You’ve seen Scott Adkins as a Ninjutsu master, the leader of a team of mercenaries, an assassin specializing in “accidents”, a Universal Soldier, and The Most Complete Fighter in the World. But rest assured, you’re still not prepared for what he transforms into, both literally and figuratively, in “Avengement”. Under the direction of stunt veteran Jesse Johnson, “Avengement” is a dark, rough, and delightfully vicious revenge thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat with shockingly brutal fights and a non-linear story that trickles out plot points one droplet at a time. Even better, the film is anchored with a thoroughly captivating performance by Scott Adkins as an anti-hero just one step removed from his enemies on the spectrum of hard-boiled insanity.
The always impressive Scott Adkins assumes the role of Cain Burgess, a hardened jailbird with revenge on his mind, while Craig Fairbrass portrays his sinister brother, Lincoln. Nick Moran steps into the role of the duplicitous Hyde, while Kierston Wareing portrays Bez, a bartender who finds herself caught in the midst of Cain’s quest for payback. Louis Mandylor also appears in the role of Detective O’Hara, while Greg Burridge, Beau Fowler, Thomas Turgoose, and Mark Strange appear in the roles of Stretch, Vern, Tune, and Cliff, who join Hyde among several other pub regulars to whom our hero imparts his story.
It’s just another day at the Horse and Jockey pub when a couple of regulars find themselves the hostages of escaped convict Cain Burgess. After being railroaded into the big house when his conscience got the better of him during a failed robbery for the local crime boss, Cain spent the next several years in a daily battle for his survival behind bars. During a visit to his now deceased mother, Cain took the opportunity to escape his captivity, and emerged deeply disfigured on the outside with a huge score to settle on the inside. Knowing that the men he’s holding at the barrel of a shotgun are connected to the man who ruined his life, Cain bides his time regaling them with his dark story, knowing full well that his target will be coming along soon enough.
Coming on the heels of his equally splendid villainous turn in “Triple Threat“, Scott Adkins gives arguably his most electrifying performance yet in “Avengement”. His calling card has long been anti-heroes with a grey moral compass, but “Avengement” sees Scott tackle the role of a man who descends to just a few steps above Satan for the sake of his own survival and to fulfil his quest for payback (it’s certainly no accident that the protagonist of the film is named Cain).
On top of his captivating, dramatic performance, “Avengement” also sees Scott undergo a Christian Bale-like physical transformation into a man whose experiences in prison leave him horribly disfigured. I won’t touch upon the origins of Cain’s metal dentures, other than to say that you’re probably dead inside if you can make it past that part of the film without wincing on his behalf. Cain’s facial burns also prove symbolic of his character arc, that of a man thrown into the depths of hell, only to battle the demons within and re-emerge with his soul burnt to a crisp.
Cain certainly wasn’t a saint before being railroaded to the big house, but it doesn’t take him long to realize the depths he has to sink to just to stay alive among an inmate population that’s ready to eat him alive. No matter how many times his sentence gets extended after every prison brawl he’s involved in, Cain has already made up his mind that it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.
And reign Cain does in the unapologetically savage fight sequences that make up no less than half the running time of “Avengement”. Indeed, the action sequences rise to such levels of abject brutality, that they often recall Jet Li‘s “Unleashed” in their depiction of a man made into an animal through callous circumstances. Practically Cain’s entire prison sentence plays out as a montage of him battling his fellow inmates with an ever-increasing level of ferocity, and in a nice stylistic touch, the viewer gets to see his entire skill set unfold gradually.
As the film begins, Cain puts down most of his enemies with heavy haymakers, with a relative minimum of kicking on his part. As he comes to dominate the inmate population, and especially once he regains his freedom, Cain grows more and more eclectic in his combat methodology, and uses the full scope of his skills much more liberally. His concern with the enemies he’s facing in prison is clearly only in the interest of living to fight another day, and the closer he gets to achieving his payback, the more he relishes in pounding heads in with every tool he’s got in his particular shed.
By the time Cain’s caught up with the cop who helped put him away, he’s cutting loose with spinning kicks and head butts delivered with the viciousness of Mad Dog of “The Raid” fame. However, even that can’t compare with the bull-in-a-china-shop finale, in which Cain’s ultimate enemy finally catches up with him back in the pub, and all hell breaks loose as he joins with Cain’s captives to put him down. With the pub as the framing device for the film’s entire narrative, it’s obvious during the flashbacks to Cain’s life in prison that this is where the film intends to stick the landing. All I can say is, if you relish a good bar fight, the final showdown of “Avengement” is your giant killer and instant classic!
With the summer movie season upon us, and its coming onslaught of genies, Kaiju, superheroes, and dog-loving assassins, no self-respecting action fanatic can afford to neglect seeing “Avengement”. Scott Adkins gives an absolutely spellbinding performance as a man who makes himself into a beast for his own survival, and Jesse Johnson has firmly planted his flag as one of the greatest action filmmakers in the business before the year is even half over. A gleefully dark, relentlessly brutal crime thriller, packed to the gills with savagely crazy fights, “Avengement” is Scott Adkins like you’ve never seen him before!
- The movie was filmed on location at the London East-UK Business and Technical Park in Dagenham, East London, with the complex used as a backdrop for exterior shots at the fictional St Lourdes Hospital.
- The film was co-written by Jesse Johnson and Stu Small, who also co-wrote 2018’s “Accident Man” with Scott Adkins.
- The film marks the sixth collaboration of Scott Adkins and Jesse Johnson, following “Pit Fighter“, “Savage Dog“, “Accident Man”, “The Debt Collector“, and “Triple Threat”.
- Mike Fury, author of the book “Life of Action“, was among the stunt people who worked on the film.
- Scott Adkins also served as executive producer. In the official press release for “Avengement”, Scott said of the film and of re-teaming with Jesse Johnson:
- “Avengement’ marks my sixth film with Jesse V. Johnson and there’s a very good reason why we keep working together. Jesse allows me to play in the action genre sandbox that my fanbase expect whilst simultaneously pushing me to stretch myself as an actor. Along with co-writer Stu Small he crafted a story that allowed me to create a unique and interesting character who I relished playing. Can’t wait for everyone to meet Cain Burgess.”
- “Horrible, motherf***ing, p**s-all Bell Marsh, the filthiest, most violent, and godforsaken prison in England. Yeah, that was where that joke of a judge sent me. I didn’t have a criminal record. I never had that mindset. You know, I couldn’t even throw a f***ing boxing match, but they threw me in there with those hardened murderers, rapists, serial offenders. There’s a reason why they call that place a meat grinder.” – Cain (sharing his contempt for his correctional facility.)
- “I had to change myself into something I didn’t even recognize anymore. In the months and the weeks that rolled by, I slowly but surely turned myself into what you see before you now – a hardened, rusty nail. You see, the body can be strengthened to a degree, but it’s your mind that makes you impervious to defeat. Just like the skin on your knuckles, your mind can be made callous as f**k, but only pain can do that. So I learned how to take pain, but more importantly, I learned how to dish it out.” – Cain (describing his transformation in prison.)
- “Go in your f***ing trousers.” – Cain (when one of his captives asks to use the restroom in the middle of his story.)