Scott Adkins is one of those multi-talented artists in the filmmaking industry who is known to work on upwards of five or more projects each year. Skilled as an actor, martial artist, and stuntman, Adkins enjoys staying busy year-round. His latest production is the Ukrainian film Legacy of Lies, written and directed by Adrian Bol. This espionage action-thriller allows Adkins to showcase his broad range of talents with each moment of screen time.
In this film, Adkins portrays Martin Baxter, a former MI6 operative who has been retired for more than a decade after a traumatic, regretful mistake that still weighs heavily on him many years later. He is deeply scarred, both physically and emotionally. Perhaps the only thing that keeps him motivated to get out of bed each day is the love for his 12-year-old daughter, Lisa (Honor Kneafsey). Lisa is extremely bright and intelligent, especially for her young age. And, even in retirement, Martin remains in peak physical condition as a combatant. Thus, Lisa’s brains and Martin’s brawns come in handy as they team up to make money on bets in underground MMA fights. This rather unconventional bonding activity allows the beautiful nuances and layered psychology of Martin’s character to shine through. The excellent performances of Adkins and Kneafsey in their respective roles bring this father-daughter relationship to life wonderfully. I had the chance for a brief interview with Scott Adkins concerning his experience with the film, and he mentioned that just thinking back to particular on-screen character moments between Martin and Lisa made him emotional. Adkins himself has a daughter, which certainly influenced his approach to acting as Martin Baxter.
Even as Martin’s life with Lisa is quite challenging on a daily basis by all relative standards, there is at least a sense of rhythm and consistency. No, it is not the most traditional life, but they can usually predict the way each day is going to unfold. Naturally, the complicated web of secrets, lies, and conflict that has been brooding in the shadows since Martin’s exit from his special forces career finally reveals itself. Cue Michael Corleone’s famous quote from The Godfather: Part III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” This is essentially what Martin is feeling, as he is unwillingly thrust back into the uncertain sphere of government corruption with treacherous players around every corner. Adrian Bol’s script really allows Adkins to tap into his versatility as an actor and performer. He has to constantly be on his toes from one scene to the next. The character of Martin wants a peaceful life with his daughter, but the world refuses to give that to him. Now, he will do whatever it takes to get that back. But at what cost? How far is he willing to go, and what sacrifices must he make along the way? He also finds himself responsible for the health and safety of another young woman, Sacha (Yuliia Sobol), to whom he also becomes a fatherly figure. This is not to mention certain dark secrets from his own past that threaten his integrity. There is so much volatility in each situation, and Adkins’s efforts truly deliver on the tension and suspense. That was another note that Adkins made in our interview. As he initially read the script, he very much appreciated the well-developed, carefully constructed material he would be given to work with in his performance. This had a notable effect on his decision to take the role.
And, make no mistake – Legacy of Lies gives plenty of room for Adkins to showcase his talents as a tough-as-nails action hero. This includes robust shootouts, nightclub “Gun Fu” melees similar to those found in John Wick, and brutal hand-to-hand combat which makes resourceful use of anything that happens to be sitting around (think filing cabinets, computer monitors, and other accessories). The stunt team behind the scenes deserve much credit for the end result. Fight choreographer Tim Man, who has previously collaborated with Adkins on films like Eliminators, Accident Man, Abduction, and Triple Threat, is once again at the top of his game. Paraphrasing Adkins, he says that he is almost wary signing on to any action movie without Tim Man as the choreographer. The familiarity and trust that they have with one another is a crucial component to each of their careers in action filmmaking. This partnership has created a handful of memorable moments in action cinema just within the last few years, a list that will likely continue to grow in the future. As Adkins is trained in nine forms of martial arts, many of the stunts you see with his character on screen are performed by him. Supplementing his efforts is stunt double Tiago Silva, another of Adkins’s familiar associates, working with him in the past on Eliminators, Accident Man, and Avengement. Furthermore, stunt supervisor Marek Solek and stunt coordinator Illya Yurchyshyn — in their first productions with Adkins, no less — do phenomenal jobs overseeing the complex action set pieces. Every person involved in these sequences play their parts accordingly, resulting in coherently directed action that is unfortunately hard to find in American cinema. Stateside productions could stand to learn a thing or two from joints like Legacy of Lies.
As this is Adrian Bol’s first feature film since 2008, you can spot some of the filmmaking rust that goes with the territory. He slightly overplays his hand in the script, adding one too many wrinkles to the conspiracy side of the story. We are also, of course, presented with some of the clichés that go with the spy thriller genre, although Bol does what he can to fold some extra twists into the mix, sometimes to his detriment. Additionally, he goes out of his way to close the film with a set up for a potential sequel, with a flourish that is anything but subtle. Yet, even taking these matters into consideration, Bol’s work is fairly impressive and undoubtedly respectable. It takes a great deal of confidence to come back from a 12-year feature film hiatus and jump feet first into an action film with Scott Adkins in the lead role. I would be intrigued to see Adkins team up with Adrian Bol a few more times in upcoming years, just as Adkins has found success working with director Jess V. Johnson on a variety of projects.
Available on DVD, VOD, and digital July 28th, 2020.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.