It grew on me
Legacy of Lies grew on me.
When I’m reviewing a Scott Adkins film, that’s the lens through which I’m reviewing it. How kick ass is my main man? How thoroughly does he lay waste to his enemies? What new territory does this particular film trod in his overall filmography?
But Legacy Of Lies is a different kind of film from the average Scott Adkins joint. This was a Ukrainian political thriller long in the making, in search of an international star that could bring worldwide distribution to the finished product. And Scott Adkins became that star.
Initially, as the film played out, it felt like a fairly standard political thriller. Adkins plays Martin Baxter, a broken former MI6 agent who lost his wife in a shootout and is now raising his daughter (the fantastic Honor Kneafsey as pre-teen Lisa) whilst somewhat on the run due to the botched mission. The Russian files in question are 100%, grade-A macguffin territory, never really mattering at all beyond “proof that the Russian government is bad”. Baxter is going to have to face his past and finally get his hands on those files if he’s ever going to have hope for a normal life and safety for Lisa. In the end Legacy Of Lies is just a pretty basic airport paperback style thriller from writer-director Adrian Bol. But there are a few standout elements that warrant a mention.
The Raid is one of the most influential films of the last decade or so for me, and I’ll tell you why. That film became a calling card for Indonesian genre cinema in a profound way, and I’ve watched as one worldwide phenomena of a film has transformed the Indonesian cinematic output around the world. Since then there have been countless other “calling card” style films from the Philippines’ Buybust to Vietnam’s Furie, to Cambodia’s Jailbreak. And while I’ve enjoyed those films to varying degrees, I’ve certainly loved watching scrappy action cinema become the catalyst for the world to see the production capabilities and prowess of a certain nation’s film industry. I’m more than happy to sing the praises of Ukraine’s film crew that produced Legacy Of Lies. The movie looks and feels great. It’s a real-ass movie in a way that SO many DTV action films that emerge from nondescript eastern European countries just aren’t. There’s great lighting and clear picture quality. It feels more polished than many of its ilk.
I’d also argue that the onscreen talent, while all unfamiliar to me aside from Adkins, are turning in stronger work than is often seen in films where Scott Adkins is the ONLY marquee name in the bunch. The aforementioned Honor Kneafsey being chief among those — saddled with the precocious (and kidnapped) teen daughter role, she makes the most of it and becomes quite likeable. Yuliia Sobol is also striking as a foil/partner to Baxter. Her Sacha is an investigative journalist whose father was a former associate of Baxter’s and who has been killed for his knowledge of what was on the macguffin files. Her passion for the truth catalyzes Baxter to put an end to his running and face the lies of his past.
And while Legacy Of Lies is pretty decidedly NOT among the most pumped-up, action-heavy films of Scott Adkins’ oeuvre, Bol was smart enough to let Adkins have a say in the creation of the action sequences that are present, and fight choreographer (one of the best in the business) Tim Man got to flex his muscles on this production as well. That kind of thing matters because you have moments and sequences where the film races to life and shows you flashes of what makes Adkins the star he is.
In the end, I have to admit that I’m somewhat of a softie who loves to root for the underdog, and Ukraine has been the underdog under the shadow of the Russian government for decades now. So when, in the third act, Bol’s screenplay gets a little extra preachy and on the nose as it celebrates the value of investigative journalism, the importance of absolute truth, and accountability for despotic leaders, I found myself quite pleased. This here is a message movie, a genuine Ukrainian thumbing of the nose at Vladimir Putin, and it’s packaged as a Scott Adkins movie loaded with thrills and spills. I can get behind that.
And I’m Out.
Legacy Of Lies hits DVD, Digital, and On Demand 7/28/20 from Lionsgate