Enter the world of action star Scott Adkins with ‘Ninja: Shadow of a Tear’ | Film news
Previously, action movies had grunts under the hood, but rising budgets and the need to attract large audiences mean Hollywood blockbusters have lost some of their edge. Mainstream American action cinema is more tamed than before; we might have outliers in the form of John Wick sometimes, but your big franchises – The Fast and the Furious, Impossible mission, all things Marvel – tie into a more PG aesthetic.
But if you know where to look, you can still get your solution. The world of video on demand is full of action flicks of the kind that kept Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme and their colleagues in the shamrock. Budgets are an order of magnitude or two lower, but if you’re craving blazingly fast, punchy martial arts actions, they’ve got the stuff.
Stars of these kinds of substrates can sometimes pop up in more upscale dishes, but they thrive in the middle of B-action movies: Tony Jaa (Ong Bak), Iko Uwais (Lowering), Tiger Hu Chen (Kung Fu man), Michael Jai White (The rise of the falcon) and especially the martial artist and British actor Scott Adkins.
Who is Scott Adkins, then?
Born in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, England, in 1976, Adkins nurtured two obsessions: martial arts and film. A student of judo, taekwondo, kickboxing and theater, he landed a few small roles in British soap operas in the late 1990s before decamping to Hong Kong after being spotted by members of the Hong Kong Stuntmen Association, the director Wei Tung and producer Bey Logan. He soon found himself working with legendary action writers like Yuen Woo-ping, Corey Yuen, Sammo Hung, and Jackie Chan.
Chances are you’ve seen Adkins get slaughtered by the hero of countless movies: Jackie Chan brutalized him in Amateur spy and The medallion, Hugh Jackman faced him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (did you really think it was Ryan Reynolds at the end?) he traded spells with Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor strange, and was a foil for a whole bunch of aging action stars in The Expendables 2.
But Adkins has carved out a niche for himself and has drawn a staunch following in the VOD world where he has gone from villain to hero in the Undisputed series, replaced by Jean-Claude in Hard target 2, and even played the villain hero of Van Damme in the underrated crime Universal Soldier: Reckoning Day. A working actor, he is prolific as hell, culminating in 2016 with eight films released.
A fan and a star
For action fans, Adkins is a star, but he’s also a fan himself. He co-hosts the Adkins Undisputed podcast, which is nominally about his work but frequently takes detours to his love of action stars and action movies, and his enthusiasm is palpable. An even better demonstration is his presence on YouTube, particularly on The Art of Action channel, where he and his guests get to the heart of the subject of action cinema: choreography, stunts, blocking, directing, training – Everything.
What Adkins brings to the table – other than a ridiculous physique and the ability to kick five guys before the first one hits the ground – is a love and understanding of the action movie business. It’s easy to dismiss cheap action movies like, well, cheap action movies, and to be fair, the shelves (well, streaming catalogs) are littered with examples of the genre that aren’t worth it. not your time. But there is gold in sifting mud; a really good budget actor is home to some amazing stunts and fight choreography, if only because chests can’t expand to accommodate a CGI show or even a lot of pyrotechnics. The emphasis is on actual human performance and, as we noted in our review of Jackie Chan, that’s important.
Lights, camera, ninja!
Which brings us to ninja: Shadow of a tear, Adkins’ 2013 martial arts film which sees him once again working with director Isaac Florentine, a frequent collaborator. Don’t worry for a second if you’ve never seen 2009 Ninja; these films are designed to have as low an access barrier as possible, and the fact that The shadow of a tear technically is a sequel doesn’t matter.
All you need to know is that our man Adkins is Casey Bowman, an American ninja (in fact, this movie is reminiscent of the old American ninja franchise, except that it’s actually watchable). After his wife is murdered by an unknown assassin, he travels to Thailand and then Myanmar to search for his killer, finding a brutal hit along the way roughly every fifteen minutes on screen.
At the level of the plot, The shadow of a tear is really all about meat and potatoes, but the plot is really only there to tie together the action sequences, and those are just great. From a choreographed one-shot dojo fight to a one-man raid on a jungle drug factory, Adkins is in top form, plowing through bodies with admirable savagery.
As a treat for veteran action fans, we even get an appearance from second-generation icon Kane Kosugi, who at the time was appearing with his father, the legendary Sho Kosugi, as Pray for death and Nine Ninja Deaths. The film itself is a throwback to the glory days of straight-to-video, yet respectful beat-’em-ups, and a perfect entry point for anyone wishing to investigate the current state of the art of filmmaking. action.
ninja: Shadow of a tear is now airing on SBS On Demand.