ONE SHOT. A little big movie with Scott Adkins

Fans of interestingly staged action, a screening of “One Shot” should not feel disappointed.

Rafał Donica

11 December 2022

I love Scott Adkins! He’s the kind of better acting Van Damme, leaner Seagal and less funny Jackie Chan that I grew up on (sorry Chuck, I never liked your half-turn and hairy chest). And it’s a bit of a shame that, aside from some pretty definite sophomores (The Grimsby Brothers, Unbreakable 2, Enemy Number 1, Doctor Strange), this charismatic 45-year-old British actor, film producer and stuntman, martial arts master and holder of black belts in wushu, taekwondo, kick-boxing, judo and jiu-jitsu, still can’t dig into the mainstream in the full sense of the word,  some starring role in a big-budget front-page production.

Adkins is handsome, has on-screen charisma and personal charm, and his fantastic martial arts skills don’t require fast editing, flicking somersaults by the camera operator, or any other production quirks. What kind of punch Adkins has, everyone can see, and he showed it best so far in Universal Soldier IV: Day of Reckoning. I laughed like a piglet at that film, what a  extraordinary fight-shooter, eating John Wick’s antics for breakfast (by the way, Adkins is listed in the cast of John Wick 4!). In the aforementioned 2012’s Universal Soldier, a high-octane, extremely violent and surprisingly psychedelic actioner, which it’s a pity it wasn’t a standalone title, but “some other” installment of an unnecessarily drawn-out series, there’s a veritable scene-petarde: a murder-match in a sporting goods store using barbell plates and basseball bats; it’s been many years since my jaw dropped this low from an impression on a kick-ass movie. Scott Adkins also gets his ass kicked in the finale by J.C.V. Damme (and Dolph Lundgren along the way), symbolically taking over the baton (hmm… somehow that sounded ambiguous) from the outstretched Belgian and the title of king, battered like pork chops for Sunday dinner, of action cinema.

And although the vast majority of films with Adkins are B-grade productions, or pretend C-grade, bigger budget, they are watched not so much painlessly, but with great joy and banana on the face, although in general I don’t recommend watching any film with fruit on the eyes, because they can interfere with the viewing. In cosseting pictures like Mr. ‘Accident,’ Blood Vengeance, Champion IV and Debt Collectors, Adkins crushes jaws, sells scythes (literally, not that as a scythe salesman at the market), breaks bones, and occasionally steals women’s hearts, but by no means like John Rambo in the John Rambo finale. Turning finally to the subject of this review, as Adkins’ filmography began to slowly leave me, I would like to write at this point that there is already a major label behind One Shot, and – besides Adkins – well-known names, but I won’t, because nothing or no one like that is behind this film. But there is something(!) that One Shot stands out from the crowd of bumbling serial-shooter-beaters with our hard and tough Brits, which are mostly rated five-plus(!)… unfortunately on a ten-point rating scale (IMDb), but about that in a moment.

Ok, a moment has passed. One Shot, contrary to what the title might suggest, that it is a movie about a sniper (you know, one shot one kill, blah blah blah…) is not a movie about a sniper at all. After all, I watch the first minutes of the film, as a commando team arrives on the prison island to escort one of the terrorists back to Washington, and I see that no one here has a sniper rifle. This raises my suspicions. At the same time, minute by minute, and we’re already a good few minutes into the film, there’s something here with very few editing cuts, in fact none at all – WOW! Finally, after another couple of minutes, by way of deduction, meticulous analysis and cool calculation, I come to the conclusion that the title One Shot is no sniper’s one shot or even a quick hundred in a bar (that wouldn’t be in context at all), but – eureka! – One Shot, after all, in English both it and it are spelled the same. 30 years of watching movies does its job, nothing manages to escape my attention, nor my sense of observation, sharp as the dialogues in Reservoir Dogs.

It’s obvious that there are as many editing cuts in One Shot as there are curses in Pulp Fiction (what am I doing with this Tarantino all of a sudden? ), after all, it would be impossible to make a 1.5-hour film full of firefights, explosions, knife fights, fist fights and stunts, lest one of the actors fucked up in text, context, a punch or the cameraman tripped over a corpse strewn everywhere, or a peel from that banana I had on my face three paragraphs above. Even a 1.5-hour dialogue-driven film would be hard to shoot in one breath, lest something or someone along the way blew all the efforts of the technical and acting crew out the window. So One Shot is probably cut up more than Titanic with commercials on Polsat (polish TV station), but the cuts are masked by quick camera movements in the horizontal plane, where plywood shots can be easily hidden. Reality can’t be fooled; even famous one-shots like Hitchock’s Rope, Mendes’ 1917 (the makers of One Shot declare they were the first with a wartime one-shot, as they had been planning their film since 2015), Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark, or the long hospital chop from John Woo’s Hard Boiled are densely edited in cleverly camouflaged moments; during walks through dark corridors, or when the camera arrives at someone’s backside, along with seemingly dimming the image for lack of light. In the category of apparent shot continuity stretched throughout the film, the humble One Shot not only does not stand out, but matches the aforementioned pictures in step with its lacy, execution work.

In terms of plot, One Shot immediately brings to mind associations with Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down or Michael Bay’s 13 Hours. Secret Mission in Benghazi (to which, incidentally, the characters allude in one of their dialogues). Associations with Attack on Precinct 13 or Rio Bravo won’t be out of place either, after all, it’s about a prison siege, where a handful of heroes defend themselves against a relentless assault by hired mercenaries, while still having to save the ass of a detainee who knows the location of a dirty bomb planted in Washington. But neither Black Hawk Down nor 13 Hours have Scott Adkins on board, who plays first fiddle here, and who carries this modest but surprisingly polished technical and dramatic film on his shoulders. Significantly, there’s a lot of dialogue and not so many fist exchanges, and the bulk of the action is rifle RATATATA!!! – hmm, sounded like a sequel to RATATATA, in which a rat controls an armed commando – I WOULD WATCH THAT! Well, and then there are the explosions of grenades, shahid belts and other exploding objects, and I don’t know why the sheep from Bad Taste suddenly stood before my eyes flying into the air….

A good chunk of time passes before Adkins gives someone their first stick on the snout, when he does a lot of shooting and/or sneaking, and although he’s a bit inferior in terms of feline moves to John Wick, mentioned a few paragraphs above, it’s really fun to watch the British karatekas, skilled, fast and spectacular in their use of firearms and white weapons. It’s also worth noting the aforementioned sneaky knife scene, when Scott silently slits the throats of a succession of thugs peacefully walking around the base, whose poor families will now receive sad letters with the news of the death of a son, husband, father, brother…. I’d like to write something else about One Shot, but I don’t have any more, so I’m left to recommend this great little one-shot film, which, significantly, has a much more interesting plot than “Come on kid we’re running to warn them…” from the aforementioned 1917 from the maker of Skyfall. Fans of interestingly staged action, should not feel disappointed, and if anyone feels let down, come back here to improve their mood with a reread of this hilarious, though unvulgarized, review.

Rafał Donica

Rafał Donica

Since watching "Blade Runner", he has been passionate about cinema, loves "Akira", "Drive", "Escape from New York", "North by Northwest", the underrated "The Hateful Eight" and "Terrifier 2". Author of the book "Frankenstein 100 years in cinema". Founder and editor-in-chief (in the years 1999 - 2012) of the Polish film portal FILM.ORG.PL. Since 2016, a professional reportage photographer.

See other posts from this author >>>