“Debt Collectors” is a step back for Adkins and director/co-writer Jesse V. Johnson, who have collaborated on some of Adkins’s most ambitious recent vehicles, like the deliriously pulpy revenge drama “Avengement” and the over-the-top post-Indochina War period beat-em-up “Savage Dog.” To be fair: even the best Adkins projects have more personality than polish, though their action set pieces are consistently strong. But “Debt Collectors” is the first of the Adkins/Johnson collaborations to be distractingly self-conscious, especially when the title characters, French (Adkins) and Sue (Louis Mandylor), try to explain why and/or how they’re teaming up after their last outing’s seemingly conclusive finale (SPOILER alert: somebody gets shot to death at the end of “The Debt Collector”; he comes back in “Debt Collectors” anyway). Nothing from “The Debt Collector” plays as well in “Debt Collectors,” not the one-liners (Don’t call him “Mr. French”!), the humorous asides (they still like sex and cars), or the bargain bin melodrama (family is important, ’n stuff).
On the one hand, “Debt Collectors” is designed to call back to and therefore appeal to established fans, so it probably won’t displease its ideal viewers. The movie’s action scenes are also decent, though the best fight scene isn’t nearly as good as the John Carpenter movie it pays tribute to (you’ll know it as soon as you see it). On the other hand: that doesn’t mean there’s much to the movie’s episodic narrative, which follows French and Sue as they talk a lot of smack, and get into other fights while trying to collect hefty financial debts. They eventually run into shirt-free mob boss Molly X (Ski Carr), whose beef with the boys narratively connects “The Debt Collector” with its sequel. But while Carr’s fine in his part, his character, much like the plot of “Debt Collectors,” feels like an afterthought since he’s just a walking excuse to re-unite Adkins with Mandylor.
In spite of this, there are some noteworthy flashes of personality throughout “Debt Collectors.” There’s the film’s opening scene, which not only gives Adkins and Mandylor a dramatic and well-choreographed lead-in intro, but also a decent transition to a fun pub brawl that’s scored with a surfing guitar and preceded by an endearing rant about how the Brits only lost the Revolutionary War because, uh, we had back up (“You had help from the Spanish, the French, and oh yeah, the Dutch”). There’s also a bloody, and well-mounted boxing gym fight, and a few inspired moments of seemingly improvised humor.