Debt Collectors

★★1/2

Yeah, I’m pretty much the President of The Scott Adkins Fan Club … to the point where a buddy of mine recently joked on Facebook that we, “should just bone and get that shit over with.” For those not in the know, Adkins is an English martial artist who stars in a whole slew of direct-to-video action movies. Adkins’ latest effort, “Debt Collectors,” a sequel to his 2018 vehicle “The Debt Collector,” released on DVD on Tuesday, May 26. For the time being it appears to only be available via Redbox (fitting for the current king of DTV action), but per Amazon it will be available for purchase on Tuesday, June 2. The movie’s Facebook page also says it’ll be available to rent on VOD Friday, May 29.

It’s kinda strange that a sequel to “The Debt Collector” even exists as (spoiler!) its protagonists for all intents and purposes died at the first picture’s conclusion. This is all written away – French (Adkins) escaped with two bullets in his chest in a coupe belonging to Sue (Louis Mandylor, whom my wife excitedly recognized as Carl, Joey’s “twin” on “Friends”). Sue died twice on the operating table, but was ultimately revived.

The duo’s reunited seven months after their near-death experience when Sue appears at the bar where French is working as a bouncer. Sue is looking to recruit French to assist him in making three collections. Before Sue can even make the offer, French is fired for his latest roughing up of ruffians. Hard up, French accepts the opportunity. Their targets are: Mal Reese (Marina Sirtis of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”), a Las Vegas club owner who used to make time with Sue; Esteban Madrid (Cuete Yeska), the thuggish proprietor of a boxing gym and Cyrus (Vernon Wells AKA Bennett from “Commando”!), the owner of a motorcycle garage. These folks took out loans from Barbosa (Tony Todd), who was dispatched in “The Debt Collector.” Barbosa’s brother, Molly X (Ski Carr), holds French and Sue responsible, so he forces their handler, Tommy (Vladimir Kulich, the Russian gangster Denzel clipped at the end of “The Equalizer”), to put them on the case in hopes that he’ll get paid and they’ll get laid to rest.

There’s as much good about “Debt Collectors” as there is bad. As much as I love Adkins, these movies actually belong to Mandylor. He kinda reads like Mickey Rourke prior to all the plastic surgery. His Sue is the emotional center of these pictures and he’s simply much cooler and more substantial than Adkins’ French. In the flick’s best scene Sue and French duke it out with one another. The fight stands toe-to-toe with the skirmish between Rowdy Roddy Piper and Keith David in “They Live” both in brutality and duration. This isn’t subtle stuff – the two begin scrapping in front of a dumpster after French concludes that Sue’s been lying to him – the dumpster has the word “Gaslighter” graffitied on it.

As for the bad, Carr doesn’t have nearly the presence Todd did in the big bad role. Go figure, a dude who made his bones as a dancer on “Soul Train” doesn’t have the gravitas of Candyman. The concluding shootout is also sort of a joke. Everyone’s in Tommy’s club, which reads like it’s 20 feet by 20 feet, and yet the gunfight goes on forever. Stuntman-turned-director Jesse V. Johnson employs the same coupla shots of Molly X’s henchwoman, Felix (first-time actress Charity Collins), firing machine pistols and loading then unloading a grenade launcher all the while annoyingly/hilariously exclaiming variations on a similar line, e.g. “Take this, bitch!,” “Take this, mf’er!” Budget and good sense be damned!

“Debt Collectors,” also known abroad as “The Debt Collector 2,” “Payback” and my personal favorite the Japanese variant, “2 Bad Buddies” (this is commonplace for low-budget genre fare such as this), is the sixth collaboration between Johnson and Adkins. It’s a lesser work for them. I greatly preferred “The Debt Collector,” “Savage Dog,” “Triple Threat” and “Avengement” (these are all available for streaming on Netflix). Their only joint effort I enjoyed less was “Accident Man.” Rumor has it “Debt Collectors” will be available on Netflix in three months … I don’t think audiences would be delinquent in waiting until then.

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