French (Scott Adkins) is struggling to keep his traditional martial arts dojo open. He has got very little money coming in and another, more profitable martial arts operator, Roger (David William Ho), is trying to buy him out. French is also behind on his rent and needs to make money fast. He asks a friend, Alex (Michael Paré), to get him some work. Alex tries to dissuade him from that path. French says he is alright with it.
Alex sends him to Tommy, a local collector. Tommy takes him on, pairing him with a long-time collector, Sue (Louis Mandylor). They do a few collections together and French proves to be an excellent asset. Tommy calls them in for a special job.
They all go and see Barbosa (Tony Todd), a mobster who lives a faux Hugh Hefner/Scarface life. He wants Tommy’s men to find and punish a man called Connor Mulligan (Jack Lowe). He tells Tommy that Connor stole money from him when working for him in at one of his clubs.
Tommy asks how badly does he want him beaten. Full treatment, a good beatdown. Barbosa also has a fiancee, Amanda (Rachel Brann) who has a thing for Connor, though she acts as if she could not care less.
Sue and French begin to do the rounds. They go and see various people who know Connor. All of them say the same thing; Connor is a really good guy and Barbosa is setting him up. One of the tips tells them to follow Amanda. She leads them to Connor. They are about to put a beating on him but are interrupted by his young daughter, Laine (Josie M Parker).
Connor explains that he fell in love with one of the girls who worked for Barbosa, the mother of Laine. Barbosa did not like it and took it out on the woman, beating her whilst she was pregnant. She died and Laine was born prematurely.
Conscience gets the better of French and he persuades Sue not to beat up Connor. They meet Amanda on the way out of the building and she tells them that Barbosa is setting them up and has sent men to kill Connor.
French and Sue go back up to Connor’s apartment and save Connor. They take a couple of guns from Barbosa’s henchmen and a gunfight ensues. Sue gets killed during the gunfight. French also takes some shots but escapes the apartment. Tommy comes into the apartment. He tells Barbosa he knows he set them up and kills him.
French staggers bleeding to the car and tries to drive away. Connor and Laine, having got away, have dinner in another city. Laine asks if the cows have a good life before they become steaks. Connor tells her they do. The end.
The Debt Collectors is an okay actioner starring Scott Adkins. Adkins is not a very good actor. He is a great martial artist, which his sixty-plus film credits more than demonstrates. He is just not an actor. Not that that really matters. The action in The Debt Collector and pairing him with Mandylor ably hides his deficiencies.
Written by Jesse V Johnson and Stu Small, with Johnson also directing, there is a strange artistic choice of interspersing the film with scenes of cow rearing and farming and, towards the end, slaughter. It is supposed to, I suspect, mirror the story. Unfortunately, the film and story is simply too weak to accommodate oblique references.
The main story of the collectors being double-crossed by Barbosa, whilst good enough for the film, is not introduced until fifty minutes into the film. The film is only ninety-five minutes long. Before that story is introduced, the film is just a collection of fight scenes, the initial story, of French trying to raise money for his dojo and rent, forgotten.
The script is perfunctory rather than good or bad, moving the story from one fight scene to the next. There is a little character development, but not much. It really is not that kind of film. This is the kind of film where you just tell the actors ‘you’re a bad guy’ or ‘you’re a good guy’ and they work out the details on the fly.
For a director with fifty credits to his name, Johnson made some odd creative decisions. Besides the excessive cow love, he also put in an unnerving amount of fade to black scenes, which really did not go with the story or the character.
Fade to blacks are usually employed either at the end of a film or after a particularly emotional scene. I’ll give you one guess as to which of those two options was not employed in this film.
As much as I have pointed out the many flaws in The Debt Collector, it is a watchable and enjoyable film. If you are expecting high concept or story, you will be sorely disappointed. If you approach it with the intention of watching a film where a lot of people take an ass-whooping, you will probably enjoy it.
Though it is obviously no John Wick, The Debt Collector is an enjoyably silly romp for ninety-five, brainless, minutes.
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