Scott Adkins gets a long-touted project off the ground in this sly actioner. Cal tells us why it is one of the best DTV films in recent memory.
More than just another cheap, nasty direct-to-video action movie, 2018’s Accident Man actually represents a long-gestating passion project for star/co-writer/co-producer Scott Adkins, and his enthusiasm shines through in the finished product. An adaptation of the comic strips from the early 1990s written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner, there is so much flavour, wit and charm to the picture, which elevates it above any number of other low-budget action titles currently flooding the marketplace. Admittedly, there might not be much originality to the narrative, as it boils down to a revenge story with little in the way of surprising twists or turns, but it’s a hugely entertaining watch nevertheless, invigorated by the details of this assassin underworld and a goofy sense of humour.
A ruthless assassin, Mike Fallon (Adkins) is known as the “Accident Man,” as he specialises in methodically eliminating targets but making each death look like an accident. Fallon is a member of an underground league of assassins ruled by Big Ray (Ray Stevenson), while Milton (David Paymer) takes care of liaising with clients and assigning the contracts to the appropriate killer(s). But when Fallon’s ex-girlfriend, Beth (Brooke Johnston), is found dead after an apparent failed burglary, and another assassin tries to kill Fallon in an apparent set-up, he believes that there’s more to the story. Confiding in Beth’s devastated girlfriend, Charlie (Ashley Greene), Fallon suspects that fellow assassin duo Mick (Michael Jai White) and Mac (Ray Park) were involved in Beth’s killing, forcing him to put his life in jeopardy as he becomes determined to find out who ordered the hit. Meanwhile, his own crew are ordered to hunt him down.
At first glance – with the picture’s voiceover narration, excessive violence, sense of humour and assassin bar – Accident Man does look like a British Deadpool rip-off, but that’s an erroneous assumption. The comic book source on which the movie is based actually went to print before a single Deadpool comic was published, and Adkins had been working on the screenplay with Stu Small long before 2016’s movie lit up the box office. Despite the writers’ inexperience (it’s the first writing credit for both men), the script represents a superb adaptation of the first Accident Man comic book story, with little touches to modernise the material. Furthermore, whereas most modern superhero franchises feel the need to spend an entire feature exploring the protagonist’s origins, Accident Man only spends fifteen minutes showing how Fallon got his start as an assassin, set to voiceover narration by Adkins, revealing everything that we need to know. On that note, Fallon’s introduction is note-perfect as well, observing the professional contract killer carrying out a job (and taking a selfie with the corpse) before blowing off some steam by deliberately getting into a bar brawl.
With a meagre budget, there was no leeway for any large-scale, CGI-laden action set-pieces, and therefore Accident Man relies on the martial arts prowess of its stars to deliver thrills. Once the fighting begins proper, it’s non-stop all the way through to the end credits. Smartly, the cast is filled out by capable fighters – aside from Adkins, there is also the likes of Jai White (Black Dynamite) and Park (Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace), while actress/stunt-woman Amy Johnston (playing Jane the Ripper) proves to be adept with a samurai sword. It’s a treat to watch these seasoned professionals throwing down, aided by outstanding fight choreography and smooth camerawork which ensures that we can always comprehend what’s going on. Luckily, there’s enough variety to the bruising, brutal action set-pieces to prevent things from feeling repetitive or monotonous, and pacing is assured. Outside of a few moments (including a shonky climactic decapitation), Accident Man thankfully never feels necessarily cheap – it’s a slickly-constructed undertaking on the whole, with director Jesse V. Johnson making the most of the limited funds at his disposal. (Of course, it may appear cheap to those smug hipsters who download a low-quality pirate copy, but it looks top-notch in pristine high definition.) Johnson is something of a direct-to-video action luminary, having previously helmed Savage Dog with Adkins among many other flicks, making him a perfectly sufficient directorial choice.
Adkins has appeared in a few major motion pictures, but they often fail to take advantage of the actor’s insane abilities. Hell, in the likes of Doctor Strange and The Expendables 2, he was just a henchman with minimal screen-time. Accident Man, however, is the star vehicle that Adkins has always deserved, showcasing his terrific martial arts skills as well as his innate charm as a performer, and it’s therefore a bit of a shame that the movie isn’t a bigger deal. The comic book portrayal of Fallon was a bit more refined with expensive tastes, but Adkins is nevertheless an ideal pick; he’s gruff yet charismatic, making the character his own. And unlike his iconic role of Boyka in the Undisputed sequels, Adkins gets to make use of his natural English accent here. There’s a sizeable ensemble of assassins in Accident Man, and the movie efficiently introduces them one-by-one before getting into the story proper.
Permeated with a distinctively British sensibility in its dry sense of humour and use of songs, Accident Man will appeal to fans of Adkins and should satisfy those who like the comics. Hell, movie-goers just seeking a fun time should find a lot to like about this actioner. It never takes itself too seriously and it definitely wears its R rating on its sleeve, which makes this an easy recommendation for fans of 80s and 90s genre flicks, but it’s probably not a movie for the easily offended. Fast-paced and lean at 105 minutes, Accident Man is an insanely fun independent British action flick, as well as a pleasingly accurate representation of the source material. With its unique energy and flavour, you will be left yearning for a sequel.