A look at the latest film from action star Scott Adkins!
Sequels are a tricky thing. Most attempts fail to find the balance that makes the best ones work. They fall into a trap of being simple retreads of the first entry in the series with only superficial changes — leaving them stale and lifeless. It’s also possible to go too far in the opposite direction — creating a follow-up so drastically different from what came before, the intended audience becomes alienated by removing what resonated with them. The most effective sequels are the ones that retain enough elements of the original to create a sense of familiarity while simultaneously expanding the world of the story and pushing it forward in new and unexpected ways. Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday, the latest film from actor Scott Adkins, is an example of a sequel finding that perfect balance and in doing so ranks among the action star’s very best.
Mike Fallon (Adkins), the professional killer known as the “Accident Man,” has relocated his base of operations to the Mediterranean island of Malta after the events of the first film, which left him estranged from his former mentor (Ray Stevenson) and most of his assassin colleagues deceased. Things are going well for Mike since the change of scenery. His business of assassinations masked as everyday accidents is booming. He’s reconnected with an old friend from London, Finicky Fred (Perry Benson), who has become the gadget-making “Q” to Mike’s murderous Bond to help him with all the new-found work. The good times are brought to a screeching halt when a local mob boss (Flaminia Cinque) takes Fred hostage and forces Mike to protect her bratty, wannabe pop star son (George Fouracres) from a collection of contract killers each looking to claim a massive bounty that’s been placed on the insufferable mafia heir’s head.
One of the key aspects of the original Accident Man’s success was having Scott Adkins square off with a rogues’ gallery of distinct villains, portrayed by exceptional martial artists and veteran stunt performers, who were given just enough oddball character traits to spice up the story and the well-crafted fight sequences. The sequel continues this trend but pushes it in an even more outlandish direction- one that feels perfectly suited to Mike Fallon’s cult comic book origins. While there are prerequisite goons and a no-nonsense mercenary to deal with; it quickly escalates to the point where Mike has to fend off a deadly ninja, an American Psycho-esque serial killer, a self-proclaimed vampire, and a psychotic birthday clown all gunning for the target he’s been strong-armed into protecting.
Each of these conflicts is resolved with intricate and frenetic fight scenes that up the ante from the first film in every possible aspect. While the sequel retains pre-vis action design courtesy of the first film’s fight choreographer, Tim Man, the bulk of the on-screen mayhem in Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday comes at the hands of former Jackie Chan stunt team member Andy Long Nguyen and Scott Adkins himself. The collaboration clearly energized everyone involved. All the action feels creative and varied, giving the audience something excitingly fresh with each new encounter. For example, the fight against the unsettling Poco the Clown (Beau Fowler) and the climatic stand-off with ninjitsu master Oyumi (Andy Long Nguyen) in the film’s third act are vastly different from each other but equally thrilling. The former is a wild, prop-filled, brawl that will give every online commenter who ever loudly rallied for Adkins to be cast as Batman a cheeky, ultra-violent glimpse at what could have been. The latter is a classic Hong Kong-style breakneck demonstration of martial arts prowess that perfectly showcases the remarkable speed, timing, and accuracy of Adkins and Nguyen. The quality of both sequences (and the rest of the film’s action) is undeniable. What the action choreography team has accomplished here on a meager 22-day shooting schedule is jaw-dropping. They have, without question, crafted the best martial arts film of the year.
Another person responsible for the quality action in Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday is co-director George Kirby. This is his first time at the helm of a feature film but he is a long-time veteran of the stunt and action filmmaking community. Working alongside fellow co-director (and his brother) Harry, an accomplished Hollywood visual effects artist, the two have turned in an incredibly polished debut feature. Their sequel drastically improves on the original in many ways. The stark, yet heavily stylized, look of the first Accident Man’s British locations are replaced with the eye-catching naturally sunny locations of Malta. Their camera work is never static, unlike the first film, and moves dynamically with the action on screen in a way that enhances the imagery without ever obscuring it. It’s always a gamble relying on untested directors for action films, but it paid off wonderfully here. Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday simply looks great.
With so much emphasis on action and visual flair, it may appear as if the film is all flash with no substance. Continuing the formula established by the original though, the script for Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday (penned by Adkins and long-time collaborator Stu Small) finds time for both humor and drama, between all the broken limbs and punched faces of course, that lets the returning characters evolve in satisfying ways. Mike Fallon was originally written as a misanthropic loner and the result of that characterization is, despite the humor present, an unquestionably mean-spirited vibe that permeates everything in the first film. Here, Mike’s personality has been subtly tweaked to be more aligned with Adkins’ own. The character is still a rouge who won’t hesitate to lay a beatdown but the natural, easy-going charm of Adkins that fans have grown familiar with due to his popular YouTube series The Art of Action and numerous appearances on the Adkins Undisputed audio podcast is front and center.
This softened take on the character of Mike is the audience’s stealth entry point into a surprisingly enjoyable story of found family. The unlikely comical bromance that sprouts out of his working relationship with Perry Benson’s Finicky Fred would have felt completely out of place in the cynical world of the first film but here it works perfectly in humanizing and motivating both characters. The pair, along with scene-stealing newcomer Sarah Chang as Mike’s eternally grumpy training partner Wong Siu-ling, and a returning Ray Stevenson give the film a satisfying emotional center that the first entry in the series buried under a little too much tough guy bravado.
This subtle course correction is not limited to just the characters. A lot of the jokes present seem incredibly dark on paper and they do often revolve around bodily harm (and fluids) but unlike the original film — their actual execution is surprisingly good-natured, like a crude but silly joke shared by an old friend during a long night out at the local pub. Looking back on it, that comparison to a night out drinking with friends fits so much of Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday – it’s loud, brazen, at times chaotic, yet filled with good cheer, and it’s just so much fun.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release ACCIDENT MAN: HITMAN’S HOLIDAY in theaters and on VOD and Digital October 14, 2022.