New To DVD: Legacy of Lies (2020)-Reviewed

(Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment)
Full disclosure: outside of Kristen Stewart, Scott Adkins is my favorite working actor. The modern king of DTV action flicks, Adkins has all the makings of a superstar. He’s handsome, charismatic as hell, built like a tank and as a legit martial artist, can kick some serious ass. In the 80s, Adkins would’ve been one of the biggest stars in the world but in an age of IP and Superhero glut, he’s forced to star in a half dozen beat-em-ups a year that go directly to RedBox and streaming services. Which is fine by me because I live my life by one rule: the more Adkins, the better. 

As much as I love the him though, Adkins is rarely allowed to stretch himself. Aside from last year’s excellent and brutal Avengement where he got to show off his wild charisma amidst all the action, he’s mostly confined to being the guy running around with a gun, shooting and punching his way to the finish line. Don’t get me wrong, I love him for that but I’m always eager to see him get to do more. Perhaps as a wildcard candidate to play James Bond. 

(Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment)

Thank god then that Dutch filmmaker Adrian Bol heard my prayers and answered with spy thriller Legacy of Lies. Adkins plays Martin Baxter, an ex-MI6 agent who’s gone into partial hiding after a botched mission leaves his wife dead. We meet Martin 12 years later, living with his daughter Lisa (Honor Kneafsey), working as a bouncer and fighting through the ghosts of his trauma as a bare-knuckle boxer. One night, an investigative journalist and daughter of a dead former associate, Sacha (Yuliia Sobol), comes to Martin for help. She’s seeking mysterious Russian files that not only clear Martin’s name as a disgraced former spy but also reveal explosive secrets about Russia’s tyranny over the Ukraine. And so, our hero is pulled in for one last job. So it goes. 

While the film gets zero points for originality, one has to admire Bol’s blatant political commentary within a fairly standard spy thriller. Most of our zigzagging plot is more than familiar, you know when and where the double-crosses are coming. It’s the added texture of real world stakes that sets this slightly above the many films like it. Bol’s script often forgoes the punches and kicks and in their place, he inserts scathing criticism about Putin’s fascistic regime and how it’s affected Ukraine. Is it a little unsubtle? Of course. But as fascistic sentiment continues to creep its way across the world, the pushback can and should be found anywhere. This one just happens to be wrapped in a Scott Adkins actioner. 

(Image Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment)

Don’t think this is without action though. While this may be a standard spy flick with a political bent, Bol realizes that you can’t waste Adkins’ considerable talents. Adkins, who also helped choreograph the set pieces, kicks a ton of ass as he gets to the truth. The action here is exactly what you’ve come to expect if you’re an Adkins die hard. Brutal, violent and unflinching, the film hits hard enough to justify the price of admission. There isn’t anything inherently new or inventive here but Adkins is just so goddamn good at what he does that even the most basic of gunfights and fisticuffs are exciting. 

What is new is Adkins’ performance. Martin Baxter is up there as one the best performances he’s given. As with the script, Martin isn’t a new or unique character but his circumstances allow the star to flex some muscles we haven’t seen yet. Working in tandem with Bol’s stylish direction, Adkins gets to explore trauma and PTSD through hallucinatory nightmares. Adkins has charm for days and has often deployed it to make up for a lack character. Here, he’s asked to do a bit more and he’s stellar. There are some genuinely frightening moments of grief and guilt. It’s in those moments where Adkins is downright brilliant. The pain that washes over his face is heartbreaking and whereas in other Adkins-led films you’re rooting for him to beat the holy hell out of some dudes, here you’re rooting for him just to get through it. It’s a genuine change of pace and something I hope we see more of. 

Legacy of Lies isn’t breaking any new ground nor is it one Adkins’s best DTV flicks. That said, from a debuting filmmaker with a ton of promise to some strong political commentary to a very strong Scott Adkins performance, there’s a ton to recommend here. If you’re an Adkins loyalist, it’s essential. As our guy continues to reign supreme over the DVD action market, it’s fun watching him age into new roles. I’ve long accepted that the man born to play James Bond will never get the chance so playing a discount version will have to suffice. Let’s hope that he gets to stretch even more going forward, while still giving us the fists, gunfights and one-liners we love him for. 

-Brandon Streussnig