EDIT – Scott has read this! Absolutely buzzing that he took the time to read it and reply on Twitter. He disagrees on #17, but that’s cool. Check out the tweet at the the bottom!
With over 60 acting credits on IMDB, Scott Adkins has been in everything from Doctors to Doctor Strange. But how many people know who he is? This ranked article is a discovery piece for me, and hopefully it will be for you too.
This all started with me ‘riding a wave’, something you’ll be familiar with if you’ve seen my Words to Live By piece. Well the original wave of watching films starring Scott Adkins lasted several weeks. In that initial burst I watched ten films. Now I’m at twenty!
I’ve gone all in on Scott Adkins. But that’s OK, because he’s my buddy.
I’m focusing on his films here, but Scott has other irons in his fire. Check out his Art of Action series, where he interviews a host of actors, stuntmen, directors, and choreographers. Some great insight to be found there. It’s taught me a lot and given me a new level of appreciation for what these people put themselves through for our entertainment.
So disagree all you like. Just know that he’s my buddy, and he’s harder than you. I’m banking on this relationship to get away with some of the things I have to say as I rank the films. Let’s go!
We have to start with the worst and Incoming is it, mainly because it makes absolutely no use of Scott. Acting wise if gives him little to do bar snarl, and I don’t think he even throws a kick!
Most of Scott’s films don’t have big budgets, but this one in particular looks like the budget was about £2.50. Incoming tries to be serious, but can’t pull it off. Hopefully Scott paid some bills at least. And if you’re reading this Scott, I’d love to talk to you about it.
Another of the lower lower budget entries in his filmography, Close Range does manage to get a decent ‘oner’ in at the start, before settling into one location for the rest of the story. To be fair Close Range does have a couple of decent fights, and that’s likely enough for a lot of people. But when compared against the other films here it doesn’t hold up so well.
I was excited to Adkins and Lundgren together, making the assumption that they’d have a big fight at some point.
That doesn’t come to pass, as Legendary is actually a monster movie.
Scott isn’t a fighter here, but he’s brave and believes in what he’s doing. The cast is willing if a bit stilted, but Lundgren does makes for a decent antagonist.
Very much a case of style over substance, El Gringo does get in a decent firefight and a couple of alright fights. It does a good job of looking like it was actually filmed in Mexico too (it wasn’t). Christian Slater pops up, and it passes along decently enough. Will somebody just give the guy some water already! Could have saved a lot of trouble.
A WWE film! Now I don’t know recent wrestlers, but Wade Barrett turns out to be a reasonable adversary for Scott’s former U.S Federal Agent. They have two big fights, and though my Art of Action watching has made me very aware of the use of jackets and crash mats, I enjoyed them. Eliminators doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as a title, but the film moves along briskly and looks decent.
The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud
Everyone is having fun, which makes up for some of their shortfalls. Scott is loving it, which is infectious. I wish they’d binned off the whole Jumanji aspect and just stuck with Max Cloud being a complete ass; it’s much better when it’s letting him get on with things. Some big names in this one.
There’s a lot to like, but if you think too hard it falls apart. So the plan is…don’t think! Just enjoy!
Ninja contains a younger, fresh-faced Atkins. He’s sterner, and whilst he is ‘the good guy’, he isn’t mucking about.
Some decent fights, but I don’t think there was enough agility of stealth for my liking. All four TMNT weapons though!
It’s a decent excuse to get Scott into a cool Ninja outfit. Not sure why they bothered inserting an evil organisation into the story though.
Legacy of Lies
Awful poster aside, Legacy looks like a pretty typical Euro-Thriller from the trailer. Annndd you’d be right. There’s one pretty decent fist fight, and Adkins delivers with his usual gusto. Some layers are awkwardly added to the antagonist, but Honor Kneafsey steals the show here. The plot makes sense almost to the point of being dull, but I do enjoy a good McGuffin.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
OK. I messed up here. Having now watched all four ‘not for TV’ outings of the Universal Soldier, I was harsh on DoR. The story didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but it turns out none of the sequels are like the original. So with my expectations recalibrated DoR gets a bump.
The fights are savage, and SA gets to show off a bit. It’s bloody and messy and there’s a mixture of guns and kicking. Is it weird? Yes. Could it have been a standalone SA film? Yes. But the action is decent and that’s what we’re mainly here for.
Looking back on this one I like it more. SA goes outside of his usual range for a large part of the film. With a strong stammer, he’s thoroughly disorientated for a while, which tests him as an actor, but really works. The story is shaky but I really liked what it was trying to do. The other films Scott released in 2019 were both stronger, but I can appreciate this one.
Hard Target 2
An extremely belated sequel, Hard Target 2 carries on with the idea of people being hunted for sport. I loved seeing Scott share the screen with Tamerua Morrison!
You can see it matching the original John Woo film in style; no bad thing.
The story and pacing is loose as hell, but there are some snappy lines, and some particularly tasty kicks.
My first! Turns out it’s a special one for Scott too, as he produced and wrote it. I was slightly put off by how straight Scott’s character is but he’s balanced out by his bonkers former team.
Michael Jai White and Ray Park are good value.
Stevenson adds weight to proceedings, whilst I couldn’t help but shout “It’s fucking Nick Moran!” at the screen.
Lots of fighting, but not much actual Accident Manning? Maybe a sequel could fix that. I’d watch it.
The Debt Collector
A bit awkward, but watching it I felt like this was the start of a beautiful relationship.
There are a good number of fights, a bit more brawly than a lot of Scott’s. But I like them. The whole ‘first day on the job’ story is a great way to introduce us to this world too.
Frenchie’s increasing credulity is rather amusing. But does Sue care? Maybe he does.
Adkins and Mandylor make a fine pair.
Boyka is nearing superhero status at this point. Now, his murky history means that it’s quite likely he has used guns and has seen his way through a fair few situations. But it possibly strains things a bit.
I don’t think 4 quite hits the heights of 3. Dolor was a very charismatic villain, and no one quite matches it here. Boyka’s growth is impressive, and Adkins continues to thrive in the role. Just be weary of softening Boyka too much.
What a cast. Tony, Tiger, Iko, White, and Adkins.
One of several films starring Adkins that is directed by Johnson, which really shows off different fighting styles.
They’re surrounded by quality, with seemingly a higher budget. I think they both step up.
This is a very solid film, with Adkins’ taking on the villain role for once. But unlike Boyka, this one has no redemption, and it feels like he enjoyed it.
Ninja 2: Shadow of a Tear
Takes everything the first film did well, and does it better! Casey is far darker this time, no longer the goody two-shoes of the first film.
There’s a crazy level of bang for your buck here. Just when you think it’s finished, it goes and tops itself!
Kane Kosugi, who is also in SA’s Art of Action series (and a Sentai Ranger!) pairs nicely with Scott too.
Based solely on his performance, this is probably Adkins’ best. He’s far less himself here, ugly and brutal. And it works!
A trip through the prison system and ‘rehabilitation’, with a healthy dose of ‘Avengement’!!!!!
Blooming Nick Moran only goes and turns up again too!
Very gritty, very violent, and a top outing for Adkins.
Undisputed II: Last Man Standing
There was some debate as to whether this should go on the list, as Adkins isn’t in a lot of it.
But two things convinced me. Firstly, I wouldn’t have watched it were it not for Adkins.
Secondly, and most importantly, the film would not be what it is – a successful start of a franchise – without Boyka. This would be the start of something special. Great fights; Scott is crazy agile. It’s quite bonkers.
One of the best thing this film does is completely acknowledge it’s setup, which is ridiculous. The Bromance between Adkins and Mandylor is given more time to grow, despite the drag out brawl they have. What a well staged fight too, reminiscent of Piper and David in They Live in the best way.
Builds on the first one in all the right ways, I’d watch more of these two for sure.
Undisputed III: Redemption
Oh yes. This is the stuff! Great fights, some great banter, and proof that Boyka is indeed “the most complete fighter in the world”.
“If I’m champion of the toilets…what does it make you, when I kick the fucking shit out of you?”
This is what I’d call ‘Prime Boyka’. Having watched a huge amount of Adkins across films and YouTube, I’m aware that his ‘Boyka muscle’ isn’t natural for him, and puts a lot of strain on keeping the the speed and agility up. But you wouldn’t know watching this. You can tell he loves the character. Even if you don’t want to watch the film, you need to watch the fights. The choreography and camera work know how to show off Adkins and boy do they. Then there’s how well the acrobatics and flips merge with the strikes; beautiful physicality and a compelling character.
If you’re into action films and martial arts, you really should try out this guy’s films. And do it legally too if you can. This industry needs support, and the people involved aren’t living Hollywood lives.
Finally, thanks to Scott Adkins! I’ve enjoyed watching all these films, and I’ll definitely be watching more in the future. Keep up the good work.