I’m not really sure if “Avengement” is actually a word but, regardless, that’s what Cain Burgess is determined to get. AVENGEMENT!
Martial artist Scott Adkins plays Cain in this 2019 British film. When we first meet Cain, he’s in prison but that quickly changes once he manages to escape. Cain heads to a pub, one that’s owned by his brother, Lincoln (Craig Faibrass). After he’s taken everyone in the pub hostage, we learn about how Cain not only came to be a prisoner but also how he ended up with some rather prominent facial scars. It turns out that Cain likes to tell a story and, for whatever reason, the gangsters are willing to sit around and listen. Through the use of flashbacks, we see how Cain went from being an innocent martial artist to being the most feared man in prison. We see how he learned to kill and how not even getting acid thrown in his face could slow him down. Cain’s a scary dude and he’s out for revenge! Or avengement!
Of course, we also can’t help but notice that a lot of Cain’s adventures feel as if they’ve been lifted from other British crime films. The talkative gangsters bring to mind the films of Guy Ritchie. A lengthy chase scene owes more than a little to the opening on Trainspotting. Even the fight in the pub owes a bit to the finale of Shaun of the Dead. It’s all a bit familiar but then again, that’s part of the appeal of the modern British crime thriller. We watch these films specifically for the posh villains and the pub fights and the often indecipherable dialogue. The familiarity is often exactly what the viewer is looking for. (That said, I was a little bit surprised by the lack of Russian mobsters wearing track suits. That was a missed opportunity.) I think the other reason why Americans, in particular, like British gangster films is the novelty of seeing that British gangsters can be just as unnecessarily violent as American gangsters. It’s nice to be reminded that America isn’t the only country that breeds violence.
Speaking of violence, Avengement is a very violent film and it’s also often a very bloody film. When you consider how much of the film takes place in prison, it’s not surprising that there’s a lot of stabbings. (What is somewhat surprising is that there are also a lot of stabbings outside of prison, even when there are guns nearby.) I’m usually not a fan of gratuitous violence but Avengement handles it all with a certain wit. The violence is so over-the-top that it’s hard not to suspect that the filmmakers are commenting on the excessive nature of other British gangster films. There’s a lengthy montage of Cain just fighting anyone who comes near him and it goes on for so long that it actually becomes somewhat humorous. It’s hard not to feel at least a little admiration for Cain’s determination to start a fight with every single person that he sees. He certainly doesn’t give up. Scott Adkins is a gymnast, along with being a martial artist, and there’s a grace to his movements that comes through even when the film is at its most brutal. Early on, I joked that the film would only work if its ultraviolent protagonist turned out to be likable and strangely enough, that’s exactly what happened. Scott Adkins, to my surprise, turned out to be not only an exciting fighter but also a pretty good actor. He shows enough screen presence in Avengement to make viewers hope that he’ll someday get a major action role.
Avengement is a ferocious but entertaining and unpretentious action film. Watch it. Experience it. Just don’t worry about trying to understand what everyone’s talking about. Just assume that everyone has a reason to want Cain dead and Cain has a reason to want the same for everyone else and there should not be any trouble at all.