Principal Cast : Scott Adkins, Ray Stevenson, Perry Benson, Sarah Chang, Javan Ramezani, George Fouracres, Flaminia Cinque, Beau Fowler, Faisal Mohammed, Andreas Nguyen, Peter Lee Thomas, Adam Basil.
Synopsis: The Accident Man is back, and this time he must beat the top assassins in the world, to protect the ungrateful son of a mafia boss, save the life of his only friend and rekindle his relationship with his maniacal father figure.
After the not-so-surprising critical success of Scott Adkins’ Accident Man in 2018, I’ve no doubt producers looked at this property – derived from an anarchic independent comic book series of the same name – and figured a sequel would again garner audience appeal. Adkins’ career being the under-the-radar sleeper that it is, he’s little known outside his native Britain and perhaps even there remains a cult favourite without ever tapping into the mainstream. Yet, hopefully, Accident Man and its sequel, the Malta-set Hitman’s Holiday will rectify that: if enough people heed my words and see them. And while this smackdown-heavy brawlfest ain’t without its drawbacks – one of which nearly topples the film – there’s enough bone-snapping, body-twisting combative people action to satisfy all but the most discerning viewer, and even then you can’t deny it’s a whole rollercoaster of fun.
Not long after the events of Accident Man, assassin Mike Fallon (Adkins) take up residence in Malta, as far from his former boss Big Ray (Ray Stevenson) and his old life as he can get. While living there, he uses local girl Siu-ling (Sarah Chang) as his beating machine, as she allows him to blow off steam following a hit. Fallon even runs into former colleague Finicky Fred (Perry Benson), and the pair even team up to knock off various marks around the island (seriously, how many assholes needing assassination live in Malta?), before they are both blackmailed into keeping Dante (George Fouracres), the arrogant and hellishly annoying son of local mafioso, Mrs Zuuzer (Flaminia Cinque) alive after a bounty is put out on his head. With every qualified assassin descending on the Maltese capital Valetta to collect, Mike and his associates have to dodge all manner of death and destruction to make it to the final endgame.
Okay so let’s get the bad out of the way first. Hitman’s Holiday ain’t a patch on the original film; as with most sequels, the “bigger is better” almost never works unless you’re James Cameron, and by transplanting Mike Fallon to a world far removed from what we saw previously, the film doesn’t quite have that all-British charm of the Jesse V Johnson-directed original. Instead a small, relatively intimate narrative mixing Fallon’s dead ex and a rogues-gallery of assassins into a chunky soup of spittle-rattling catch-cries, Hitman’s Holiday tries to encapsulate the exotic without much success. The film looks a treat (shooting in a locale as beautiful as Valetta is a treat for the eyes, absolutely) but there’s a distinct sense that widening the scope of Fallon’s world inadvertently dilutes that which made it special in the first place. The storyline is really hard to swallow even within the bonkers foundation established by the first film, and the characters inside the film really aren’t actual people more than they are NPC in a video game. Which wouldn’t be so bad if the dialogue or development of those outside of Fallon or Finicky Fred wasn’t so grating and out-of-tune.
The second, and perhaps worst, thing about Hitman’s Holiday is the role of poor George Fouracres, as Dante Zuuzer, arguably one of the most egregiously stupid characters I’ve ever seen put on the screen. The poor dude is just acting his ass off, I know, but as a creative choice between he and the director and screenwriter (credit to Stu Small for making Dante an absolute cretin) it’s legitimately on-screen Kryptonite to Adkins’ assassin Superman. He (the character) is a blazing imbecile without a shred of redeeming performative charisma at all – like, at all – and he was so obnoxiously annoying I really wanted to turn the film off after about five minutes of his incessant bleating. Yes, I know the character is supposed to be annoying but both the performance and the writing of this single entity is a torture test in audience endurance.
Having said all that, I had a blast with Hitman’s Holiday. Its ridiculously dumb, plays fast and loose with reality and is again chock full of great one-liners and sight-gags that will have even the casual viewers chuckling quietly to themselves. Cannily, Hitman’s Holiday doesn’t rest entirely on Adkins’ hulking shoulders, throwing both Benson and co-star Sarah Chang into prominent supporting roles just enough to carry the weight of this thinly plotted and loosely predictable storyline, and it almost entirely works. Adkins steps back into the role of Mike Fallon like a comfy pair of shoes, Benson plays a great befuddled Brit well out of his depth as Fred, and Chang is an athletic badass as Fallon’s frequent sparring partner, Siu-ling. Ray Stevenson reprises his scenery-chewing role of Big Ray, the virulently violent father figure Fallon fell out with in the previous film, and again has a blast doing so. The supporting cast, led by the likes of Peter Lee Thomas, Faisal Mohammed, and Beau Fowler as a hell of a creepy clown assassin, provide plenty of appropriately comic-booky villainy for our “heroes” to combat, and the flair and verve with which they are presented, while completely kitschy, is enjoyable in and of itself.
The whole thing is all played so fast, loose and frantic it’s hard not to enjoy it. The directors, George and Harry Kirby, fumble the ball right at the end, though, with a real whiplash-inducing “Wait, that’s it?” ending that will both leave you wanting more and wondering if it was worth the trip. Overall, however, the film’s crazy aesthetic, off-the-wall humour and proclivity for violence and wanton human carnage offers solid charm and wicked action, as Adkins and his on-screen cohort beat the living snot out of each other every few moments. Nary a five minute pause in action goes past before the nest bruising bash-fest ensues, usually with a high degree of style, and to the Kirby Brothers’ credit their pacing and sheer momentum is to be applauded for overcoming many of the film’s practical and narrative shortcomings. This is most definitely a film that sits comfortably in the “switch off your brain” sub-sub-subgenre, so just sit back, crack a beer and enjoy the utter insanity of Accident Man: Hitman’s Holiday. Caveats in place, it’s definitely worth the trip.