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  Legacy of Lies Rumpus With The Russians
Year: 2020
Director: Adrian Bol
Stars: Scott Adkins, Yuliia Sobol, Honor Kneafsey, Anna Butkevich, Andrea Vasiliou, Martin McDougall, Tetiana Nosenko, Matt Mitler, Sami Karim, Leon Sua, Marco Robinson, Tom Ashley, Victor Sole, Samantha Bruce, Oleg Karpenko, Sergey Kala
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Martin Baxter (Scott Adkins) made a fatal mistake twelve years ago, not fatal for himself but for his wife, who was caught in the crossfire when he was on one of his spy missions for the British Government. This tragedy has overshadowed his life ever since as he is trapped in the knowledge that he was unable to save the woman he loved, but he does have a daughter, Lisa (Honor Kneafsey) who he is duty bound to look after, even if it means she learns the hard way and does not go to school as she would prefer. Baxter makes a living not as a spy anymore, but as a mixed martial arts fighter, entering the ring in borderline illegal combat his daughter makes bets on to generate some income - it says it all that she has started to bet against him.

Scott Adkins, probably the highest profile straight to video (or streaming) action star of the early twenty-first century, may not have been the biggest celebrity in the West, where his work met that smaller screen fate in the main, but in the East he was a bona fide superstar which ensured his movies were released in theatres. In Russia, he was a major draw, which makes it curious he would choose to take the lead in an item that was openly critical of the Russian authorities, being a Ukrainian effort which fairly blatantly took their neighbours to task for meddling in international affairs. In this instance it was the poisoning of their political critics that writer and director Adrian Bol was concerned with (though he was actually Dutch, rather than Ukrainian).

Certainly Adkins had loads of fans in Ukraine as well, so appeared to be contributing to this espionage thriller as a tribute to that beleaguered state with that motive, yet it did leave the impression of Sylvester Stallone sticking up for Afghanistan in Rambo III, not because of the politics particularly or specifically, but more because it came across like a Westerner meddling in the big news stories of foreign countries. Would Adkins have made a movie where he stuck up for Tibet and sided with them against the Chinese government, for example? It seemed doubtful, which was why Legacy of Lies was a strange project for him to agree to - and there was British money in it as well as Ukrainian, Britain having been the unwelcome recipient of Russia's poison-happy spies in times recent to this being released. Indeed, when it was out in the United Kingdom there had been another high-profile Russian poisoning in Germany, aiding its topicality.

If you could set that to one side, which the film did not especially want you to do, we were offered Adkins getting in touch with his softer side by sharing the screen with a little girl, rising child star Kneafsey, who despite sporting a Shirley Temple hairdo of ringlets, oddly, was less Curly Sue and more Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon. She was kidnapped early on by Russian agents, and to get her back unharmed Baxter must snare a Ukrainian journalist (Yuliia Sobol) and some top secret files to do with a nerve agent (do you see?!), all the while fretting that he is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Adkins fans may appreciate the glossy sheen Bol offered, not always a given in this leading man's vehicles, and it assuredly gave him something different to perform outside of his comfort zone, but with really only two hand to hand combat action sequences, those same fans may feel shortchanged when their hero was more likely to reach for an automatic weapon than use his fists and feet. If you were not so familiar with Adkins' oeuvre, you would find this perfectly tolerable, it wasn't bad by any means even if the message was less than subtle, but while it was good to see him stretch his abilities, you may have misgivings about his choice of material. We didn't want Scott poisoned next. Music by Arkadiusz Reikowski.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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