Former stunt man Scott Adkins ranks as the best non-Asian martial arts actor in movies these days. Adkins has been kicking around since 2001 when he performed his first stunts in the above-average Jackie Chan action comedy “The Accidental Spy” and then later in 2003 in the lackluster Chan outing “The Medallion.” Afterward, this hard-bodied British native appeared in small roles in the Jet Li thriller “Unleashed,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” with Matt Damon, “The Expendables 2” with Sylvester Stallone, “Zero Dark Thirty” with Jessica Chastain, and most recently “Dr. Strange” with Benedict Cumberbatch. If you saw the superlative “Dr. Strange,” Adkins played the anonymous thug that Dr. Strange’s cloak of levitation wrapped itself around during a clash. Mind you, Adkins hasn’t done anything Oscar-worthy, but his straight-to-video action epics where he handles all the heroic hokum qualify as popcorn pabulum that probably pay his bills between his minor theatrical roles Mostly, Adkins has toplined his share of either better or bad low-budget B-thrillers, and “Green Street 3: Never Back Down” director James Nunn’s “Eliminators” (** OUT OF ****) swirls good elements with bad. The virtues of this British lensed actioneer are offset consistently by its shortcomings. Those deficiencies arise from the derivative Nathan Brookes & Bobby Lee Darby screenplay. “See No Evil 2” scenarists Brookes & Darby resort to vintage clichés and half-baked ideas. Nevertheless, Adkins is believable and sympathetic as former undercover FBI agent Martin Parker living abroad under the alias Thomas McKenzie. Apparently, our hero fell in love with the adult daughter of a notorious gunrunner, Cooper (James Cosmo of “Braveheart”), but Parker failed to arrest him after Cooper exposed his treachery. Cooper’s daughter had fallen in love with Parker, and they had a little girl. When Cooper discovered our hero’s genuine identity, he dispatched henchmen to eliminate him. The henchman planted a bomb in Parker’s car designed to blast our hero into the hereafter. Unfortunately, Cooper’s daughter cranked up the car before he could stop her, and the explosion obliterated her. This tragedy (related in expository dialogue) might seem familiar to hardcore crime thriller fanatics. Obviously, Brookes and Darby saw director Fritz Lang’s landmark police thriller “The Big Heat”(1953) with Glenn Ford as an incorruptible police detective. In Lang’s film, the syndicate wired the detective hero’s jalopy with a bomb, but his wife cranked up the car instead and died in a colossal explosion. Despite a contrived screenplay riddled with improbabilities, “Eliminators” boasts a robust cast, featuring WWE star Wade Barrett cast as Adkins’ chief adversary. Barrett delivers a dutiful performance as a “Terminator” hitman who has no qualms about murder. Brookes & Darby describe him as a lethal contract assassin who never misses. Unfortunately, Barrett spends most of his time slaughtering innocent bystanders with all his inaccurate shots and at best inflicts our indestructible hero with a mere flesh wound. James Cosmo gives a strong performance as the ‘grandfather’ of the hero’s daughter.
“Eliminators” unfolds in contemporary London. Nunn shows us a day in the life of widowed Martin Parker, now posing as a security guard named Thomas McKenzie (Scott Adkins), and his young daughter, Carly (Lily Ann Stubbs), who looks old enough to attend school. McKenzie maintains vigilance in what appears to be an underground parking garage. Later that evening, after tucking Carly in her bed, Thomas tangles with three ski-masked hoods who broke in to collect their cocaine. The trouble is that this witless trio came to the wrong address. Only after they have our hero at gunpoint with a knife poised at his daughter’s throat do they realize this fatal error. A skirmish ensues when the foolish chieftain removes his mask. Thomas easily disarms and kills all three without harming a hair on Carly’s head. Afterward, the logic of “Eliminators” collapses. Promptly, the London police arrive and arrest Thomas based on three bullet-riddled bodies in his residence and the fact that the authorities cannot dig up any background records on him. Actually, Thomas had been placed in witness protection in London after the Bureau botched the Cooper case. Meantime, Thomas’ photo appears on television, and Cooper hires Bishop (Wade Barrett) to ice Thomas. Thomas’ people in America follow up and dispatch Ray (Daniel Caltagirone of “The Beach”) to vouch for Thomas in London. The London police have our hero shackled to a hospital bed after his injuries during his ‘home invasion.’ Nothing that he says convinces them about his identity. Furthermore, the police have taken Carly and entrusted her to a social worker. Not only does Cooper insist that Bishop must terminate Thomas, but he also orders him to find Carly. Since Ray cannot reach Thomas in time, Thomas fears for Carly’s life. He breaks out of custody, displays his impressive martial arts skills, and sets out to track down his daughter. When Ray reaches England, he takes our hero to a safe house in a civilian apartment building. It doesn’t take Bishop long to locate them, and a fierce firefight erupts. It seems inconceivable that the FBI would use an apartment complex with innocent bystanders galore as a safe house, especially with Bishop riddling it with gunfire galore, and then blasting a hole through a wall!
Nunn redeems himself nominally by maintaining momentum throughout the action and making both Bishop and Cooper as villainous as possible when they encounter innocent bystanders. Some movies grant innocent bystanders immunity, but everybody who crosses these two vicious criminals bites the dust. Most of the martial arts is routine, but Adkins demonstrates a striking blow when he knocks Bishop off a pier. The major plot contrivance occurs to prolong the villain’s demise. Our hero has an automatic pistol against Bishop’s neck and threatens to kill him, but he doesn’t shoot him. Obviously, Thomas cannot kill Bishop halfway through “Eliminators” without inflicting major narrative damage. Bishop escapes from Thomas after he pulls a surprise on him. Apart from Scott Adkins’ core fans, most can eliminate “Eliminators” from their watch lists.