Eliminators (2016) Review
Eliminators was directed by James Nunn (One Shot, Shark Bait), written by Nathan Brookes (See No Evil 2, 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown) and Bobby Lee Darby (See No Evil 2, 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown), and stars Scott Adkins (Castle Falls, Max Cloud), Stu Bennett, (I Am Vengeance, Fanged Up) under his ring name Wade Barrett since this was a WWE film, Daniel Caltagirone (Outpost: Black Sun, Britannia), Lily Ann Stubbs (Days Without, To Build a Home), Nick Nevern (The Sweeney, Twist), and James Cosmo (Skylines, The Kindred). It’s about a father who defends himself from home invaders, having to protect his daughter and face off against a retaliating mercenary.
The Plot: You’ve seen this, more than a few times, I’m sure. Brookes and Darby figured this as well, and work through the basics efficiently and add one or two tiny changes to the proceedings to ever so slightly tweak Eliminators’ story.
In London, security guard Thomas (Adkins) comes home one day after work, and during his time winding down and tucking in his daughter, Carly (Stubbs), he’s pounced on by three home invaders looking for drugs. After they’ve gone through the trouble of beating on Thomas and threatening Carly, they realize they’ve entered the wrong home, which is a good way to add suspense considering Thomas is completely detached from whatever may have prompted the crooks, now brought into a frenzy. He manages to kill all three of the men but consequences are on the horizon.
Across the pond in Washington D.C. Ray (Caltagirone) is given a call about Thomas’s situation, which he has now woken up from to find inspector Quinn (Nevern) questioning him and Carly in protective custody. Jumping back to the US, Cooper (Cosmo) gets word that Thomas killed the men and, with an open opportunity to settle an old feud, calls on local hitman Bishop (Bennett) to take both the father and daughter down. Eliminators jumps back and forth quite a bit and this would normally be an issue, changing gears just as the audience gets settled, but it makes sense given the ensuing developments and the fact that characters aren’t always adjacent to each other.
Thomas has little choice but to escape the hospital, find Carly, and evade Bishop until he can get some help from Ray and get the upper hand (or a hand to begin with) in his predicament and kill his assailants. All of the major beats are played out by the halfway mark, which is fine, since anything else would be unnecessary and probably as familiar as the preceding events. Eliminators knows what to do and does it decently enough without frills.
The Characters: Unlike how there was at least a minor shakeup in the plot setup, the writers don’t make anything new for their players, with every backstory, attitude, and a lot of their actions all make characters act like people you’ve never seen before but feel like you know them already.
Thomas is an ex-CIA agent that was highly regarded during his time serving the agency, now working a quiet job as a parking garage guard. Before any of that is revealed, there’s a nice moment while he’s driving Carly to school where he’s overly cautious of a car that’s followed him for a short while. It’s Adkins who added that, and it’s a good clue. His wife, Emma, died some time ago, leaving him to raise Carly on his own. It’s not much, but Adkins makes good on the fatherly image and steely moments.
Bishop is just a hitman. With no emotional attachment to Thomas, Carly, and presumably all of his other marks, he’s got no qualms about killing for cash. MI6 was his first allegiance, and it’s not clear why he changed paths, but it doesn’t matter much anyway, as he’s a good heavy that doesn’t stop until the job’s done. Cooper’s backstory should’ve been bolstered by the script, which ties him to Thomas but doesn’t give a reason why he’s after him. On his own, Cooper has a couple of moments of reserved villainy, but isn’t special.
Other characters like Ray, his advisor in Washington, and a woman staying with Carly in protected custody are flat-out nothing characters that act as pawns in the plot. A familiar hero and villain are fine, but the big bad needed a reason to exist; the lack of a reason makes everything a little contrived.
The Action: Eliminators doesn’t have scale on its side, but it does have Adkins, who always provides bang for the buck when he can, and some interesting turns of scenarios.
Martial arts take centre stage for around half of the action sequences, and with choreographer Tim Man (Legacy of Lies, Triple Threat), they look very good. Thomas’s forced entry into the story starts with a startling home invasion that pulls no punches. Armed men slam him with the front door and beat Thomas with aluminum bats. It’s abrupt, so much so that Thomas doesn’t win the first round, so to speak. Nunn sets the tone well with this and continues dealing out good melee moments throughout Eliminators’ runtime, including the movie’s best moment, a fight in a moving cable car that’s genius in the way it forces a contained fight.
Beyond the hand-to-hand, there are plenty of gun play moments. Bishop is equipped with a gun for most of Eliminators and by default has the edge over Thomas. We see his skills as he’s introduced while performing a hit in a pub, breaching the door and killing all of the men with precise shot placement, even whistling to get the attention of the primary target. However, issues arise from this precedent, since he only ever lands a single shot on Thomas. This happens in nearly every action movie, but it’s only a problem when the antagonist is played up in conversation as being the best that the world has to offer, which is the case here.
Clarity of every action beat deflates the potential annoyance of the hitman’s accuracy; if the camera was shaky or otherwise obfuscated the action, there would be a lot more time to grasp the Stormtrooper aim on display. It’s not rocket science, but Eliminators does what it can, making a small handful of memorable action scenes and plenty of kinetic energy to keep trucking onward.
The Technics: Nunn is a competent helmer and made a competent film. He knows what the audience wants and doesn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, only to entertain; he does this well with a few hiccups.
Location and set shoots are at times painfully obvious, with the disparity on display in most isolated interiors. Whenever any of the characters are in a residential setting, whether that be a safe house in the city or Thomas’s house, the lighting is flat, and the walls seem flimsy. Contrarily, every location, such as a CPS building, the hospital, the pub, the cable car, and Cooper’s house all look great.
Pacing is strong too, with the meat and potatoes arriving in less than 10 minutes, making the most room possible for the bare bones plot to play out and segue into the action. With its limited narrative, Eliminators doesn’t overstay its welcome with an elongated runtime, instead delivering a painless 91 minutes (minus 3 minutes of credits) of modest movie making.
A fun basic action movie is all that’s on hand here, but that’s all that needed to be done. Eliminators has good action and a good lead performance from Adkins. This is comfort food for action fans.