The chances of a continuation after Jesse Johnson’s 2018 film, The Debt Collector, seemed pretty slim given the ending. For Johnson and co-writer Stu Small, it was clearly more then enough to provide the framework for this year’s Debt Collectors, capitalizing off of a suggestive conclusion that paves the way for a second chapter.
Our story begins seven months after the events of the first film, and indeed, times have definitely changed for our budding duo Sue (Louis Mandylor) and French (Scott Adkins) in the months that followed their bloody conflict with gangster Barbosa, having since gone seperate ways and getting their wounds patched. Sue’s entrance in a low-level bar cues a surprise reunion for French, whose day job as a bouncer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Indeed though, French has grown more adept to the hustle and tussle of dealing beatings on a regular basis with unruly types, though it does way less favor for his employment when a bar scuffle sooner lands him fired, and once more in the hands of Sue, whose conveniently-timed arrival not only brings a reluctant job opportunity to collect per their previous occupation under Tommy (Vladmir Kulich), but also the unwanted company of two armed men Evo and Darius (Josef Cannon, Jermaine Jacox) in a black SUV.
Inarguably, it’s baggage brings troubling questions, and the answers will only come within the two days they have to collect from three vigs: Su’s vicious ex-lover Mal Reese (Marina Sirtis) and her personal heavy, Britt (Mayling Ng), a boxing gym runner (Cuete Yeska) and his prized prospect, Sugar (Aaron Toney), and a garage owner named Cyrus (Vernon Wells). With the odds stacked against them and every stop leading from one violent brawl to another, it’s only a matter of time before the mystery behind the collections is revealed, inevitably serving as the ultimate test of a friendship forged in blood, bullets, bad choices and a stacking bodycount.
Providing an almost seamless transition from the first film, Debt Collectors never loses its freshness, pacing and tone, delivered by the steady, shared screen chemistry between Mandylor and Adkins. Actresss Sirtis brings a favorable addition to the franchise as Mal Reese, along with actor Louie Ski Carr in a solid performance of vengeful gangster Molly X, and actress Charity Collins as crotch-tazing torture auteur, Felix.
The most discernible aspect about the story up to now with Su and French is the paradigm shift in ideals, underscored by the aspect of time and how it inevitably changes one’s perspective. It brilliantly underscores the overall thematic evolution of their two-film arc as non-heroes realizing the greater good through heroic bloodshed and self-sacrifice.
Adkins, fresh off of the epic martial arts fan service of fighting Donnie Yen in Ip Man 4: The Finale, delivers a much more meaty, streetwise rendition of French whose own rugged progression has granted him an increasing knack for the craft of kicking ass a lot more, opposite Mandylor’s Su, whose life-altering near death experiences now resolve him to a life of non-violence and steady sobriety.
Their differing traits reward each other well throughout the story, exuding the kind of unique bond that promises levity and deep introspection; The latter falls subject to the film’s biggest highlight – a brutal, knockdown drag-out street fight between Adkins and Mandylor that would even have John Carpenter and the late Roddy “Rowdy” Piper smiling.
Far from least in the film’s execution of how well Adkins and Mandylor gel on a Jesse Johnson vehicle is the action, served handily by fight and stunt coordinator Luke LaFontaine as he did on several of Johnson’s films in recent memory. The action takes a few turns in dynamics with Mandylor and Adkins both getting in on the fisticuffs and stunts, sharing the stage with Ng who continues to be a fan favorite since emerging in Chris Nahon’s Lady Bloodfight prior to her career breakthrough on 2017’s Wonder Woman, as well as industry stunt performers Aaron Toney and Austin Durden.
While only the second chapter in an otherwise on-going saga, Debt Collectors exhibits many of the best traits a sequel can take on. Its continual shelf life from the inaguaral gangster pic is nourished handsomely by a well-tweaked script and substance that provides the basis for an cinematic duo in Adkins and Mandylor that proves a concept like Debt Collectors worthy of its brand, and for Johnson following Triple Threat and Avengement, another hit for action fans in the U.S. to collect from Samuel Goldwyn Films on May 29.