Scott Adkins and Jesse V. Johnson have collaborated on several films, including 2018's The Debt Collector and Accident Man, with the latest project - Avengement - resulting in 84 minutes of frenzied, brutal violence. Adkins plays a fatefully unlucky criminal, Cain, who escapes from prison whilst on furlough to see his terminally ill mother (Jane Thorne). When the visit goes sideways, Cain goes on a revenge mission to regain his lost humanity and exact payback for the significant part his brother Lincoln (Craig Fairbrass) played in his incarceration and inevitable downward spiral of wild abandon and savagery.
Cain starts his odyssey at a secret London Pub, frequented by a crew of gangsters, led by Hyde (Nick Moran, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) who doesn't recognise him due to his physical transformation (bulging muscles, facial scarring and impressive set of metal teeth) during his lengthy time in jail. At gunpoint, and while waiting for Lincoln to face his wrath, Cain discloses his agonising journey from a small-time boxer to a “hardened rusty nail” with the ability to sustain incredible physical punishment as a method of catharsis.
The film includes numerous training montages in prison, but it is the relentless fight scenes that truly exhibits Adkins' complete immersion into Cain - the unhinged brute. The fights may lack the swagger and playful abandon of a Statham or the elegance and symmetry of a John Wick, but the bone-crunching, visceral brawls are expertly choreographed and Adkins pulls it off competently with his bruised-knuckle charisma. Add to this the fact that the film looks more polished and pleasing then it has any business being, with the crisp cinematography particularly impressive, and the result is a strong actioner that does exactly “what it says on the tin.”
The Achilles' heel of the project, however, is the pedestrian screenplay and over-written dialogue. Snatch and Lock, Stock... are obvious inspirations, but the wit and sophistication of those films are sadly lacking here. Exposition is abound as co-screenwriters Johnson and Stu Small prefer to show and tell every minute detail and plot development until the viewer is also beaten into submission. The performers - apart from Moran - are unconvincing as East End cockneys, with language fluctuating, confusingly, between Etonian and “gutter” all with the subtle nuance of a sledgehammer. Adkins' performance is solid and tenacious, but there are no likeable characters to be found here.
Our main protagonist's only redeeming quality is his single-minded determination for revenge while the sub-aim of repairing the damage done to innocent victims, by his lone-shark brother, remains seriously lacking in detail and focus. With its brisk run-time and above average cinematography, Avengement, is a decent British action film that can stand proudly, with fists raised high, on the broken bodies of its vanquished enemies.