As I might’ve mentioned once or twice before, Scott Adkins has really been on a roll in his recent movies with director Jesse V. Johnson. But let’s not get too comfortable. He’s got a new one coming to DVD tomorrow called ABDUCTION. It’s not of similar quality, but I had fun with it, and it’s something different for him. The cover just shows him with a big gun, so I assumed it was a COMMANDO deal with him rescuing his daughter from kidnappers. Yeah, pretty much, but the kidnappers are aliens! Or inter-dimensional beings? I think inter-dimensional beings. Forgive my ignorance.
So no, it’s not a remake of John Singleton’s 2011 movie starring Taylor Lautner. I also got it mixed up with another upcoming Adkins project called SEIZED, which I have confirmed is a different movie, an Isaac Florentine joint where a daughter and son are kidnapped, presumably by humans.
I don’t think I can say ABDUCTION is Adkins’ weirdest, because there’s always UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, a far more atmospheric, moody and hard-hitting movie, better on every level. This one is literally a Roger Corman production and has the bland glossiness and chintzy digital effects I associate with the SyFy Channel. But it’s definitely not generic. It has a hell of an opening that immediately dunks your head in the craziness and takes its time before letting you take a breath. I was into it.
The first person we see in the movie is my Twitter friend Big Mike Leeder, wearing a leather apron, looking like that dude from HOSTEL, pushing a cart of bodies. He and they all have little glowing spider-shaped devices on the backs of their necks. Another guy lines the bodies up and pulls the spiders off one-by-one with a mechanical claw. And we see that there’s one body down the line without a spider, awake, and he’s Scott Adkins. Well, I guess his name is Quinn. But he’s played by Adkins.
He gets up and makes a run for it, finds a room with a bunch of cages and one of them has his daughter Lucy in it, standing, alive but unresponsive. He fights some people whose eyes flash green, gets punched through a brick wall by a faceless hooded being (Daniel Whyte, THE TWINS EFFECT, TRIPLE THREAT), emerges in a strange world with fantastical castles, falls into water, surfaces in a fountain on earth, climbs out, looks around, eventually figures out he’s in Vietnam!
It’s partly an amnesia movie. He doesn’t remember who he is at first. Even if he did I don’t think he would know how he got to Vietnam. Something weird is going on here, it’s like a Twilight Zone episode. He doesn’t speak the language, and has developed a horrible stutter, which goes away for a bit when an old lady slaps him. For a while he has to slap himself to communicate, then he gets in a fight and it seems to permanently cure him.
He wanders the streets trying to get help but only frightening people. He steals a hilariously garish jacket covered in cartoon characters. Something Ricky Baker from THE HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE might wear. He beats up some cops who find him sleeping in an alley. At a hospital he finally finds a doctor (Truong Ngoc Anh, THE WHITE SILK DRESS) who speaks English and who he slowly convinces of what’s going on. Or at least the parts of it he knows.
There’s another at-first-separate storyline about Conner (Andy On, BLACK MASK 2, TRUE LEGEND, ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI, BLACKHAT), an assassin who seems to strongly identify as a guy who wears a cool leather jacket. His wife Maya (Lili Ji, PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING) doesn’t believe him that this is his last job, meanwhile he’s being betrayed, blah blah blah. At first it seems boring because it’s more normal than what’s going on elsewhere in the movie, but then Maya gets kidnapped by the inter-dimensionals, and Conner proves to be a real take charge kind of badass in his quest to get to the bottom of it. I like the scene where Russian mobsters ambush him at home and tie him to a chair and he asks, “You guys want some tea? Some snacks?” There’s a nice moment where he asks about his wife, the mobster doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and he sort of does the Larry David staredown before declaring, “Okay. I believe you. Because you think you have me.” Then, obviously, he escapes the chair and fights them with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Eventually the doctor runs into Conner at the same fountain that Quinn came out of, witnesses some weird phenomenon, and decides to introduce them to each other. They team up but there’s one part where Quinn gets controlled by one of the spiders so that there can be a fight scene between them. Also there’s an old guy who built a machine that detects things that disrupt the natural flow of chi or something? He knows what these beings are and it has something to do with chi and feng shui.
The fight choreographer is Tim Man, who was also behind NINJA II, BOYKA: UNDISPUTED, ELIMINATORS, ACTS OF VENGEANCE, ACCIDENT MAN, THE HARD WAY and TRIPLE THREAT. There’s plenty of good movement and some spinning of staffs and what not, but it comes across more stagey and with less impact than most of those I just listed. A little more Power Rangers-y. There’s even some whooshing sounds as the fists swing around. I’m not complaining.
Where Adkins is allowed to shine is in stretching his acting range a little. The stutter is unnecessary but he has some tics and ways of hunching his shoulders and stuff that’s both convincing and unlike anything I’ve seen him do before. He’s constantly having to communicate with people who don’t share a language with him. And he conveys alot without dialogue but without it being an inward character like a Boyka. He just happens to be alone and not have someone to talk to.
This one is directed by Ernie Barbarash, whose movies I guess I’ve been watching for decades, because he was a producer of AMERICAN PSYCHO, he wrote CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE (which I reviewed for The Ain’t It Cool News in 2002) and he directed CUBE ZERO. But I learned his name from ASSASSINATION GAMES (2011), the movie that teamed up Jean-Claude Van Damme and Adkins as co-leads. He also did 6 BULLETS and POUND OF FLESH with Van Damme and FALCON RISING with Michael Jai White.
This one stands out by being much stranger, if not better. I respect it for having a sense of humor (there are a couple good punchlines) but treating all the weird shit with total seriousness, never intentionally undermining it. I think there’s a specific mood you might be in some time that I could recommend this for, but I don’t know how to describe it, so you’re on your own. Good luck.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.