I stumbled across this delightfully scuzzy, low-key actioner starring Scott Adkins and several half-forgotten direct-to-video stars of the ’90s. It’s a low-budget, low-concept brute of a movie that’s pretty amusing, fairly brutal, and definitely enjoyable. Let’s check this out, shall we?
The Debt Collector (2018)
Scott Adkins stars as a down on his luck karate teacher who agrees to be a debt collector for a local crime boss to pay off his own debts. He’s mentored by former pretty boy actor Louis Mandylor, who’s now playing a sweaty, sleazy debt collector. Louis has settled into his character actor mid-career and he’s really great. His banter with Scott Adkins is frequently very funny.
Scott Adkins is on a career roll right now, starring in most anything kung-fu related. He finally gets to play an Englishman with his real accent, or I assume his real accent. He’s natural, casual, confident, and most importantly, he kicks ass with authority. Scott is playing a good martial artist but not a superman. He takes a beating while doing this terrible job. It’s a funny visual joke how his suit gets progressively more torn up throughout his day. He fights successively larger and larger thugs as Adkins and Mandylor go through their list of debtors. “Jesus Christ, does everybody in this town have a bodyguard?”
The movie is well-directed by former stuntman and action director Jesse V. Johnson and I’m really impressed. He’s got some style without ripping off other movies. He embraces his low-budget. He shoots on location around Los Angeles and creates a lived-in world. Where most filmmakers try to gloss up their low-budget movies, he dresses down. Most characters are sweaty, and he embraces the general scuzziness of the job they’re doing. Johnson knows how to shoot action scenes, arguably the most important part of these kinds of movies. I’m really impressed.
Also showing up to the party are low-budget action star Michael Eddie and the Cruisers Pare, Tony Candyman Todd, and Vladimir Kulich from one of my all-time favorite movies, The 13th Warrior. Hot damn, this is my kind of movie.
In the funniest sequence, Scott Adkins punches a weasley dude over a $40,000 debt. He opens the lock box and finds a ton of money. “You’ve got over $100,000 here. Why did you make me punch you? Are you a masochist?” “I’m parsimonious,” replies the weasel.
Sadly, the filmmakers don’t know where to end this shaggy dog of a movie. It really should be a TV show where every week Adkins and Mandyler have to collect debts and not much changes from week to week. But since there needs to be some sort of finish to this thing, there’s a ridiculous shoot-out. The movie goes from back-alley fisticuffs to our heroes blasting away with automatic rifles. It’s a bit jarring and doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie.
My main gripe with the movie is that the women in the story are treated deplorably. They’re all whores or eye candy, or both. And there are no active female characters with anything to do. So I have to take some points off for the chauvinistic story. Surely there are some women who have some agency in this scuzzy world, but they’re mostly treated as set dressing. And that’s just sad.
THE BOTTOM LINE
To continue the low-key theme, there’s not much plot to the movie. It’s mostly just following Adkins and Mandylor around as they make their collections and banter. “Did you complain this much when you were in Iraq?” asks Mandylor. Really, this movie has the most important things I’m looking for: some creativity, a sense of fun, some good lines, and some great ass-kickings. All in all, it’s a pretty enjoyable little romp. Definitely worth checking out.