Directed by Jesse V. Johnson.
Starring Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, Thomas Turgoose, Nick Moran, Louis Mandylor, Terence Maynard, and Kierston Wareing.
An escaped convict seeks revenge on the people that put him in prison, including his own brother.
One look at the blurb for Avengement tells you pretty much all you need to know about what you are going to get for 87 minutes – Scott Adkins (fighting), Craig Fairbrass and Nick Moran (geezers), the London setting (more geezers) and a revenge-driven plot (nothing new there). However, Scott Adkins and director Jesse V. Johnson have forged something of a successful creative partnership over the past few years and that partnership has gathered some momentum, resulting in Avengement being a bit slicker and more inventive than the average Mockney gangster crime movie.
Adkins plays Cain Burgess, a highly dangerous prisoner let out for a few hours with armed guards to visit his dying mother in hospital but, thanks to his escorts stopping off for vanilla lattes on the way, he arrives 20 minutes too late to say goodbye. Cain makes a run for it after knocking out both of his guards and heads to a London pub where he knows he can get an audience with his brother Lincoln (Fairbrass) but first he has to get money-lender Lincoln down there and so he holds the inhabitants of the boozer hostage while he tells the tale of how he ended up in prison in the first place, and then Lincoln arrives mob-handed.
A fairly standard story of revenge and brothers-at-war, Avengement is a back-hander full of adrenaline right from the opening scenes of a handcuffed Cain Burgess arriving at the hospital. From the moment he is told his mother is dead Scott Adkins plays out the rest of the film with a mad look in his eyes that erases any trace of his usual screen persona, making you believe that you really are watching a psychopath at work. The only time Adkins drops the 1000-yard stare is when we are shown flashbacks to when Cain approaches Lincoln with a business idea before being setup for a fall, with Cain looking fresh-faced and handsome before prison turns him into a shaven-headed, silver-toothed (he was rude to the prison dentist after a kerbing), scarred (he got prison napalm thrown in his face) raging beast of a man.
The non-linear nature of the storytelling is what draws you in, as Cain’s history is revealed in flashbacks and you can see how he was pushed to become the loose cannon who wants to take his brother down. Despite the revenge nature of the story, the title is Avengement and Cain is well aware where his need to meet with Lincoln will take him, and there are a few surprises and twists along the way that show Cain is not just about personal retaliation, and by the time the final confrontation is under way you are fully rooting for Cain, despite his previously unsavoury behaviour.
The other characters in the story are fairly one-dimensional, the exception being Hyde (Nick Moran – Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels), one of Lincoln’s associates also in the frame for setting up Cain, and Moran is brilliantly sarcastic as the cocky spiv. Craig Fairbrass doesn’t deviate too much from his previous incarnations as an intimidating gangster in Rise of the Footsoldier and London Heist, to name but two, but it goes in his favour that Lincoln doesn’t have a lot to him that you couldn’t work out from his first appearance holding court at a card table, which plays to the actor’s strengths as a menacing physical presence.
But as well as a basic and well thought out story Avengement has action, and not just a bit of action but a hell of a lot of it. Adkins gets to flex his muscles and beat the seemingly endless line of scumbags ready to take him down at any given moment into submission, the fight choreography being a little more energetic and – for use of a better word – fancy for a brutal London crime thriller but it is very exciting to watch – think peak Jean-Claude Van Damme starring in a Guy Ritchie movie and you’re somewhere close. Couple that with the weapons that get used and some gloriously close-up shots of teeth being knocked out and guts being stabbed and Avengement makes the violence dished out movies like The Krays or The Long Good Friday seem like something from Bottom.
It would be fair to say that Avengement is most likely to appeal only to a certain audience and not to anybody looking for a feel-good time at the movies thanks to the graphic violence, excessive gore and a script that does little to shatter the image of burley geezers who love their mums minding their manor with all the subtlety of a cosh to the kneecap, but thanks to a few neat narrative touches, tight direction and Scott Adkins giving his best performance yet – he is so much more engaging when he isn’t trying to put on an American accent – Avengement can rightfully claim to be the hardest hitting British action thriller for years, provided you don’t take it too seriously and just enjoy it for what it is – a ridiculously entertaining thrill ride that, ironically, takes no prisoners.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★