"Accident Man" is the movie that English actor and martial arts fighter Scott Adkins as always wanted to make. Based on a comic series from the underground UK magazine Toxic!, Adkins became a big fan of the hit man who makes his kills look like accidents. Toxic! had a brief run in 1991 and Adkins was just a kid, the perfect age to get caught up in the tale.
The movie is a revelation. It's got the same level of mayhem as the John Wick movies, with martial arts fighting replacing most of the gunplay. Ray Stevenson plays Big Ray, a veteran hit man who runs murder-for-hire clearinghouse out of his bar. He's also the mentor for Adkins' Mike Fallon character.
Michael Jai White and Ray Park play Mick and Mac, American and British special forces veterans who bicker but team up when it's time for a job. Amy Johnston is Jane the Ripper, a lethal killer who seduces her marks before she dispatches them. Veteran character actor David Paymer is Milton, the American accountant who makes the business deals.
Everything goes awry when someone kills Fallon's ex-girlfriend and, after he's set up to be hit himself, he figures out that someone on his crew is responsible for her death. The team turns against each other and mayhem ensues until Fallon gets his revenge.
The fights are spectacular and both the costumes and production design give a vibrancy to the movie that's missing from most action movies. The humor from the original comic is intact but director Jesse V. Johnson never sacrifices the action for a cheap laugh. "Accident Man" wasn't blessed with a big budget, but the team has made those limitations work for them. Great action is paired with great source material and the whole show is executed with amazing confidence.
Scott Adkins has a huge following in the martial arts movie world based on his role as Yuri Boyka in the "Undisputed." He's made a name in action movies like "The Expendables 2" "Hard Target 2" and "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning." He's played key roles in Hollywood blockbusters like "Doctor Strange," "American Assassin" and "The Bourne Ultimatum." Plus he had an amazing role as the villain in the Chinese blockbuster "Wolf Warrior." It's an impressive resumé but it's all leading up to "Accident Man."
We've got a clip from the home video bonus features where Scott talks about his favorite fight scene in "Accident Man."
We had a chance to talk to Scott about how he made "Accident Man" and his career as an international action star.
You're a writer, you're a producer, you're the star of this movie. Tell us the story of how you got involved.
It sounded like you said, “You are a writer.” Well, okay, I guess I am now.
You are now.
I guess because I wrote "Accident Man." But it was out of necessity, okay? I picked up Toxic! when I was about 15 and I loved the Accident Man strip and I kept it all those years, hoping that one day maybe I could make the film and play Mike Fallon.
What I know now is that the property was optioned many times by some big producers, but it never actually happened. So I'm very fortunate that I actually got the rights myself off [Accident Man creators] Pat Mills and Tony Skinner.
I had to produce it because I couldn’t convince any other producers to make it with me. And I wrote it myself with my mate from school who I’ve know since I was 16. He was an aspiring writer and he’s a writer himself now. We wrote it together out of necessity and eventually we got it to the right people at Sony and we made the movie and here it is.
It was all done out of a love for the character, for that original comic book. Some of the movie is ripped straight out of the comic book and some of it we expanded and made different.
It’s a great feeling to have had this dream as a kid and to have actually done it as a man now.
One thing that’s great is the tone in your movie. It’s got the right sense of heightened reality but it doesn’t make the mistake of veering into pure caricature, something that hurt a movie like "Tank Girl."
We didn’t want to go over the top. In fact, wanted to just make it real life on steroids and have a wink at the audience and definitely let them in on the joke. Let them know that it’s okay, we’re having fun here, and it’s all right to laugh. We didn’t really push the laughs through. We just have it as that tone in the background. When the stakes are high, play the stakes high, and when it’s time to have a little bit of a giggle, do that, and just make an entertaining film.
There’s a lot of color in the costumes and production design, but your movie seems more grounded in reality than a lot of recent action pictures.
Well, budget certainly dictated that we needed to keep it grounded. But I wanted it to be gritty and very much inspired by a Guy Ritchie film. I felt that that sort of style would suit "Accident Man" because I wanted to keep it very British. That Guy Ritchie influence comes across with the narration, it’s that sort of style. We kept it gritty and then, when the action ramps up, it goes up another level.
The fight scenes in your films are incredible. How do you get in shape for the action?
We train about six days a week, whether it’s martial arts or weight training. Weight training is really an aesthetic thing to look a certain way for the movies. I'm a martial artist. I train because I love martial arts. But there's also that thing of staying ready for the next film, so if there's a film coming up, I’ll wrap up the martial arts training if it’s a martial arts film.
How do you prep the fight scenes?
We shoot it the way Hong Kong cinema did it, which I believe is the best way. Instead of filming a master of the whole fight and then doing a load of different angles, which a lot of American and English people do do, we’ll take it sequence by sequence. We’ll work with one camera, maybe have a second camera just to pick up some bits and pieces if we need it. With fight coordinator Tim Man, we say, okay, we’re filming this bit to this bit in sequence. And we shoot it and we keep doing it until we get it right. And only when we get it right, do we move on to the next bit.
That’s how you make a fight sequence that doesn’t have a load of Steadicam. In some films, you think you saw a fight, but actually you only heard it. The Hong Kong way is how you make it precise and you fill the frame with beautiful action. And that’s what we like to do.
Your fight with Tim Man might be my favorite one in the film.
Oh, yeah? Great. That’s cool. Well, he hates getting in front of the camera these days. He’d rather be behind it and coming up with the angles and choreographing it, but he's such an amazing martial artist that we have to pull him in.
What's your favorite fight from this film?
I think the fight with Amy Johnson at the end is, spoiler, but you know the fight at the end with Amy is amazing. She's a phenomenal martial artist. Not taking anything away from Michael Jai White and Ray Park, who I have another massive fight with. Amy is a petite good-looking girl but, man, when she starts moving she's scary. I like our fight together because, even though it’s man versus woman, you don’t really feel that Fallon has given any favors to her, it’s pretty full-on, and she's amazing at what she does.
Over the last few years, you’ve been in big Hollywood movies like "Dr. Strange" and "American Assassin." You’ve had action pictures like Hard Target 2 where you’re the lead and then you were in "Wolf Warrior," a Chinese movie that kicked off one of the biggest movie series in the world these days. Tell us about moving back and forth between all these different worlds.
There's no masterplan. I'm fortunate to do what I do. Occasionally something comes along that you're really passionate about. Certainly with "Accident Man" or the Boyka movies or working on a big Marvel film like "Dr. Strange."
Other times, you're a working actor paying the bills. Now, I don’t always get to choose. I don’t sit in my ivory tower saying, okay, I'm gonna play James Bond this month. It doesn’t work that way. I get offered movies and I have to pick what I think is the best one offered to me at the time. I don’t like to wait out on the sidelines, I like to stay busy, I like to keep working. That’s how I've been able to improve as an actor and a filmmaker.
You don’t win them all, but I like to stay busy. There's no master plan. I keep working, I do what I do, I love to do what I do, and I'm just fortunate that I'm in this position. I hope people keep wanting to watch me do what I do.
If you're in China and you walk down the street, do people know who you are from "Wolf Warrior"?
You know, I thought that might be the case, but I'm pretty anonymous here, which is a good thing. Some people recognize me. But I went to Egypt recently and that was crazy – craziness on a level I've never known. I mean I couldn’t go anywhere. I tend to get recognized a lot in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but in China I'm just another white guy. We all look the same.
I’ll let you say it, not me. . I'm politically incorrect, that’s Mike Fallon speaking there.
I’m really glad that you made this movie. It’s fantastic to see one of these passion projects turn out so well.
I hope people go out and they rent this film legitimately or pay for it because, honestly, if people like the movie, it has to make money for us to make a sequel. I just hope people can understand that it’s an independent movie. It didn’t go on the cinema, it needs to make some money, and we have the idea of the sequel. I would love to make it, so please support independent filmmakers.
-- James Barber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org