Avengement is an objectively dumb title. Yes, it’s a correct description of what occurs in the film (dude gets mad vengeance), but it’s not a word anyone really uses, and it’s bound to make this flick dissolve at least somewhat into the background with other generically-titled punch-em-ups. That’s a huge shame. Avengement is a movie that deserves some over-the-top eye-catcher of a title like Metal Mouth Massacre or The Bloody Nutter.
Those are also really bad titles, sorry. The point is this movie is crazy good.
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Release Date: May 24, 2019 (Limited)
A steel-toothed prison inmate is released from the meanest maximum-security holdup under the Queen’s flag, shackled and chained with a six-man security detail for just five hours. The guards stop for lattes, and while doing so the terminally ill mother this inmate was out to visit dies. This is the final straw for the scarred and bruised brute, and so he punches his way free of the guards and escapes into London where he arrives at a gang-controlled pub prepared to bust heads and snap limbs in the name of bloody, tireless vengeance.
The bulk of Avengement plays out through flashbacks as Cain Burgess (Scott Adkins) refreshes the gang’s memory on who he was seven years prior to his incarceration and just how he’s changed into a hardened killer while holding them at the business end of a sawed-off shotgun.
A clear 70’s vibe permeates Avengement through its red opening credits and its surprisingly elegant theme--along with its flood of blood and ridiculous masculinity. This is a brawny, ultra-violent, muscle-bound revenge throwback that you’ve seen and heard before: A good kid wronged by his underworld kingpin brother turns to murder against his will and only wants to spill the blood of those who have so wronged him. Avengement isn’t a new story. What it is, however, is the best possible version of the tried-and-true tale it tells. This is a nonstop endurance run of bone crunching, blood letting beatdowns and brawls. Each one is furious, well choreographed, and punctuated with hits and snaps that rattle your guts. Blood squirts across walls, floors, splashes the camera. Knives, shivs, pipes, wooden planks, and even dinner trays are used with speed and ferocity in fast, mostly all-against-one fights. There are multiple curb stomps, a splash of homemade napalm, and an exploding head to keep you on your toes as Avengement veers from one action setpiece to another.
The ratio of action-to-exposition here is so very nice with maybe twenty minutes of talk pressed against a solid hour of sweaty British dudes grunting like beasts and knocking each other senseless while destroying every stick of furniture in the room.
Avengement pretty well leaps over the issues that bogged down Johnson’s most recent effort, Triple Threat. Where Triple Threat was weakened by a pretty well nonsense plot and sloppy, boring sequences of gun fighting, Avengement sculpts its plot around a debt racket that’s unique and well-explained and ties into Cain’s motivations with a satisfying finish. There are no extraneous characters that appear and disappear at random, and backstories run deeper than the simple “people I love are dead” line which was a catchall to explain each of the heroes in Triple Threat.
Most thankfully, gunplay is stripped to a minimum here. Yeah, it might be weird that behind the bar at a criminal pub is a tarp of knives, bats, and sundry weapons for stabbing and bludgeoning with nary a gun--but also thank god. The fast dance of dodges, throws, and body blows of close combat is always more intimate and grueling than simple shootouts, and I’m more than happy to suspend my disbelief if it means a few less guns in the room.
Avengement is the kind of action movie that feels like a good drug. It pumps you right the hell up, and by the time the credits roll you’re ready to knock the shit out of your mortal enemies. It’s a brutal barrage that leaves you sucked into its bloody fantasy, and when it’s over all you want to do is climb back in and get your fists filthy one more time.