The latest, surprisingly bland collaboration between Jesse V. Johnson and Scott Adkins is a go-nowhere sequel that’ll even test the patience of die-hard genre fans.
If there are two names I always enjoy seeing next to each other on a movie’s billing, it’s those of demented director Jesse V. Johnson and limber Brummy bruiser Scott Adkins. It’s just one of those instances of a filmmaker really understanding the appeal of their star. Adkins isn’t a great actor, but he’s a great on-screen performer in the Jason Statham mold of only playing increasingly self-aware variations of the same character. Johnson has reliably made perfect use of him, in Savage Dog, an Indochina-set brawler that was like Tekken reimagined by a history buff serial killer; in Accident Man, which boasted a colorful and gleefully eccentric menagerie of contract killers; and in Avengement, which is perhaps the purest distillation of Adkins’ essence that has ever been put to film. After all that, Debt Collectors, a sequel to 2018’s The Debt Collector, is like returning to a two-bed terrace after a week in the Playboy Mansion.
And it isn’t even that bad, really. It’s obviously bad enough to notice, but not so much that you’d get worked up about it. That indifference is a pain. Debt Collectors is just a buddy action-comedy that isn’t particularly exciting or funny, even as its goofy antiheroes, Adkins’ French and Louis Mandylor’s Sue, self-consciously reunite after the first film’s seemingly definitive ending.
Together, these two set out to collect a slew of hefty financial penalties from various underworld figures, none of whom are particularly memorable, and to do it they have to incessantly quip at each other, frequently veer off on questionable tangents that tick some edgy boxes but ultimately do nothing for either character and often get into scrapes which are still the film’s highlights, even if they’re a clear step down from what you’re used to when Adkins and his inexplicably stretchy jeans are involved. Meanwhile, Debt Collectors cheekily calls back to its predecessor and is eventually directly linked to it by Ski Carr’s outrageous mob boss Molly, so the established fan will find something to recognize here, if not necessarily something to like.
As French – just French, we’re reminded at one point, and certainly not Mr. French – Adkins is exercising his nurtured persona of clever Cockney Herbert hard-man who’s reliably let down by anger issues and a questionable choice of friends; the usual, then, but at least this film allows him some moments of what look like improvisation. All the effectively funny bits share that same made up on the spot quality, whereas the plentiful misfires feel like Johnson and his co-writer Stu Small trying much too hard to create macho patter and landing mostly on thoughtless locker room bluster.
All of this won’t do much to turn away folks who were eagerly awaiting a sequel to The Debt Collector, though I don’t imagine that being a particularly large audience. Everyone else will have to put up with a surprisingly and disappointingly tame reunion for both French and Sue and Adkins and Johnson; ironically enough, what Debt Collectors fails to drum up is any kind of interest.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.