Brief synopsis: An MI6 is tasked with collecting a piece of information whilst in Russia posing as a journalist. The information can expose Russian double agents working in America. The night he goes to retrieve the information, the mission goes awry and the love of his life is killed.
Twelve years later, the now ex-agent and single father, finds himself pulled back into the world of espionage when he is tasked with retrieving the same information once again to save his daughter’s life.
Is it any good?: Legacy of Lies is utter rubbish. Worse still, it is boring rubbish. The film lacks pace and the acting is so wooden one would think you were watching wardrobes speak. Scott Adkins has never been a particularly impressive thespian but his films are generally entertaining. Not this one.
Spoiler territory: MI6 agent Martin Baxter (Scott Adkins) is in Kyiv in an old bus garage. He is there with a team to oversee an exchange. He watches as a woman, code-named Red Star (Anna Siettarova) makes her way to the centre of the garage.
Red Star is met by a car. In the car are Egor Stepanenko (Andrey Say) and Olga (Tetiana Nosenko). Martin informs his team that Egor is not alone. Red Star talks to Olga at the car window. Egor gets shot and killed. Red Star is shot in the back by a sniper and then again by another shooter.
Martin returns fire belatedly and then runs to get a better vantage point to kill the sniper. He calls to his team, wanting to know where his back up is. They are all dead. He sees the shooter of Red Star grab the package he had come to retrieve. Martin tries to stop him but seems unable to shoot straight because….it would end the film.
He goes over to Olga in the car. She is understandably frightened but he tells her to stay put whilst he goes looking for the shooter with the package. The shooter sneaks up on him from ten metres away but is also a terrible shot, so misses him. Martin gets up on top of the derelict buses to get a better vantage point.
He does not use the vantage point at all but does manage to get the drop on the shooter, killing him and retrieving the package. End of the film? Nope. Martin goes to get Olga. She is gone and shots ring out at Martin.
Another shooter has Olga. He wants the package. He threatens, unsurprisingly, to kill Olga. Martin tells him to let her go because that always works. The shooter instead decides to prove he is not joking around and shoots Olga in the hip. For her part, she whimpers a bit. Quite impressive considering she just had hot lead explode through her hip.
Martin drops his gun and takes the bag off to give to the shooter. As he throws the bag, he pulls another gun from his back and shoots. He wakes up to the memory twelve years later, on a rainy night in Peckham in his car. The years have been kind to him, as he does not look a day older. His daughter, Lisa (Honor Kneafsey) comes to the car.
She is an irritatingly, precocious twelve-year-old and after boring him - and us - with her new diet, tells him about the opponent he is about to face in an unlicensed cage fight. Martin does not want to hear her advice. He gives her money to go and put a bet on him. She puts a bet on the other fighter. Martin fights and gets his ass whooped, having completely ignored his daughter’s advice.
The bookie comes and gives Lisa the money. Martin realises that she bet against him and…well, there is not much he can do except take the ego crush and be glad for the money. Back home, dad of the year candidate Martin has got a prostitute (Viktoriia Retivova) to waste some of the money getting his face beat in earned him.
Lisa is next door with a colouring book. Back in the bedroom, the prostitute wants to see Martin’s face whilst she works, okay…she switches on a bedside lamp. Martin sees a vision of Olga and freaks out. He kicks the prostitute out. Should have left the lights off.
The next day, Martin is teaching Lisa how to use a handgun. - okay, full disclosure. I watched this film in three sittings as it was too awful to get through all at once, so the significance of this scene is almost forgotten by the time it becomes relevant. - He tells her she needs to use the sights to focus.
Lisa tells him she wants to go to school, settle down. Martin, ever the agent and still coveting that dad of the year award, is all about the nomad life and moving every few months. Later, Martin leaves her alone as he goes to work. He works in a club as part of the security team. Breaking up a fight in the club, he starts beating on a patron who has the temerity to fight back.
The head bouncer (Sami Karim) comes and calms him down, throwing out the battered patron. Martin goes to the front desk and is doing bag checks. A young woman talks to him. She tells him they are in the same business and need to talk. Would that be the fight business? Anyhoo, Martin’s interest is piqued. Elsewhere, a lowly employee is putting the rubbish out. He gets bashed in the head by a gunman, who uses the entrance to get him and his fellow gunmen into the club.
Back in the main club, Martin finds the girl. Her name is Sasha Stepanenko (Yuliia Sobol). She tells him that he knew her father. Martin says she must have him mixed up. Yeah, right. Sasha takes out her phone and shows him a photo of her father with him and Olga.
She tells him she is a journalist and wants to get the files - it’s always bloody files - as they talk, the gunmen burst into the club and open fire, supposedly trying to kill Sasha but in truth just spraying bullets around indiscriminately and causing panic. Martin drags Sasha out of there, running to the kitchen.
They run through the kitchen and push kitchen staff out of the way and throw pans around in an effort to slow down the men with guns. The kitchen is huge and the two disappear into a room. Martin takes out the gunmen. Sasha, ungrateful wretch that she is, runs off.
Martin returns home. He finds a couple of old faces in his kitchen. Trevor (Martin McDougall) and Edwards (Leon Sua), both CIA, have come to chat. They are there to warn him. He is not to get involved with the espionage game again. Trevor wants to know if Sasha mentioned the file. Of course he does. Martin tells him there Russians have it.
Apparently, they don’t and they are looking for it, using nerve gas to get to it. What that has to do with anything is anyone’s guess. Lisa comes into the kitchen. Trevor lets on that the files probably contain information about her mother’s death. Lisa believes her mother died in a car accident. Thanks, Trevor and your big mouth!
Martin kicks them out. He goes to try and console Lisa, who is crying at the revelation, feeling betrayed by her father’s lies. Martin sits in the dark remembering Olga and playing with the lamplight because….moody?
The next day, he tells Lisa to get packed. They are leaving. As he goes to pack the car, he gets knocked out by a Russian. In a warehouse, a blonde, Russian stereotype (Anna Butkevich), shoots a man hanging upside down in the head. Martin, who is tied to a chair and has a gag over his mouth is dragged into the room.
The woman sits in front of him with a file. Different file, not the one everyone is after. One of her henchmen milks his moment, as she lights a cigarette, maintaining the stereotype, and rips the gag off of Martin’s mouth. She gives Martin the cigarette, which he promptly spits out. The henchman gets another chance to shine, giving him a gut punch for his brazen disrespect.
She gets up and tells him she wants the files. Martin says he does not know about the files. She smashes his hand with a hammer. He tells her that the Russians have it, which is a bit stupid considering she is Russian. She smashes his hand again. She shows him a video feed of Lisa colouring in - the child loves a colouring book - Martin tells her he can get the file.
Blonde stereotype contacts her superior (Anatolii Antoniuk). He tells her that he has twenty-four hours. She relays the information to Martin. She wants the file and the journalist, dead or alive. The journalist, not the file. They take him back to his car and throw him out. Edwards is watching.
Martin drives off, followed by Edwards. Blonde stereotype talks to Lisa. Edwards contacts Trevor to update him on Martin’s movements. Martin goes to see Maxim (Victor Solé). He wants to know where Sasha is. Maxim is a little reticent. Martin pulls a gun. He wants his phone. Maxim hands over his phone and sounds a silent alarm.
Unfortunately for Maxim, Martin has seen John Wick and budget versions his way out of the club, killing not only Maxim but multiple bouncers along the way. Back with Lisa and the stereotype Russian, they are watching boxing and Lisa is impressing her with her knowledge of the fight game.
Martin finds Sasha. He is going to protect her. Sasha is determined to publish the files to avenge her father’s death. They need to go to a bank. The files codes are in a safety deposit box. Anything to make the McGuffin more important and interesting. Doesn’t work. Martin finds Trevor’s IT man (Tom Ashley) and forces him to show him the files from twelve years before.
There are photographs of the entire scene from his failed mission - don’t know how - and Olga has the address of the bank in her hand having been given it by Red Star. Not convoluted at all…
Trevor comes back to the makeshift headquarters with a group of soldiers, realising Martin would be there. Martin manages to evade them but ends up fighting Edwards long enough for Trevor to return with the troops.
Bested by Edwards temporarily, Martin kicks them both out of a window. The fall kills Edwards. Martin gets up and gets into the car Sasha is waiting in. They drive off. At a dilapidated house, Martin and Sasha hideout. Martin finds the codes have been changed. Trevor finds them.
Sasha threatens to blow her own brains out if they do not let them leave. Trevor lets them escape. Sasha and Martin head to the airport. Trevor has one of his men following them but Martin manages to lose him. At the airport, he steals a passport off of a woman who looks like Sasha.
He contacts the stereotype blonde, whose name is Tatyana, to try and get more time. They need to fly to Kyiv to retrieve the files. Tatyana gives the phones to Lisa in an attempt to remind Martin what is at stake. IT guy spots Martin and Sasha and tells Trevor they are going to Kyiv. Trevor’s people are watching at the airport.
Martin and Sasha go to Sasha’s old family home. They watch a news broadcast about some cold war bollocks that does not move the plot along at all. Back with Tatyana and Lisa, Lisa’s fight prediction has made them both some money. Lisa wants to know the truth about her mother’s death.
Tatyana tells her that it was an accident. Tatyana arrives in Kyiv with Lisa in tow. She calls and tells Martin she is waiting. Martin and Sasha head to the bank to get the files. Trevor and a group of troops arrive at the bank. Martin, seeing them, goes into the bank first.
In the vault, Trevor is caught by Martin and forced to put in the code to access the box - yeah, I’m a bit lost as well and I’ve watched this film twice! - Martin uses Trevor as a hostage to escape the bank. They jump into a car and drive off. With gunfire having been in play, the police have turned up and give chase. They are terrible drivers and quickly crash ending their pursuit.
Away from their pursuers, a shot Martin is fooled by Sasha, who grabs his gun and shoots him again, not believing his story about wanting to save his daughter. A semi-conscious Martin sees visions of Olga. He is roused into consciousness by Tatyana calling. He lies, telling her he has the file. She tells him to meet her later that night.
Martin calls Trevor, desperate to find Sasha. Trevor is not very helpful or willing to help him get the file to the Russians. Martin sees a clue to Sasha’s whereabouts, she is using a rented car. He finds her through the car tracking. He races to a train station to find her. Martin, who is covered in blood, chases after, the obviously frightened, Sasha through the station. Nobody bats an eyelid.
He catches up to her and chokes her unconscious. He goes to the meeting with Tatyana. He tells her that Sasha is in a hotel with the codes. He will give her address once Lisa is safe. Tatyana gives Lisa over to her father. He tells one of Tatyana’s henchmen the hotel’s address.
Sasha is not at the hotel. On Martin’s signal, she shoots one of the henchmen. A shootout ensues. Tatyana takes Sasha hostage and tells Martin to give her the codes. Martin throws the case with the codes and goes to shoot Tatyana. Once again, he proves to be a man of poor judgement and gets shot again.
Tatyana is about to kill Sasha but gets killed by Lisa - see, told you the lesson earlier was relevant - Trevor and his cronies turn up. They want the codes. Sasha takes the case and jumps into the river - they were on a bridge.
Sometime later, Martin is recovering in a scummy military hospital, still in Kyiv. Lisa is living with a foster mother. Martin apologises for not telling her about her mother. Lisa goes and tells Trevor that she has information that he does not want getting out if anything happens to her or Martin.
Sasha publicises the files and there are riots - though, truthfully, I’ve no idea if they are supposed to be related to the files - and she is interviewed on television. So there is that. More time passes, Lisa is in school and Martin is running a country restaurant. Sasha comes to visit them. She is still being watched by the Russians. They report back to the general. He says to proceed with the operation. The end.
Final thought: Legacy of Lies is awful. Written and directed by Adrian Bol, it is a pedestrian and laboured film that cannot seem to make its mind up as to whether it is an action film or an espionage film and failing on both counts.
Adkins is usually good value for money when it comes to action but the action scenes are so forgettable and badly paced that his greatest strength - his martial arts prowess - is completely negated.
The old ‘file’ McGuffin is so overdone that to make it interesting the stakes have to be quite high. The daughter angle is supposedly the high stakes but one never gets the feeling that she is in any danger of not being saved. The dead mother angle did not work particularly well either. We did not know the mother so did not care about her.
The only time we see her was mostly as a ghoulish apparition of Martin’s mind with a gunshot wound in her head. Why everybody was after the file was never properly explained and its sudden importance twelve years after the event was stretching credulity.
At only one-hundred-minutes long, Legacy of Lies is not an overly long film but due to its pacing, feels longer than it is. The acting, even from the young Honor Kneafsey, is uniformly uninspired. I think that it is probably the mundane script, where no character stands out and the focus is somewhat muddled.
Legacy of Lies is too ham-fisted an effort to recommend. Give this one a miss.