implores you to give direct-to-video action films a second chance, especially those of martial arts messiah Scott Adkins
The geeks won. We all know that. And don’t get me wrong, it’s brought us a lot of good things: iPads; Game Of Thrones; adults playing video games being sociably acceptable. But it’s also doing bad things to our culture. Look at your local cinema listings. Action movies used to be about brawn, bravery and the occasional flying kick. Nowadays, they’re all comic book movies or kids stuff about hobbits, filled with undecipherable editing and plastic-looking computer graphics. Instead of 90 minutes of entertainment, they’re epic glops of nerdy in-jokes and fanservice, setting up endless sequels, franchises and spin-offs.
However, if, like me, you pine for the simpler days of action cinema, I suggest seeking out the films of Scott Adkins, an unassuming martial artist from the Midlands and the unlikely saviour of action movies.
An actor and kickboxing instructor from Sutton Coldfield who appeared in Eastenders and Hollyoaks when he was younger, Adkins was discovered by legendary Hong Kong fight choreographer Wei Tung and was soon getting bit parts in Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies. He’s had minor roles in a few big films like Bourne Supremacy, Zero Dark Thirty and Wolverine, but his true calling came with a series of stunning DVD action movies he’s made with Israeli director Isaac Florentine. Those straight to video titles that sit near the checkouts in Tesco have become the new grindhouse or drive-in circuit, and Adkins is currently producing the cult-classics of tomorrow.
His signature moves are a series of amazing, gravity-defying acrobatic kicks and flips, which Florentine (a marital artist himself, who cut his teeth directing episodes of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) shoots with a simple static camera and plain editing. This allows Adkins’s jaw dropping moves to speak for themselves without the need for any fancy filmmaking. Florentine cast him in Undisputed 2, the sequel to a forgotten Wesley Snipes film, as a crazy Russian inmate who battles a wrongly imprisoned Mike Tyson analog in a modern day gulag. Adkins returned for the third instalment, and both are classics of old-school, non-CGI martial arts flicks.
Separate from Florentine, Adkins also starred in an incredible straight to video Universal Soldier sequel (entitled Day Of Reckoning), that somehow turns a Jean-Claude Van Damme film into a surreal paranoid sci-fi tale which owes more to Philip K Dick and Gaspar Noe than an old early 90s action movie.
Adkins and Florentine’s latest film, Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear, came out in the US last month and honestly it’s about the best martial arts movie of the 21st century. Sadly, it looks like Hollywood isn’t interested in producing mid-budget action fare like this.
Barring recent minor bad guy roles in The Expendables 2 and the upcoming Kellan Lutz movie, The Legend of Hercules, it doesn’t seem like.
“Those straight to video titles that sit near the checkouts in Tesco have become the new grindhouse or drive-in circuit, and Adkins is currently producing the cult-classics of tomorrow”
Adkins will be given the chance to escape the DTV ghetto anytime soon. But if you’re willing to look beyond the badly-photoshopped covers and flat cinematography, there are some of the most exciting moments of modern cinema waiting for you…