Recently it was announced that Annihilation, the upcoming film by director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) – which already had trailers running in Australian cinemas – would now be going directly to Netflix pretty much everywhere outside of the US and China.
Exactly why remains something of a mystery; the film itself – a science fiction mystery about a strange alien zone on Earth where natural laws don’t apply – certainly looks like something people would watch on a big screen. But one theory is that the big movie distributors are increasingly wary of sending anything to cinemas that isn’t one of an increasingly narrow range of box office-friendly genres – which isn’t exactly going to be a surprise to a lot of people who are fans of action movies.
Once a box office titan, the action movie has fallen from favour in the 21st century… or, looked at another way, it was simply the first genre where distributors realised they could make more money by spending less on the films and sending them directly to DVD. This migration to the small screen is increasingly common, with a whole range of genres now gone from cinemas (when was the last time we had a big screen legal thriller?), but perhaps because action movies got there first, they’ve developed an entire parallel movie industry outside of cinemas, complete with their own range of stars.
First amongst these is UK actor and martial arts fighter Scott Adkins, who’s combined a low-level big screen career – he was one of the bad guys in Doctor Strange – with a range of surprisingly well-made direct-to-DVD titles, including the near-classic Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning. He’s probably best known for his work as Russian convict Boyka in the Undisputed series, which spun out of a mainstream Hollywood boxing movie when the producers realised that the basic set-up – a boxer is thrown into prison where he has to battle hardened criminals in the boxing ring – was the kind of scenario that could generate a lot of fighting sequences without having to spend a lot of time or money establishing why.
In the second Undisputed Bokya was the bad guy, a near-monosyllabic brute who lived only for fighting; obviously he was the breakout character, and so in the third film the focus shifted to him as he recovered from the snapped leg he received in the last film and went on the fight in an international prison fighting tournament. At the end of that film he won his freedom, but for a man like Boyka fighting is all he knows – which is why Undisputed 4: Boyka is out now on DVD (in it he fights a lot).
It’s Scott Adkins week at your local DVD store: also out is Accident Man, in which he plays a hitman who makes all his kills look like accidents – which means when his girlfriend is found dead, he doesn’t believe for a second it was an accident. The comic it’s based on was both solidly informative as fair as deadly accidents go and often pretty funny; Adkins, who can act better than most of his roles require him to, looks like he’s relishing the chance to get a few laughs between kicking heads.
Written by Anthony Morris