This ticks so many ISCFC boxes, it’s not even funny.
- Same name as our last review (I love reviewing multiple movies with the same name – check out “Scary Movie”, “Scary Movie” and “Scary Movie”)
- Badass revenge-martial arts movie
- Stars Scott Adkins (star of “Ninja” and “Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning”)
- Wrestling related (produced by WWE Studios and co-starring former WWE star Wade Barrett)
First things first, if you’ve found this site, chances are you’ve seen a dozen films with a roughly similar plot so I’ll recap the main beats, because you might be one of those weirdoes who wants originality from his B-movies. A father is bringing up his daughter on his own, but an accident brings him back into the orbit of a crime boss, and the US Government organisation that the father used to work for. The crime boss sends an assassin after the father, and he’s got to fight that guy as well as rescue his daughter.
This rather casual dismissal of “Eliminators” is not to criticise it, at all. Simple plots are regularly used because they work, and it’s like writing a romance novel, or making a painting in the style of an old master. It’s not so much the building blocks you use, but how you use them that’s important, and such is definitely the case here. You want your fights, preferably in an unusual location (and there are some doozies), you want your stern humourless “I just want my daughter back” guy with a good past, you want the character archetypes…no love interest in this one, though there’s a woman who you think would be a good fit, but it’s like the movie just ran out of time and decided to not bother.
Adkins is Thomas, a guy who seems to just be going through the motions, after losing his wife. He’s a security guard in a largely empty underground car park, and seems to have nothing much in his life apart from that and his daughter. The first five minutes are quite bleak, in a way, showing a day in the life that could be any of a thousand days in the life. But this dull equilibrium is shattered when three balaclava’ed guys break into his house, beat the crap out of him and demand to know where the cocaine is. Now, it turns out that they’ve got the wrong house (it’s X Street, whereas he’s on X Avenue), but he’s seen the main villain’s face so they have to kill him. Not this random homeowner! In a blur of speed, he’s disarmed one guy and killed all three, but due to the police having a bit of a brain-fart, he’s arrested and charged with murder.
It’s from this monstrously enormous coincidence that our tale is spun. His face gets on the news, and it turns out he’s…sadly, not a former Special Forces guy, which was my first guess, but a federal agent who spent a staggering 5 years undercover in Mr Cooper’s criminal organisation, to the extent of falling in love with and marrying Cooper’s daughter, plus having a kid together (the wife died in a car-bomb meant for him), before being put in super-secret witness protection overseas. Cooper is told about Thomas still being alive and sends Europe’s no.1 assassin (“Bishop”, played by Barrett) to go and sort him out. Thomas calls his old friends in the US, and they dispatch their top guy Ray (Daniel Caltagirone) to go to London and help resolve the situation. The daughter is taken to a secret location by Social Services, Thomas escapes custody, Bishop pursues him through London, and Cooper finally decides to come over and meet his old friends…
Like I said, super-familiar, but more like a favourite meal you’re enjoying for the hundredth time than something stodgy and disappointing. And I really need to stop with the analogies for this now! Let’s talk fighting. One of the things I admired most about old Mark Dacascos movie “Drive” was the inventive nature of the fight scenes – one in an small-ish hotel room was a particular highlight. It’s as if the people behind “Eliminators” are trying to one-up Dacascos and co. The Emirates Air Line, a cable-car which crosses the River Thames in London, is the site for one particularly amazing fight, as two toughs try and beat the crap out of Thomas in an incredibly enclosed space, while a nervous businessman looks on (tell you what, if I can find a screenshot, I’ll put it below, as Scared Businessman is one of my favourite extras in movie history). When you’ve got a fighter as skilled as Scott Adkins, it increases your options because you don’t need stunt doubles and can film wherever you like.
The fights between Adkins and Barrett are incredible because both guys can really go at it. Barrett (real name, Stu Bennett) is a former bare-knuckle boxing star with a face that tells of at least a few good shots landed, but that experience and years of wrestling have turned him into a very accomplished screen fighter. There’s MMA and pro wrestling moves mixed in with the standard punches and kicks and it flows really well. Okay, both guys take superhuman levels of punishment and stay standing, but that’s par for the course with revenge cinema. Adkins is really, really good, and absolutely deserves to be headlining bigger movies than this (but then, the bigger the movie, the more likely they’d have focus groups and testing and would stop doing the things that make his movies so awesome).
Which brings us to the acting. Adkins is fine in what must have been a pretty undemanding role, acting-wise; and Barrett is a completely convincing psychopathic assassin (even if some of the lines he’s given are poorly-written, he gives them his all). Caltagirone looks like a young LaPaglia brother, but sadly didn’t work for me – I wasn’t sure if he was wooden because he was about to betray Thomas, or wooden because he couldn’t act. Whether it’s just one or both is a conundrum I’ll leave you to discover by watching. Kudos to the great James Cosmo (Highlander, Braveheart) as Cooper, doing a passable American accent and giving a character he could do in his sleep a decent bit of life.
Perhaps the most curious thing about “Eliminators” is how clean London looks. The cable-car is clearly very high end, so I can buy that looking nice, but there are no grimy surfaces at all – they really filmed in London too, so I can only imagine a legion of P.A.s whose job was to scrub everywhere before filming started. It’s amazing when a city you’ve seen on screen a million times manages to look new and interesting, and this was closer to “Drive” (the Ryan Gosling one) than “Drive” (the Mark Dacascos one). Kudos to director James Nunn (who was 1st AD on “Cockneys vs. Zombies”, a great movie) and cinematographer Luke Bryant. And everyone else. I’m not a good enough reviewer to know who really did the clever work on this movie, I just know it looks great.
But I’ll give you a bit of comedic mockery to close up with, or you’ll think I’ve gone soft. Near the beginning, Thomas’ daughter is taken to a social services office. My ex worked in social services, and I know very well how continually underfunded they are, crowded offices, stressed staff, and so on. This social services office is clearly a high-end investment bank that let them film for the day, as it’s beautiful and glass and all the offices are enormous (in central London! The rent must be astronomical!) and spotlessly clean and all the corridors are empty. And their computer system is amazing, and the computers themselves are brand new! I’ll take someone getting shot and recovering inside an hour, but this?
I think this is probably the best movie yet produced by WWE Studios (a close run thing with “The Marine”, which had a much higher budget than this), and if you’re at all a fan of action cinema, it’s pretty much essential viewing.
Rating: thumbs up