Back in 2007, fans of rising action star Scott Adkins were given reason to celebrate. After years of hard work in the DTV action scene, he would be appearing in the sure-to-be blockbuster film, The Bourne Ultimatum. Our boy had finally MADE IT. That feeling of elation was replaced by disappointment when Adkins is easily dispatched by Matt Damon after less than five minutes of screen-time. Since then, many of us have wondered how great it would have been to see Adkins star in his own globe-trotting spy thriller. It would be 13 years before this wish came true in the form of Legacy of Lies; but now that it has, was it worth the wait?
Legacy of Lies is a very timely spy thriller from award winning writer/director Adrian Bol. Bol’s story makes heavy use of current events (namely, an alleged nerve-agent attack by the Russian government on British soil) as the inciting incident in this surprisingly polished espionage yarn. From there, he weaves a narrative about the nature of truth in a world of lies.
Scott Adkins plays a former MI6 agent named Martin Baxter. After losing his wife during a botched job, he left the service to care for their daughter Lisa (Honor Kneafsey). Their relationship is strained, as Martin tries to scrape by as an underground MMA fighter while never having a place that Lisa can call home. She’s whip smart and surprisingly gifted in “fight science”, something that causes friction when she knows her father is hopelessly outmatched in a fight. Their less than happy life is shattered when Martin is dragged back into the world of espionage to retrieve a secret case in Ukraine.
After two decades of seeing Adkins bust heads in low budget actioners, Legacy of Lies is downright shocking in how grand it feels. The production design is lush and varied. The cinematography makes the film feel bigger than it actually is with crane shots and gorgeous use of lighting in the elaborate sets. Even the best of Adkins’ star vehicles (Undisputed 3, Avengement, Ninja 2) looked like they were in constant danger of collapsing under the weight of their anemic budgets, so seeing him star in such a polished film is almost jarring. But what does this film have to offer longtime Adkins fans looking for the kind of next level action he brought to his more modest productions?
It’s important to go into this film with the knowledge that it’s a spy thriller and not an action flick. The film’s action sequences are very well executed, but are there to serve the narrative and not the main focus. There are only two extended hand-to-hand fight scenes in the film; both are extremely high quality, but fans hoping for a fight fest may be disappointed. Adkins’ go-to choreographer, Tim Man (Ninja 2, Accident Man, Triple Threat), was brought on at his request to give the fights the power they needed and the results can best be described as “Jason Bourne played by Scott Adkins”. They’re grounded and brutal, with minimal flash and solid camera-work (no shakycam).
If it feels like this review is very “Adkins-heavy”, it’s because he overpowers the rest of the film, sometimes to the detriment of its desired message. The film also features a Ukrainian journalist named Tatyana (Anna Butkevich), who teams up with Martin to uncover the truth behind his mission as well as serving as the barer of the film’s message. But rather than being a “two-hander”, the film never stops being Adkins’ show, causing Tatyana (and the film’s message) to fall into the background. It’s a testament to Adkins’ star power that he carries so much of this movie, making it strange to wish he’d have occasionally stepped back when Tatyana’s role needed to take center stage.
At the end of the day, Legacy of Lies is a very exciting moment for Adkins and his fans. It marks a point where he gets to shine on a larger canvas than he ever has before. While it may lack the raw intensity of films like Avengement and Ninja 2: Shadow Of A Tear, it makes up for it by letting Adkins take the lead in a higher tier of production.
Image and Sound: Legacy of Lies is a vibrant film with strong colors and strong contrast, all of which is fully intact in the DVD release. Even when viewed on a 50 inch 4k television, the film looks great with only a few instances where the sub-HD image shows its age.
Audio is equally competent, with the film’s sound design coming through loud and clear.
Trailer Gallery: Remember Bruce Willis, the star of Die Hard With A Vengeance (the highest grossing film of 1995)? How about Oscar winner Mel Gibson? Want to feel slightly depressed? Both of them are slumming it in DTV action built on their fading star power; Willis has two trailers on this disc! The less said about these trailers the better. Besides, you don’t buy a disc for trailers…
Making Of Legacy of Lies: …You buy it for features like this. It’s become commonplace for DVD special features to be phoned-in fluff pieces that don’t provide much more than unenthusiastic interviews with the stars and occasional bts footage of people working… Not so here.
The Making of Legacy of Lies is a surprisingly robust BTS documentary that almost looks as good as the film itself. Though he barely gets any interview time, Adkins looms large over this making of with great shots of him hard at work. You really get a sense of just how much he brings to a production outside of just star power and athleticism.
The majority of the interview time goes to the artists and technicians who made the movie look and sound as good as it does. From the production designer to the director of photography to the writer/director himself, we’re given a treasure trove of information about their craft and what went into making this film; which turns out to be an international collaboration between Britain, Sweden and Ukraine.
By the end, you get a real sense that this movie is a big deal for the Ukrainian film industry. Filmed almost entirely in Kiev, this is their chance to prove that Hollywood level films can be made in their country and every person on set are clearly bringing their A-game.