Movie Review: A “Limey” learns the rough trade as “The Debt Collector”


British martial arts star Scott Adkins ventures into “Get Shorty” territory with “The Debt Collector,” a brute brawler of a B-movie, but a bloody-minded bore.

He plays “Frenchy,” owner of a “traditional” martial arts dojo that has him deep in hock. So he begs his partner (Michael Paré) to hook him up with a side hustle the partner squeezes in — debt collecting for hire.

Tommy (Vladimir Kulich) is the boss, not a “shylock” but a guy the underworld lenders contract to get their debts collected. Tommy pairs Frenchy up with Sue (Louis Mandylor  of the “Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies), a gruff alcoholic with a vintage Caddy and a grim attitude about the work.

He’s got a lot of rules for the “newbie” that first day. Remember to “think of these Johns as slabs of meat,” he counsels. “A little head butt” gets you in the door quicker than anything else.

He tosses “Frenchy” the keys with a “We drive on the right side of the road here,” and “watch my whitewalls,” and they’re off.

Every delinquent borrower has a gun, or enormous bodyguards. Sue and Frenchy punch their way through the seedy side of suburban LA, delivering bloody warnings, collecting cash and meting out “punishment” according to the numerical “level” Tommy has assigned each case — a slap around here, a kneecapping there.

It’s amoral work which has driven Sue to drink, but Frenchy supposedly still has some moral compass.

“Moral compass in this job is like a pinless hand grenade,” Sue growls. No, that makes no sense.

The banter is offhanded at times, groaning “So what’s YOUR story?” personal history at others. One power broker explains is unwillingness to repay his loan with “I’m parsimonious.”

He hears an English accent, he figures the guy’s educated. No, he’s ex-military, comfortable with making his living with violence. Sue? He used to do stunts and fights in movies and he’s constantly cracking “You know how things are in B-movies.”

We’re learning.

Adkins was in “Doctor Strange” and “The Expendables 2,” played bad guys or fighters in a Bourne picture here, an X-Men there. Mostly, he’s been adrift in a sea of Bs like this. Still, he’s got to know a thing or two about how important fight choreography is to a two-fisted action film.

Here, we see the choreography. We can count the swings and misses that lead to this pre-arranged takedown, that punch through a cardboard wall. That’s a no-no.

A strip club that looks like a rented storage unit with decorations from the local dollar store and strippers who look more like the real thing than the models who want to be actresses who adorn such scenes in pricier genre pictures also give away the game.

But stuntman turned director Jesse V. Johnson has notions he’s making art here. He intersperses random shots of cattle being raised, then shipped to the slaughterhouse.

“Slabs of meat” one and all.

The women in “Debt Collector” are here to be slapped around or treacherously drive the action as the duo makes its way to one subject whom a particularly villainous client (played by Candy Man Tony Todd) has marked for death.

It’s slow-moving and generally unpleasant, unless you want to see the bare bones of fight choreography exposed on screen, “one two three DUCK, one two KICK,” something much more commonplace in the action cinema’s past.

Adkins as a movie star? He’s interesting enough, but generic save for the accent. Mandylor has more presence and makes more out of a chewy supporting role.

Because like every movie martial arts star before him, Adkins is a bit too happy to dial back the hard work of fistfight scenes by picking up a gun. Usually, that’s a sign you’re Chuck Norris/Jean Claude Van Damme  — over-the-hill.



MPAA Rating: unrated, with explicit violence, sex, profanity

Cast: Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Michael Paré, Vladimir Kulich, Tony Todd

Credits:Directed by Jesse V. Johnson, script by Stu Small and Jesse V. Johnson. An Archstone release.

Running time: 1:35


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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2 Responses to Movie Review: A “Limey” learns the rough trade as “The Debt Collector”

  1. Tony C. says:

    Quote: “Moral compass in this job is like a pinless hand grenade,” Sue growls. No, that makes no sense.

    It may be complex, so please attempt focus, clearly a problem for this reviewer:

    A pin-less hand-grenade is “dangerous” – !
    A moral compass is “dangerous” for a Debt Collector – !

    Possibly one of the simpler metaphors ever used – the fact that this is beyond this reviewer, throws the entire rest of his review into the realm of poorly-written, badly-researched and inadequately-covered yellow-press.

    Every single paragraph has a miss represented description or an outright-mistake.

    The reviewer above either did not watch the film or has a hidden agenda – or perhaps he was mentally incapacitated in some way during the screening, any of which denotes him a hack or the lowest form of cretinous charlatan.

    Type “Debt Collector (2018) review” in google-search and read any of the 50 or so reviews that show up, many of them will be placed on action or martial arts film specialist sites. Reading those reviews will result in a better idea of the fight quality on display in The Debt Collector.

    Sadly the rather effete looking reviewer, the tragically named, Roger Moore, is not an action-movie purveyor of any sort of quality, in fact I wouldn’t take his recommendation on a pair of tennis sneakers.

    Loved The Debt Collector – his review stank.

    • Always happy to hear from an investor. Wait, Scott, is that you? Nah, that reads like a “screenwriter” complaint. Stu? Jesse? Anyhoo, thanks for reinforcing my point about “pinless hand grenade.” The grenade doesn’t “land” unless you throw it, the “joke” doesn’t land without “dangerous,” the punchline. Two legitimate reviews are out there. Both pans, no matter how Rotten Tomatoes scored the LA Times shrug (Noel Murray? Intern? Somebody’s relative?).
      Not sure what “fifty” reviews you’re referring to, but that’s a bit like your fake ID, “Tony C.” — a lie told by an idiot who thinks no one will catch on.
      Long winded ad hominem attacks without evidence are my favorite. What’s your “agenda,” “Tony C?”
      Nobody’s going to see the movie you have skin in. No one. It’s a dismissable, inert genre filler. And I know the difference between good genre filler and the dismissible kind.
      And yeah, I love it when some North Hollywood Nancy calls me “effete.” Back to rebuilding the Yanmar diesel on my cruising yacht. Which I bought with Movie Reviewing Money. Later, “Tony C.”

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