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“Debt Collector”: Saving the dojo isn’t so easy anymore

Ben Nagy checks out "Debt Collector" in which Scott Adkins and Louis Mandylor banter, kick butt and get caught up in some criminal entanglements.

As Cheech & Chong would say, “things are tough all over” for Scott Adkins in the 2018 action flick Debt Collector, where he has to take a job collecting debts for a, let’s say, “persuasive entrepreneur” who’s probably a criminal but really doesn’t do anything overtly against the law in the flick that we see besides wanting the money he loaned out paid back.

The running joke is that Adkins is an English ex-pat who goes by the name “French,” and he’s run into some money problems while living in El Lay. Seems nobody wants to join the traditional martial arts dojo he runs and learn how to kick hiney the proper and non-flashy way. Since this is a flick from 2018, I don’t think the prospective trainees were on TikTok yet, so they were probably just doing YouTube.

Adkins’ lack of capital means that he has to deal with heavies in sunglasses showing up and trying to collect money while he’s mopping the dojo’s floor. Adkins knows he owes the money, but since these guys do the MAJOR offense of not taking their shoes off when entering the training area, they’re the ones who have to pay. French explains to the three guys who came there that he’s not going to sell the dojo to this guy in sunglasses for $10,000.

So instead he kung-fus the heck out of the three guys for the offense. Also playing into the decision to beat up the other guys is because French figures that $10K isn’t enough to get him very far to begin with, so he’d rather retain the dojo and be broke than to sell the dojo, not have a dojo and just be precariously close to being broke and three months behind on his rent.

“I want to fight all three of you [rhymes with “hunts”],” Adkins says (pardon his French).

As an aside, this decision-making process is why martial arts masters in drive-in flicks are different than us run-of-the-mill human beings. That and they can do double spin kicks without pulling their groins.

Dressed in a gi himself watching Adkins fight off to the side and eating a doughnut is Alex (Michael Pare, Streets of Fire, a bunch of Uwe Boll flicks), who’s a partner in the business but didn’t really feel compelled to jump in to help. After the heavies leave the dojo with hineys sufficiently kicked, he re-extends a job offer for the ex-Royal Emergency Services paratrooper to work collecting debts for Big Tommy like he does.

Just as an FYI, back in the 1980s, people would get together and have a break-dancing exhibition outside City Hall to raise funds and save a beloved public landmark. That plot would not work for a Jesse V. Johnson/Scott Adkins collaboration, which this is.

The big boss Tommy says that French’ll do as a new addition to his debt collecting corps after about a 2.5-minute interview (Alex put in a good word), but he’ll be shadowing somebody and have to observe the dress code — “get yourself a nice suit. You need to look professional when you represent me. Officially we’re mediators, not enforcers.”

So French buys an $89.99 suit and tie and gets to work.

"Debt Collector": Saving the dojo isn’t so easy anymore 1
French (Scott Adkins) and Sue (Louis Mandylor) prepare for some more bantering as they do their job in “Debt Collector.” (Photo courtesy IMDb.com)

The next morning, French is partnered with another guy named Sue (Louis Mandylor, Last Blood, the Big Fat Greek flicks)  who used to play ninjas in action movies. Sue’s real full name is vaguely Eastern European-sounding, but rather than pronounce it, the debt collector collective calls him Sue for brevity’s sake.

He’s hung over, has a 1971 Cadillac Coupe De Ville that gets like 6 miles a gallon and makes French drive him everywhere and do all the work, which includes getting run over, shot at and fighting big burly guys who throw French through drywall and bodyslam him through tables. His biggest effort on the first day is aardvarking Angelique, the wife of a guy named Gordon Carr who owes $40,000, while French gets himself a cup of tea out on the veranda. After this bonding experience, they banter a lot.

"Debt Collector": Saving the dojo isn’t so easy anymore 2
Barbosa (drive-in flick legend Tony Todd) smirks as Alex (Michael Pare) points a gun during a pretty-close-to-climactic scene in “Debt Collector.” (Photo courtesy IMDb.com)

Things get a lot more complex as the weekend goes on, though, and eventually French and Sue get in over their heads, double-crossed and on the wrong side of a guy named Barbosa (the legendary Tony Todd).

Ben's Bloody Best

Experience is the Best Teacher: Sue keeps a slapjack and a couple pair of brass knucks plus a machete/meat cleaver-looking thing in the glove box of the Cadillac.

Best Summation of his Weekend: French, when all is said and done: “This is, by far, the s—-iest job I’ver ever had in my f—-ing life.”

"Debt Collector": Saving the dojo isn’t so easy anymore 3
French (Scott Adkins) does the old standby tomahawk-with-a-bottle to the head in order to end this barfight in “Debt Collector.” (Photo courtesy IMDB.com)

Second-best Summations of his Weekend: French, before he gets into a big barfight with this guy, Bobby: ““Jesus F—–g Christ, does everyone in this town have a fucking bodyguard?” and “If we give in to Barbosa, we’re a couple of massive wankers, aren’t we?”

Best Way to Fortress up in a Firefight: French and Sue flip a couch and a steeltopped table and those provide decent cover for a while in the big final shootout against Tony Todd’s crew.

Best Heavy-Handed Summation of the Flick that also Doubles as Possible Stealth Recruitment to Vegetarianism: When the little girl has a lunch conversation with her dad at the end and asks him, “Do cows have a good life before they get turned into steak, Daddy?”

Three and a half stars. Director Johnson and Adkins deliver again (I reviewed their four-star collaboration Triple Threat during Kung Fu-bruary 2023). This one gets a half-star deduction incurred because the ending is too dang depressing. Could have made it a full star off but Jesse had the excellent sense to bring French and Sue back for a sequel a couple of years later, which will end up being checked out at some point in the future — maybe at tax time next year.

Check it out streaming on TubiTv, Vudu, Roku Channel or Jeff Bezos Prime or it’s available on physical media.

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