Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine’s CLOSE RANGE is Lean and Mean

by Ed Travis

Scorsese and De Niro. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon. Sometimes directors and stars have a magic chemistry that can’t be denied; cinematic pairings that seem destined. Now there is no question that we can add Isaac Florentine and Scott Adkins to that list.

The particular brand of cinema that Florentine and Adkins proffer happens to be R-rated action films, and while that needs to be noted, it should in no way disqualify them or invalidate the kinetic and cinematic work they are doing in a too oft maligned genre. Sure, there’s a streamlined, time tested simplicity to their latest outing, Close Range. That laser focus, however, keeps things tight and allows for maximum top notch action to dominate the film’s runtime and feature very little fat.

Kicking off with a text scroll about the samurai code in the era of the masterless ronin, we get the sense that Close Range is introducing us to a potential new franchise character, wandering the country as a hero for hire, an outlaw vigilante who could seamlessly meld into any sort of adventure he stumbles across. In other words, Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine (along with writers Chad Law and Shane Dax Taylor) are bringing us their very own take on Jack Reacher. Reacher, a creation of writer Lee Child, is a brooding hulk of a man with a military background who consistently outsmarts and outmuscles wrongdoers across America as he roams. Tom Cruise brought an A-list sheen to that franchise, and even though his iteration is a blast, Cruise was never QUITE the right man for that role. Adkins brings the needed musculature to his spin on Reacher: Colt MacReady.

What little family MacReady has is featured in this film, which cold opens with a bruising (and quite stabby) one man rescue of his niece, kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and brought across the border. So yes this is a “border” movie, and therefore loaded with western iconography and music. Immediately after this rescue, the cartel strikes back, with Close Range becoming a single-location siege movie for the rest of the runtime. And that’s A-Okay by me.

Humorously, the film takes a page out of Guy Ritchie’s book (who took this out of dozens of other filmmakers’ books) and offers a freeze frame text introduction to every single villainous cartel member hot on Adkins’ trail. It’s like two dozen guys. And they’re total, complete, meat for MacReady’s grinder. These guys aren’t characters, they’re victims that don’t know it yet. I can only imagine this extensive introduction sequence was intended for humor because many of these guys don’t even speak on screen before being dispatched violently.

MacReady is going to save his sister and niece. He’s going to save them all, and he’s going to kill all the bad guys. It is pre-ordained and the outcome is never in question. So what makes Close Range worth watching are the set pieces and fight sequences that Florentine and Adkins treat us to as we march towards the inevitable conclusion. And yeah, Adkins charges at a speeding truck on foot. He runs up the side of a hill and springs off, firing automatic weaponry at said truck. He’s got fist fights galore, but he also gets to play with guns. The opening rescue is brutal and fun, and the extended shootout and siege to close out the film is relentless as well.

Close Range isn’t necessarily top tier Florentine/Adkins. Their Ninja series and Undisputed franchise offer perhaps more of a Cannon Films throwback aesthetic and deeper character work, respectively. But Close Range is lean and mean, a streamlined franchise starter that sets up a simple story and then spends the entire second half paying that set up off with extended old school action sequences. Most of Florentine and Adkins’ pairings thus far have been primarily fisticuff movies, so it is enjoyable to see their homages to John Woo’s balletic gunplay here in Close Range, as well.

Shot in California, believe it or not, Close Range is smart low budget filmmaking. When Florentine and Adkins get together, their goal is to bring us maximum action entertainment. Since the world market isn’t throwing tons of money at this kind of cinema anymore, they have to craft their art smartly and on a budget. Close Range strips down to the essentials: single location, minimal characters, clear and simple motivations, good versus evil, and then goes ahead and spends the vast majority of its budget on delivering action scenes that are rarely rivaled in larger budgeted, big screen affairs.

Anyone looking for a bruising, lean, and slick take on Jack Reacher mixed with just a little bit of Jean Claude Van Damme’s Nowhere To Run, has found exactly what they need with Close Range.

And I’m Out.

Close Range hits theaters, VOD, and iTunes on December 4th from XLrator Media

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