THE DEBT COLLECTOR
Directed by: Jesse Johnson
Starring: Scott Adkins, Lous Mandylor, Vladimir Kullich, Michael Pare, Tony Todd,
A martial arts instructor called French is desperate to keep his dojo open, so he turns to a friend with shady connections to set him up with some extra work. He finds himself partnered with Sue, a debt collector working for Tommy, one of the local crime bosses.
The Debt collector marks the third collaboration between director Jesse Johnson and Scott Adkins, a pairing which was already given us the flawed but action-packed Savage Dog, and the near flawless Accident Man. This third outing gives Scott one of his most dynamic roles.
French is an British ex-Para now living in LA and desperate to keep his dojo from financial ruin. As the film starts, he's visited by a trio of Asian heavies trying to muscle in on his premises. They are led by up and comer David William No, who did a great job in the short BLINDSIDED: THE GAME. The purpose of the fight is part exposition and part to show that French definitely knows how to handle himself.
French is given a big speech by his new boss, Tommy, and told to wear a suit - Tommy likes the people representing him to look respectable. However the job doesn't put French in touch with respectable people and the idea of wearing a suit is pretty much trashed on the first day - something that Sue pretty much tells him as soon as the pair meet.
A lot of the film's run-time is taken up with French driving Sue around in his Oldsmobile as they tick off the various debtors on a list of names. The pair constantly banter and bicker but slowly develop a level of respect for each other. A number of colleagues have likened the pair to Vince and Jules (Pulp Fiction), Hallenbeck and Dix (Last Boy Scout), Healey and March (The Nice Guys), and even Riggs and Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon). The fact that the pair bring up these comparisons speaks very highly about the quality of the dialogue the pair share.
While Accident Man showed that Scott Adkins was very articulate as an actor and could handle lots of dialogue, The Debt Collector takes things a step further by giving him a counterpart to bounce off of. French's experience in the Paras and the traditional martial arts that he teaches have molded him into a man working within rigid codes, whereas Sue has loads of experience working the streets for Tommy. He's seen it all and approaches the job with a laid-back attitude which is really at odds with French's outlook.
There are numerous fights in this film - as you'd expect from a film starring Scott Adkins! - and they are ably choreographed by Jesse Johnson's long time collaborator Luke LaFontane. Luke gives Adkins a different fighting style for this film - gone are the fancy jumping spin kicks, everything is much more grounded, brutal and efficient. It's clear also that Sue has some boxing in his background, but likes to rely on some old school weapons such as brass knuckles and a kosh!
It would be remiss of me not to mention the clips featuring the cows, which are spread out like chapter headings. They start innocuously enough - some black and white footage of some cows grazing in a field - but develop into something really dark. Jesse has stated that he wanted to give the audience a shock, providing them with something visceral and real. He certainly did that, as well as provided a big metaphor for the film itself.
The Debt Collector is a fun mismatched buddy movie which favourably calls to mind some of the classics in the genre. It also serves as a great introduction to Louis Mandylor, who is likely to have a great year starring in three films being released. Most of all it shows off the versatility of Scott Adkins.