The action superstar has a little fun in this affectionate tribute to old-school beat-’em-ups, with big colors and tongue-in-cheek humor galore.
Scott Adkins is a busy man. In 2020, the British martial artist launched The Art of Action on his YouTube channel – a series of in-depth interviews with his fellow action stars and filmmakers. And he’s continued to push himself as actor and an action performer. Debt Collectors, which reunited him with director/writer Jesse V. Johnson and co-star Louis Mandylor, was an excellent buddy dramedy. Seized, his reunion with Ninja: Shadow of a Tear director Isaac Florentine, was a darn good lean-and-mean actioner. And now, with The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, Adkins is closing the year on a high note.
Max Cloud is an affectionate, funny, and well-crafted tribute to classic beat-’em-up video games. And Adkins’ work as its bombastic title character is a big, big part of its success. Max Cloud is an intergalactic hero par excellence, capable of laying waste to a spaceship’s worth of malignant space ninjas. He’s also an obnoxious, pompous windbag who’s taped over his off switch. As a power fantasy, he’s colorful and fun. As a crewmate, he’s insufferable. Fortunately, most folks won’t ever have to put up with Max Cloud, because they can be Max Cloud – he’s the title character of a beat-‘em-up/run-and-gun/fighting videogame for a Sega Genesis/Mega Drive-esque home console.
Adkins and fight choreographers Andy Long Nguyen (Into the Badlands) and Dawid Szatarski (Kingsman: The Golden Circle) have accomplished something really, really neat with Max Cloud’s fights. Take a look at this clip, which Adkins shared on YouTube:
Adkins is graceful and powerful as ever. But for Max Cloud he incorporates a deliberate stiffness into his motion and builds a library of recognizably repeated moves. Max Cloud is, after all, a 2D video game character. His moves are pieces of code that tell the game to draw specific images in response to specific inputs from a controller. Certain special moments, like Max’s flying leap into the room, might receive custom animation. But for the most part, the folks who programmed his game have created a set of moves that function in multiple situations.
In other words? Adkins fights and moves like he’s a sprite-based video game character. It’s a terrific piece of physical acting on his part, successfully capturing two-dimensional motion in a three-dimensional space. Director and co-writer Martin Owen (Killers Anonymous) takes full advantage of Adkins’ work, whether he’s building an impressive back-and-forth corridor brawl or mining comedy from Max’s perennial dialed-to-11-ness.
And Max Cloud’s a quite funny character. Adkins has done funny before and well, with the biting black comedy of Accident Man and the unexpected whininess of his otherwise vicious villain in Triple Threat. But Max is easily the most overly goofy major role Adkins has played yet, and it turns out that he’s darn good at goofy. Max’s machismo runs around with its shoes untied and frequently trips, especially when it comes to his rivalry with the bounty hunter and literal space cowboy Brock Donnelly (Westworld). His befuddlement with the odd happenings the film’s story brings his way allows Adkins to weave some understatement in with the ham. His bemusement at the odd behavior of ship chef Jake (Elliot James Langridge, Northern Soul) – who spends most of the film possessed by a lonely gamer named Sarah (Isabelle Allen, Les Miserables) is a highlight. The same goes for his desperate attempt to get his team to “freak out quietly” when they find themselves in a tunnel full of giant horrible space slugs.
While Adkins’ performance is the best part of The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud, the picture boasts its fair share of additional pleasures. The rest of the creative team share the care he takes in capturing the way a 2D video game character would move. Max Cloud the fictional video game looks and feels like an actual video game from the late 80s and early 1990s, whether in footage of the game being played in the real world or within the game itself. Art director Olivia Young (Muppets Most Wanted) set decorator Rachel Mathewson (G-Loc) and costume designer Julia Drummond (Murder on the Orient Express) do solid work throughout.
Likewise, Adkins’ castmates are game. Lashana Lynch (No Time to Die) and John Hannah (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena) in particular take their villains, the space sorceress Shee and the murderous cyborg Revengor, and run with them. Both go full-on EEEEVVVVIIILLLL in different ways. Shee relishes wickedness and finds her patience tested by the eccentricity of everyone else around her. Revengor is an anxious, petulant, sinister dork. They’re a ton of fun, and the evil waltz they indulge in at one point is cackle worthy.
And there’s a genuine sweetness to The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud. Multiple characters get over their need to project a certain image to the world and become happier, healthier people for it. The adventure continues, a bit sunnier than it was at the start of things.
The Intergalactic Adventures of Max Cloud is a darn good time. It doesn’t reach the heights of Adkins’ best work (Undisputed III: Redemption, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning and Avengement), but it carves itself an enjoyable and unique niche in his filmography. Its action sequences are so, so cool. It’s well worth checking out.
Max Cloud hits the “Start Game” button on VOD December 18th.