Assassination Games (2011) – Jean-Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins

Classic moody old Van Damme and classic moody prime Scott Adkins join forces in a beautiful depiction of two expert assassins colliding on a job then joining forces to finish personal vendettas against the odds. The only reason I don’t rate Assassination Games higher is because it has a fairly simplistic script and probably a lower budget than it deserves. The basic concepts in the plot are good, but they fail to flesh out into a more comprehensive plot to entertain us on another level which we should be considering the stars involved. The script is thin but the two action hero superstars carry this movie into a moderate success. The opening scene seems almost B Movie quality, but it quickly improves. Granted, there are some cool sets, like Van Damme’s apartment with secret rooms, and his agent’s lair was convincing too. All in all, it’s makes for decent viewing when you haven’t seen it in a while.

Supporting cast includes Kristopher Van Varenberg, also known as Kris Van Damme, and Bianca Van Varenberg, also known as Bianca Bree and Bianca Van Damme – these are Jean-Claude Van Damme’s two children from his current wife who he divorced then re-married (Jean-Claude has a son to ex-wife Darcy LaPier also – that one being called Nicholas Van Varenberg). Indeed, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s name is actually Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg. In this movie, his daughter Bree plays the comatose wife of Scott Adkins’ character, and Van Damme’s son Kris plays one of the enemies of Adkins’ character.

Boyka: Undisputed IV (2016) – Scott Adkins

The Undisputed saga is quite unusual in how every next movie is better than the one before it, and this movie is no exception to this – at least in a way (mood wise, and maybe also plot wise) Undisputed IV is considerably better than the already much improved Undisputed III.

The cast is about as good as previously, but cast was never much of a problem in this saga. We have a lot of new faces now – only Yuri Boyka (played by Scott Adkins) is the same, plus the odd prison warden or military boss in a very minor role. But the sound has been upped a level, as is noticeable from the outset – the atmosphere is much more like what you’d expect from a high budget, high quality action movie now.

Cast wise, Scott does well as always. Teodora Duhovnikova does an mediocre job as Alma, the lead female character – the struggling wife of the opponent Scott regrets killing.

Brahim Achabbakhe does an average job in the role of Igor Kazmir – the local champion who Boyka needs to defeat to set Alma free. Martyn Ford makes an epic appearance as The Nightmare – the wildcard extra final boss fighter. Alon Abutbul does a good job in his role as the local mafia boss called Zourab who Alma owes big money to. Other supporting cast members ranged from okay to pretty good.

The plot is about as good as Undisputed III, maybe better – hard to compare as they’re so different, it’s like apples & pears. The diversity of action here may be a bit better too, a bit less monotone. But the musical sound effects, and probably some other less obvious things that affect the mood, that only higher budget movies have, seem much more on point this time. The ending probably doesn’t trump the previous one, but it’s no less creative and well executed this time round.

Overall it’s a decent movie – still a bit gritty, cold and one dimensional like the others, but getting quite closer to the level of a top action hero movie now. I can’t imagine Scott can keep doing these fancy spinning high kicks much longer, he’s already getting close to 50 years of age, so we might never get an Undisputed 5, but he could tone down the fancy moves a bit and work with a more exotic plot perhaps.

Undisputed III: Redemption (2010) – Scott Adkins

This is a much better movie than Undisputed II, which itself was a much better movie than the original Undisputed movie.

In ‘Undisputed III: Redemption’, Scott Adkins reprises his role as Yuri Boyka, now crippled with 1 broken leg after losing the last fight, and outcast to the filthy depths of Gaga’s prison – a similar position the Nikolai, the man in the wheelchair who helped his rival in Undisputed II.

Undisputed III is about the crippled beaten fighter, recovering to a level where he can fight again, but not yet fully recovered. This time, he surprises everyone by beating Gaga’s new champion Sykov, to earn himself a shot in an international prisoner tournament, then surprises everyone again by beating the guy given favourable treatment by the establishment. That’s literally the script in a nutshell, hence why I don’t rate it highly on plot, and the action is a bit monotonous, but it’s still clearly better than Undisputed II.

Other contestants include an American boxer called Turbo (played by Mykel Shannon Jenkins), a talented Brazilian capoeirista called Santiago Silva (played by Lateef Crowder), etc.

Undisputed III is like a cross between Van Damme’s movie In Hell (2003) where he fights prison battles organised by the wardens, and Van Damme’s other movie Bloodsport (or The Quest) where tournament contestants come from all around the world, showcasing their different styles.

I won’t spoil the story by going into further detail, I’ll just say this movie is a level above the ones before it in the Undisputed saga – a series of movies where each one is markedly better than the one before it (so far).

Scott Adkins does a good job, as do most of the other significant cast members, including Mykel Jenkins the American boxer who befriends Boyka; Mark Ivanir who plays Gaga; and Marko Zaror who plays Dolor, the Colombian fighter who is the main antagonist in this movie aside from the prison bosses & military leaders in charge.

In-keeping with the pattern of improving upon the last one, Undisputed III also has a good ending, even better than that from Undisputed II.

Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006) – Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White

With Undisputed II, the plot has improved a bit since the last one (although to be fair, any plot at all would have been an improvement).

Scott Adkins does alright here as Yuri Boyka – we don’t see much of his character come out until half way through the movie, since he’s meant to be a cold character, but when he realises his opponent was drugged so his victory was not legitimate, we see a bit more of what he’s about and can begin to sympathise with his character. For what script he’s been given, he does very well with it. He makes a convincing character, and his high spinning kicks & tricks are quite incredible in this movie.

This may also be one of Michael Jai White’s best performances, as the world heavyweight champion George Chambers who’s had drugs planted on him just to get him inside a mafia-controlled prison in Kiev so that Yuri Boyka can have a challenge in someone decent to fight. I’m not the biggest fan of MJW as an action hero, but he holds down this role very well.

Supporting cast range from mediocre to decent – not quite the circle of legends from the original Undisputed (2002) who were twiddling their thumbs trying to make a movie without a script; but still there’s some credible supporting actors here, especially Mark Ivanir who performs impressively in the role of the mafia boss called Gaga, and Eli Danker who does a decent job as Nikolai aka Crot the old man who helps George Chambers a bit.

It would have been nice to have another strong character in this movie, since Scott Adkins has such a cold role here, and there’s no women involved, making it a bit of a dull movie but still not as bad as the first in the Undisputed saga. It’s actually got a surprisingly good ending considering how slow it can be at other times. Don’t miss the further sequels as some of these issues may be rectified a bit.

Ninja (2009) – Scott Adkins

Scott Adkins has made many strong contributions to the English language martial arts movie industry, and Ninja (2009) is easily one of his best. This movie sees the main character grow up in a Ninja school in Japan, competing with his ninja brother to inherit the position of Soke (master) of the school. Upon being disrespectful and outcast by the current master, the main antagonist then kills the current master and everyone found in the school that night, while hunting down the old master’s daughter who fled to America with the movie’s main hero to hide and protect the sacred armour & weapons that have been kept by the school for hundreds of years. American police obviously get involved, as does an organised crime syndicate, but they aren’t able to do much against the talented ninjas. With a likeable lead man and woman, and credible moves, equipment, bad guys and cops, this movie is just one level shy of the best action hero movies ever made, in my opinion.

See also, The Art Of Action

Don’t miss Scott’s podcast series called The Art Of Action on his own YouTube channel, where he’s done some phenomenal interviews with superstars like Keanu Reeves and Steven Seagal, as well as lesser known legends like Kurt McKinney from No Retreat, No Surrender. Since he’s essentially one of them, Scott commands more respect than the average interviewer and is able to extract some incredible stories and information never heard before.